The Greek System, composed of fraternities and sororities, functions as a campus Bilderberg Group at many American universities. While I was part of a fraternity, we never had much clout, as we were effectively the Kosovo of the Greek System.
Our basement certainly had that second world, the-bombing-stopped-yesterday charm. Its decor consisted of graffiti on concrete walls and derelict staircases curiously leading to nowhere. The spray paint alternately touted the victories of brothers past (or homeless people who wandered in), although a few scrawled cute phrases like, “ABANDON ALL HOPE” and “IM COMING BACK TO KILL YOU.”
Everyone went down there periodically to do laundry, which in retrospect was probably dangerous what with the flooding. We compensated for the perpetual standing water by propping our laundry machine on top of cinder blocks and throwing down strategically placed bricks to tip toe on. Had the laundry machine ever managed to rumble off its concrete stilts (always a possibility) it could have lead to electrocution.
This would have been a travesty, as all of the geckos in our house began their life cycle in the dark breeding pools throughout the basement. The fact that we never got rid of the amphibians is a testament to our poverty: at one point we convened a meeting to deliberate on whether or not to pay exterminators to whack the geckos, but ultimately decided not to because we didn’t have enough money to also pay them to spray for bugs.
Since geckos ate most of the bugs anyway, we decided to maintain a symbiotic relationship with them. This pleased me, as whenever a gecko managed to wander up to the third floor, I would drop whatever I was doing and chase it around, often into people’s rooms without knocking.
Around Christmas most of the university’s frat houses would charter limousines or party buses, then rent out a nice restaurant to get sloshed with their dates in. Our budget did not even approach such lavish possibilities, so we made an annual tradition of cramming couches inside of a rented 26 foot-long U-Haul and clamoring aboard with our dates and vague promises of margaritas.
Did we haze people? Legally, no. Actually… yes.
Hazing is a splendid way to create camaraderie amongst your pledgeship class while breeding homicidal rage towards your elders. I’m told that in the 1970′s one of the pledge events involved dumping the freshmen naked in the woods, and ordering them to find their way back to their dorm rooms before dressing.
By the time I showed up we didn’t do anything blatantly homo erotic, but I did have to live with a duck for a week.
One evening the house took myself and my pledge brothers out to a pond and ordered us to capture a duck. We spent two or three hours falling into the water and wondering about leeches, utterly incompetent at duck catching. We finally managed to snag a pregnant duck who was too slow and moody to evade us. Our fraternity formally inducted the fowl as a full member in good standing (so that it would outrank we pledges), then made us live in a small confined room with it for a week.
I woke up on my final morning as a pledge with a large egg next to my head. After a week of similar torture I was nearing my breaking point. Our elders knew this, and woke us up the following evening to blindfold us, take us outside, and inform us how terrible we had been. Pledgeship would continue the following semester.
Before myself and the other pledges could remove our blindfolds and throttle everyone, the house merrily hosed us down with beer and announced that pledgeship was over– we had made it!
Our homicidal rage dissipated entirely. Not only that, my fraternity brothers were such good sports that they made me a “mystery omelet” the following day to show their shenanigans were all in good fun. They even applauded when I finished eating it.
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