In the summer of 2016, I signed up to work Reunions at my college. Reunions is the big ol’ party for alumni, where they are able to rent rooms in college dorms, get drunk at one of the two small town bars “downtown” (more like, down hill), and relive their college days. As someone without a driver’s license, (fellow New Yorkers help me out it’s not that weird) I was thrilled I somehow got hired as a golf cart driver. I imagined how fun it would be to drive around, offering to help the old alumni get from point A to point B. There was also talk that another component of my job might be making beds. No problem. I was happy just to make some cash and spend some time in beautiful upstate New York in the summer time.
The only problem was I had just spent the weekend in Fire Island, where, due to a few successful sunburn-free bike rides, I thought my skin had evolved and was ready for a sunscreen-less beach day. Note, I have a long history of sunburns and bad decisions, but had yet to be so incredibly delusional. As a consequence, a day lounging at the beach (without sunscreen) left me with bright pink lobster skin, in both color and texture, from head to toe. Not to mention an open wound on my chest, that I refused to properly medicate, insisting on the healing properties of coconut oil, which later sent me to urgent care where I was advised to buy an over the counter burn ointment. It was painful to wheel around my little suitcase, not to mention make beds.
All pink and puffy, I enter the registration room, motivated to blend in with all the other reasonably tan student workers. What I find is an empty room with a woman sitting in the corner on her laptop.
She’s probably working for reunions and will help me sign in, I think to myself, struggling to get my suitcase up over a tough in the rug. I slowly migrate to the woman. She doesn’t look up when I approach her, but keeps her eyes glued to her computer screen. I try to begin an interaction.
“Lily Capstick is my name,” I say smiling, waiting for her to find my name in her computer.
The woman looks up from her laptop, revealing a much younger face than I anticipated. With raised eyebrows, she says, “my name is Anna?”
I stare at her expectantly for a couple more moments, waiting for her to take the lead. Is she going to ask me to sign something? Or give me my key? Or tell me which group I am in? She looks at me awkwardly. Blankly, even. After it becomes clear neither of us are capable of continuing the interaction, she looks down at her laptop and begins typing something. I wheel my suitcase a foot away from her desk and look around.
The walls of the room are off-white and I notice how unreasonably high the ceilings are. Instead of one white board, there are three, piled on top of each other vertically until they reach the ceiling. All three white boards are blank.
Suddenly, a middle-aged woman with shoulder-length blond hair, carrying a folded table and a set of blue lanyards enters the room.
“Sorry about that. Are you working reunions? What’s your name?” She asks me, out of breath.
I stay frozen in my tracks and look back at the girl who I now see is quite clearly not an employee at the school but a student. Stickers on her laptop reveal she is a recent graduate of a high school in Rochester and a hockey fan. I look down at my big pink fingers.
“Lily Capstick is my name,” I say softly, replaying the previous interaction in my mind.
The young woman collapses her computer and begins to exit the room, oblivious of the exchange between me and this other woman. I have half a mind to interrupt her exit mid stride and explain- “I thought you were an employee!” “I wasn’t trying to introduce myself!” “That’s not how I make friends!” “I already have friends!” But it’s too late. I come to terms with the fact that from now on I will always be a pink, lost, confused, if not strange, human to “Anna.”
As Reunions begins to pick up, I understand the job better. I will make beds every day, all day, for many days. Then for a few days I will ride the golf carts. Then, then, I will ride shot gun with my good friend Emma in the shuttle that runs buses up and down from the bars to the dorms. My job will be to keep Emma awake. And try to keep the shuttle bus calm.
What needs to be understood is the sense of urgency that accompanies alum when they return to their alma mater. An urgency which, in turn, makes working reunions a frightening experience for its employees.
My college is one of those summer-camp-like colleges, where the college brochures seem to be selling the idea of fun to the emotionally unstable and starved high school students applying. In fact, a glance at the brochure might convince you if you go to this college, you will not only acquire a large circle of friends, but a Sperry collection, a golden retriever, and long blond hair.
The same is true for Reunions, where the college sells a week of a life-time to alumni, a chance to do it all over again, to be a kid again, to get wasted and rowdy one last time before its too late. And so, when the alumni come, their personalities morph back into whoever they were during their time at Hamilton. Responsible mothers morph back into 19 year old sorority girls who can’t hold their liquor. Or in this case, sorority girls who subtly bully their counterparts.
To drive the shuttle bus, there are three rules. 1. You need a driver’s license. 2. You need to be jitney certified. 3. You must not, under any circumstances, drop alumni off directly in front of the bars. Doing so will leave you susceptible to a swarm of drunk alumni. It will also cause a traffic issue.
These rules seemed easy enough to follow. We assumed that unlike small children, the adult alumni would understand these rules when we dropped them off a few minutes walk from the bars. We were wrong.
One woman, let’s call her Bethany. Or Brittany. Or no, Susan. Let’s call her Susan. Susan was very difficult, using a manipulative tactic I would hope she only used in her Reunion-morphed version of herself.
“Can’t you just leave us right in front of the bars?” Susan asks, drawing out the “a” in bars for a few extra seconds and raising the tone of her voice at the end of the sentence, like six year olds do.
“Oh, um, actually we can’t, sorry,” Emma says, concentrating on turning into the little parking lot where the drop offs are.
“Oh, come on,” Susan says, rolling her eyes. “What year are you anyway?” She asks, twirling her dark, pin-straight hair with her index finger and thumb. Her nails are perfectly french manicured.
“We’re juniors,” I say intensely, anticipating a confrontation.
“Don’t you ever have any fun?” Susan says with a smirk on her face.
“We can’t drop you off in front of the bar it’s against the rules,” Emma says calmly breaking the shuttle.
“Don’t you ever break the rules? Don’t you ever- Gahhhd, live a little?” Susan asks, her hand on the door handle. Others in the shuttle prepare to exit but Susan keeps the door shut. “Come on, have some fun, take us straight to the bar.”
I wonder if Susan can hear herself speak.
“You can get out of the shuttle now. Susan.” I say, (although I don’t say the Susan part because I have no clue what her name is, but if her name was Susan, which would make sense, I would have said it).
After another eye roll and a flick of her hair, Susan is out of the car, gossiping with her other mother friends. The four of them stare us down as we pull out of the parking lot.
Now the back of the shuttle is filled to the brim with men over 50.
“Man, did you fucking see that shit? Oh my god, I was all– OOOPH–” I hear a thump sound as the man talking appears to have hit his head on the ceiling.
“Ah shit man, dude, you okay, bro?”
“Yeah, fo sho man, I’m gucci man.”
I turn around to make sure everything is alright. In the back row, three tall men in polo shirts are linked, their arms over each other’s shoulders, swaying slowly and out of sync with the Hamilton the musical soundtrack playing in the background. In the second row, a very short and stout man with a mustache lies along the seats, taking up all of them. And in the front row, the two men, the one who hit his head, and the one who responded to him, are inspecting the ceiling.
“I swear that was particularshley pointy ma man.”
“Yeah I’m lookin to shee if der’s like, metal stickin’ outta the Wooof.”
A bit concerned for everyone’s safety, I try to reinforce some safety measures.
“Alright everyone, buckle up!”
“Buckle Shmup!” The chubby short man says. “Buckle Muckle Mup!”
Emma starts driving up the hill and I adjust the volume on the audio player, hoping to drown out some of their chatter, though I’m already cracking up.
The chubby man, noticing my hand turning the nob on the dashboard, tries to get my attention.
“Helllo lady. Can I have some chimichangas?” He says, trying to reach past the first row of seats but being prevented by his tightened seat belt.
I turn back, “what?”
“Gimme some of those chimichangas. In da microwave, I can see ’em please.”
“You can see them?” I say, looking at what he is pointing at. The dashboard. He thinks the dashboard of the car is a microwave. I wonder where he thinks he is. I look to Emma, who is having a hard time keeping her cool while driving, letting out little laughter screams and opening her eyes wider to pay attention to the road.
By the end of reunions, I successfully made 125 beds (and took photos of 49 of them, which are accessible here if you need proof). I successfully wheeled the elderly alumni around on gold carts, (this specific cute old man to the library five times), and my driving skills were only seriously questioned once after butchering an “easy” turn “if you’ve ever driven a car before in your life” (okay mean old sexist man).
On the day that I return to campus to relive my college days, I can only hope for a few things. A bed made with love, a drop-off a five minute walk from the bar, a mediocre golf cart ride, and no “Anna” in sight. Oh, and a shuttle bus with a built in microwave equipped with chimichangas.