Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Darling Clementine

My freshman year of college was not the things of which nightmares are made.

I know this, because my last two years of college were. (I worked full time in a gas station/convenience store plus attended school full time, plus had a boyfriend who, while a perfectly lovely man, was not the right guy for me.) It's been 12 years since the last time I set foot in that Exxon. I still have nightmares about it. (Usually ones where I am earnestly trying to convince someone that no, I don't actually need to work on my day off, I don't work here anymore, what are you talking about, no, really, I need to leave!) Talk about your post traumatic stress disorder! (Seriously, you'd think someone died in the bathroom and... no, wrong movie. As a note, if you have NOT seen this movie, please do. It's crude, rude, horrible, and side-splittingly funny. And why the hell don't I have a copy of it yet? Jeeeez.)

Woah, side track!

You should stop me before I wander into the woods somewhere and don't come back.

Freshman year. Back up... back up...

My freshman year was not a nightmare. Not really. But I didn't know any better yet, and I felt accordingly sorry for myself.

I had two roommates, that for the sake of them not Googling for themselves and suing me, I will call Thing One and Thing Two.

Thing Two wasn't too bad. She was a study-a-holic and a runner, and she was always doing some stupid sort of exercises in our dorm room. I cannot tell you the number of times I would open the door and nearly knock her over because she was jumping up and down in front of the door, trying to touch her fingertips to the wall just over the door frame. What that was all about, I've no idea. She was also completely traumatized after her first test, when she got a B-. You see, I went to a really good college, and the problem with concentrating a bunch of fairly smart people in the same place and then giving them all grades? Someone has to make up the middle and the bottom. What was once so easy (grades) becomes this horrible struggle. We were used to being the smartest people in the room, and now... not so much. We were used to sleeping (or daydreaming) through class and getting straight A's. I took this in stride and made it out of college with a low B average (some C's, a few D's and yes, I failed a few classes). Some people... not so much. Thing Two... was a not so much. She never actually flunked out of school... but she did drive herself nuts trying to maintain a B average. But this did mean, as a roommate, she was mostly ideal. I never saw her (except for the aforementioned boinging around in front of the door.) She was always in the library.

Thing One... oh, the stories I could tell you about Thing One...

Firstly, she wasn't originally scheduled to be our roommate at all. We had someone else on the original card sent out... who was a boy....


I discovered this, because we were given roomie contact information at the end of the summer, called both potential roommates to try and coordinate who was going to bring a microwave, who was going to have a fridge. You know... planning sort of stuff. (This did not go over well with either Thing Two, or with the BOY's mother who was wondering how her son got stuck in a girl's dorm. Needless to say, I ended up bringing both microwave and fridge, and NO, I didn't share my appliances with the Things.)

Anyway, I never got any contact information for Thing One. She showed up on Move In day with a frilly broomstick skirt and a huge attitude.

She owned exactly two cassette tapes. A-Ha, Hunting High and Low, and A-Ha, Scoundrel Days. She played them. Constantly. Back to back to back to back to back, and god help anyone who wanted to listen to something else. Anything else. Cats being squashed to death in an ironworks, perhaps.

Thing One never did her laundry.




She owned about 15 of those boomstick dresses and a variety of loose-fitting tops. She would get undressed at night, spritz the clothing with perfume, and hang them back up. (I won't even go into her bathing habits, or the fact that her toothbrush was pristine by year's end. You're welcome.)

When her parents came to help her move out at the end of the year, her sheets were so stiff and nasty they practically stood up by themselves.

Everything in the room reeked of sweat and her cheap perfume. I slept with the window open year round.

(On the plus side, she shared the bunk bed with Thing Two, and I had a loft on the other side of the room. About three weeks into our freshman year, I curtained off my part of the room. It didn't help the smell. Or the horrible music. But it did mean at least I wasn't expected to be social.)

My freshman hall had a virgins club. Out of the 21 young ladies who lived on that hall, only me and one other girl had already had sex. Ok, I'm not knocking virginity. I'm sure there's some value in it, somewhere. For someone. I guess. Really, as far as I see it, it's just what it is. There's nothing mystic about it, and I certainly don't believe in saving yourself for marriage. (Of course, I personally think that everyone who's considering marriage ought to live together for 6 months or so beforehand, because living with someone is never as easy as you might think... and divorce is a pain in the butt.) But these girls were not only proud of their status as "untouched", they were freaking obnoxious about it. They had little signs on their doors... One of the girls drew up little caricatures of the members and labeled them. Sister Thing One of the "Diet Coke Machine" or Sister Thing-Two of "the woo-woo curls".

Me and Jenn? Not. Popular. On our freshman hall. We were evil. And sinful. Jenn eventually got accepted into the virgins club by promising to abstain until marriage. She was saved. Oh, my fucking god.

My boyfriend came down to visit me a few times. I spooned my roommates out once... when he and I were done and I grabbed my bathrobe to go clean up in the ladies room, I stepped out of the room to find the entire. freaking. hall. sitting on the floor outside my room, listening.

On a Friday night. My god, ladies, don't you have something better to do? No, I would guess not. Sorry, I forgot.

(I suppose I'm lucky someone didn't decide to record it... )

Shortly after that, I made friends with someone else in a different dorm, who's roommate was seldom actually in their room, since she usually slept over at her boyfriend's place. I didn't entirely move in with Connie, but from time to time, when Thing One was being particularly obnoxious (or smelly, or that tape was just more than I could handle... I swear, if I ever, ever hear Take on Me again... I will hurt someone) I would sack out in Haldis's bed. (For those of you to whom that name looks familiar, yes, I stole it. And yes, the real Haldis was German, blonde, and busty. And occasionally scary.)

As my freshman year went on, my food choices - which started out as "Ick" and "what happened to the food they served on the parent's day thingie?" - got steadily worse. The vague attempts of the school to make and present healthy options were vile. I mean, boiling broccoli down into its component atoms does not make it appealing. I lived on bagels, cream cheese, pizza, soda, and the occasional pasta dish. If they hadn't overcooked the noodles too much. Grilled cheese sandwiches.

There were two places to get food on campus; the Market Place and the Caf. (Flush hard, it's a long way to the Caf, was common bathroom graffiti.) The Caf was all you could eat (but why would you want to) of various cooked foods, but you had to stay in the Caf. You couldn't take food with you. (again, why would you want to?) On weekends, for breakfast/brunch, it wasn't too bad. Waffles and pancakes and dry cereal and scrambled eggs and toast and bacon and sausage.

The rest of the time, I ate at the Market Place, which had a "dollar amount" system. You got like $3.75 for breakfast, $4 for lunch, and $5 for dinner. I don't remember the exacts. The food was slightly less than vile, and if you "went over" you could pay for extra. And you could take your food with you.

God only knows how much weight I'd put on, eating badly... I didn't weigh in at all my freshman year. I do know that I went from a jeans-size of 8 or 10 to a 12.

One day, towards the end of February, I walked into the Market Place for breakfast. I was struck by the smell of oranges... I don't usually like oranges, mind you. But they smelled wonderful.

There was a huge pile of clementines. The printed sign next to them read ".25 cents each/5 for $1." I packed a bag with 18 tiny oranges.

I took an extra bag with me for peels and ate them during class. I had an 8am, and a 9:30... then I went back to the Market Place for lunch and got another bagful.

Over the next few days, I got at least 5 more every time I had a meal and at the end of the week, I used all my "overage" money and brought three bags of the things back to my dorm room. It was probably the healthiest I'd eaten in months.

Yesterday, I wrote out a grocery list. We went to the store and just inside the produce display, there were some stacks of clementines in tiny crates. Each crate holds probably two dozen fruits. For $8.99.

Thomas hates citrus fruits.

I eyed the crate. I eyed the price.

I wondered how many clementines I might be able to eat before they went bad. I dithered around the produce section, getting bananas, apples, corn on the cob, avocados, onions, bagged lettuce, gem potatoes... and found myself back at the clementine display.

"I'm not going to help you eat those," Thomas said.

"I know." I dithered some more. I hate spending money on food that rots. I've taken great pride, recently, in the fact that I've cut our grocery bills down to about $180 a week, and we're wasting a lot less food than we used to.

Eventually, of course, I bought them.

I've eaten five already.

Not everything about my freshman year was bad.


Unknown said...

Hehehe. I had to laugh about thing one and thing two. I probably would have had to drag her into the shower and make her bathe. Ughh. How gross!

new*me said...

You had me rolling!! I needed a laugh this morning!

I have gotten our food bill down to about $150/wk and wish to go even lower. We have cut red meat down to once a week and have meatless meals about 3x a week....good on the purse and the heart ;) It's a real challenge sometimes with a family of 6 (although 3 of them eat like little birdies). I love the challenge!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, was this funny. I had thing one and thing two rolled into one when I was in college...seriously...multiple personality wacko, but ironically we got along most of the time. Uh oh...maybe that reveals a little too much about my own personality! Thanks for the laugh!

Cammy@TippyToeDiet said...

I *love* clementines, but I won't buy them since you have to buy them in quantities large enough to feed a platoon. As I type this, though, I realize I can just take the excess to work if they start to go bad before I can eat them. Thanks for the nudge. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the story...too hilarious. :-)

Love clementines too...but yeah, I can never get through them before they go bad. Younger Daughter likes them - or rather, she likes to suck the juice out of them and throw away the rest. Which, I guess, is still less wasteful than letting them rot.

I like Cammie's idea too - I think I'll start buying them in coop with other people like WVSooner. Hmm.


Chanda (aka Bea) said...

Ahh the joys of freshman year! Is it a wonder any of us survived? That was a great romp down memory late, and now I have an inexplicable craving for oranges.

Diana Swallow said...

You brought me back to my freshman year roommate freaks. And clementines, I can eat a whole box of them in a week, no problemo.