The previous article on the Vermont Academy reunion really got me thinking about those strange days, and I realized that there are a wealth of stories which combined would make a great Tall Tale entry. Memories that grow dimmer and dimmer with each passing year – and it’s been 13 already – so with no further adue…
I was 17 years old, fresh after graduating from public high school – only to be dropped right back in to do my senior year all over again. This time with the added bonus of getting used to living away from home for the very first time. It was called a post-graduate year and was a way for me to trade my time on the VA football field for a partial scholarship and the opportunity to get my grades up (way up) in order to get into a better college. It was also called ‘what I had to do in order to avoid spork vivisection by my father’ and, in spite of the remote location, strict rules and rigid schedule – was still a very favorable alternative. Don’t let the Baby New Year photos fool you.
The number of people I still keep in touch with whom I met during that one short year is testament to how formative it was. Every single one of the PGs were stuffed onto the same floor, and we were all former public school party-monkeys flailing to adapt to our new life in the gulag. Up at 6… 8 hours of class… 3 hours of sports… 3 hours of study time… bed. Each and every single day – including Saturdays. We could be expelled for smoking, dipping, drinking or fighting – usually with just one strike. As most of us excelled in all of the above, it took a lot of getting used to and all we had for amusement was eachother. There were many friends made and many, many mischievious evenings born of our collective boredom. Idle hands… the devil… you see where this is headed.
I could seriously write a book about my time at VA but for our purposes here I’ll just touch on a few of the more memorable moments. And it will be hard to pick and choose. To really do this justice, I’ll add one or two stories a day for the rest of the week. I may add new unrelated articles on top, but will keep updating this one – so check back if you dare. I mean ‘care’.
Lessons in Leaners
Many of our more creative moments stemmed from the fact that we could get kicked out of the school for so much as belching at an inopportune moment. If, God forbid, revenge needed to be meted out on some disrespectful 4 year student it had to be done very anonymously. There were three particularly memorable reprisals that I want to share. The first involves my least favorite floormate, Eric. Eric liked make a lot of noise and keep me awake at night. A skinny little soccer player, he also liked to flaunt the fact that I could do absolutely nothing about it should I want to remain enrolled in school and out of juvenile detention.
The dining hall served Chicken Cordon Bleu about once a week, or ‘exploding chicken’ as we affectionately called it. When you sliced into the breast, which was stuffed with cheese and ham, a hades-hot stream of molten provolone would shoot out and burn the back of your hand (or worse). But I didn’t plan on burning Eric – No, rather I recognized the true reprisal potential of poultry. I ate half of my portion and then stuffed the remainder in a napkin before returning to Slum 3.
Eric was a soccer player and had a very expensive pair of cleats that he was quite proud of. Soccer season had yet to begin, and I knew that said cleats sat unused and out of mind in his closet. We weren’t allowed to have locks on our doors (leading to many thefts by the extremely dodgy and maladjusted 4 year students leading in turn to many of the described revenge tactics) so I waited until Eric went to the bathroom before striking. I kneeled down inside his closet and quickly jammed handfuls of chicken up inside the toes of both his beloved soccer shoes. I returned to the empty hallway and went back to my room – the perfect crime.
A few days later, Eric and his roomate were sleeping in friend’s rooms, as the vile stench of rotting chicken had driven them out – despite their best attempts at locating the source. About 5 days went by before a janitor thought to examine the shoes. Suspecting ‘foul’ play we all got a good talking to from our dorm parent Mr. Shapiro, who knew full well that Eric’s frequent annoying behavior had left him with the equivalent of a bullseye painted on his back as far as the PGs were concerned. The event, like the stench, blew over fairly quickly after that and Eric started keeping to his end of the hall after lights out.