26 January 2013

Yep, it’s a class reunion year. Meh.

I graduated from high school in 1988. Ten years later—I didn’t plan it that way, but dropping out for several years, and switching majors upon going back in, didn’t help—I finally completed my bachelor’s degree in 1998. So every year that ends in -3 or -8 is an anniversary year: Fifteen for college, and 25 for high school.

Bethany University, previously Bethany College, was mismanaged to death two years ago. I don’t know if anyone from my class is planning to formally or informally put anything together for it. Or where we’ll meet. For the 10th reunion we met of course at the campus in Scotts Valley, California. This time around, we could meet anywhere. And I do mean anywhere: About a year ago, one graduating class decided to meet in Springfield, Missouri: Since the organizers and several of the graduates live there, they figured they’d accommodate themselves… guaranteeing the bulk of graduates, who live in California and Nevada, won’t make it. Oh well.

Of course, part of the reason you meet on campus (or near it, anyway) is so you can reflect on the memories and emotional attachments you have to the place. Yeah, the place has changed a lot; it closed, for crying out loud. But while I spent most of my time on campus, I spent a fair amount off-campus, like in Mr. Toot’s Coffeehouse in Capitola, or Jahva House in Santa Cruz (which has since closed, so never mind) or Denny’s (also closed) or Abouché (now Peet’s, so that’s a step up) or the beaches. So if we can’t meet on campus, we should meet in the Santa Cruz area.

Meeting anywhere else—like the vicinity of Sacramento, where a lot of us (including myself) now live; or even Springfield—is not the same thing. My memories and emotional attachments to Sacramento mostly have to do with Sac City College and Sac State, and my year at the Sacramento Observer. Not Bethany. And I’ve never been to Springfield, so I got nothing there.

Of course, since it’s only the 15th anniversary—and since our 10th anniversary was attended by less than 20 people—we might do absolutely nothing. Life is busy for a lot of people, and a lot of the where-are-they-now nostalgia has been completely diffused by Facebook. You wanna know where they are now? Facebook will tell you where they are right now: In line at Walmart, tweeting about how the person in front of them in line is wearing the most hideous pajama bottoms, and mourning for the days when people wore pants out of doors. I know how he thinks about abortion, gun control, taxes, President Obama, and leaf blowers. I know what he thinks about Star Wars, cat photos, animated GIFs, and various YouTube videos. I know what he thinks about Jesus, or at least I know what his favorite Verse-of-the-Day site and blogger thinks about Jesus. I know what his pastor preached on, and what he thinks of that too. I sorta know how his kids are doing in school, and five clever things they’ve recently said, and I’ve seen the photos. I know what he had for breakfast, and I know way too many details about how his digestive system handled it. I don’t need to catch up with that dude.

So we’ll see if anyone’s interested in the reunion idea.

As for high school, I have no plans or interest in any reunion. Most of my high school friends either went to Vacaville High—whereas I went to Vanden High—or were from the class of ’89. With one or two exceptions, I feel no nostalgic twinges towards the people of my graduating class. Nothing against them; nothing for them, either.

If you’re in my class, and don’t feel the same towards me, I’m sorry. You should’ve told me you had a giant unrequited crush on me that you had always dreamt of resolving at the 25th reunion. But I’m still not coming. Anyone who maintains an unresolved longing for more than a decade is way too creepy to visit.

The person who’s expected to arrange reunions is the senior class president. Of course, time and chance tend to catch up with them, and smack them down for peaking too soon. So they’re almost always AWOL. As was ours in the 2008 reunion. Two other alumni took over the role. They planned a great big multiple-day celebration. Then they proceeded to nag the rest of us when we didn’t bother to respond, ’cause we weren’t interested.

Here’s the email they sent us, which I will quote in its entirety, and mock.

Fellow classmates,

We are very disappointed in the outcome as we have worked so hard for the better part of the past 18 months in planning this reunion to make it one you all will remember.

Great horny toads. The better part of the past 18 months? How much free time did they put into that fiasco? That means they put more than nine months’ work into the thing. Nine months on a reunion? It took that long to put together? What, were they stitching the doilies by hand?

It does not take 18 months to plan a party. I’ve done event planning. It ain’t that hard, even if you’re producing the whole thing yourself. You book your locations about a year in advance, so you can tell people where you’re holding it. (If you have to pay any sort of deposit, be totally prepared to eat that cost—there’s no guarantee anyone will even come.) You then spend the next 11 months sending reminders to people. And unless you call people up personally, and get firm responses from any of them, expect the bulk of your responses to arrive the week before. The rest will just show up the day before, or on the day itself. Humans are creatures of the last minute. If you haven’t learned this by now, you’re hanging out with way too many Type-A twits.

When the initial responses, and money, come in, you use that money to book the entertainment. Two weeks before, you take all the responses you’ve received so far, add 15 percent, and rent tables and chairs for that many. Order food for half that. Order drinks for twice that.

Buy decorations, but don’t go nuts: Don’t make it anything that can’t be set up in less than three hours. Any longer than that, and you’re just gonna be pissed nobody appreciates all your hard work. ’Cause nobody’s gonna appreciate all your hard work. We didn’t come for the decorations. In fact, those embarrassing photos of us from high school, which you blew up to life-size because you thought they were awesome: We resent the hell out of those.

Never try to break even with expenses. Always try to come out ahead, and plan to give any surplus to charity. (And tell everyone that’s what you’re planning to do with the proceeds. Sometimes it motivates them to give more.)

Never nag; always encourage. Never complain; expect it to be awesome. Avoid holding it anyplace that doesn’t have air conditioning or heat. And always over-order drinks and dessert.

Even with all that, it’s easy to create a reunion everyone will remember. All you have to do is get hammered, then loudly tell everyone what you really thought of them in high school. It’s okay; they’re not those people any more, and most of them will easily admit that yeah, they were d-----bags, or b----es, or nerds, or losers, or whatever. (Unless they’re still d-----bags or b----es.) Admit you were jealous and envious of certain kids who were cooler. Confess to your high school girlfriend you only dated her to get into her pants, and when you didn’t succeed, you told your friends you had anyway. (Don’t worry; they didn’t believe you.) Be as honest as you never were in high school. It’ll be cathartic. And that’ll be remembered.

That, or get U2 to be your band. But I’m not sure how nine months of begging Bono will make any difference.

Due to the lack of tickets sold, we will either be downsizing to a smaller area in the convention center, or we will be moving the reunion to [location deleted]. If the reunion changes location, we will be sure to update the website and send out an email prior to the reunion. We are canceling the Sunday Brunch, as we are barely going to have enough funds to cover the Friday Meet & Greet, the Saturday BBQ and the Dinner/Dance. We will most likely be paying out of our pockets to ensure the classmates that show up have a reunion they will always remember.

In case we’ve forgotten they want us to remember it. Mmm, irony.

Yes indeedy, the organizers were planning a three-day reunion. Now, even unemployed and living a town away, I didn’t have the time for three days of such a thing. Those functions sounded as boring as all hell: A Friday schmooze-fest, which would go largely under-attended because it was designed to be under-attended; the Meet & Greet is clearly the part of the reunion you could afford to be late for, or bail on. Two more meals—a barbecue and a brunch—which likely featured more schmoozing, unless the barbecue or brunch featured (cue dramatic sting) games. And then there’s the dinner-dance, which no doubt featured all the godawful ’80s music we hadn’t the taste to realize were crap back in the ’80s. (Well… maybe not Van Halen. Not all Van Halen, anyway.)

Ever been to a family reunion? Not one of those reunions consisting of family you know, like siblings and their kids, aunts and uncles, first cousins and their kids, and grandparents or grandkids. I’m talking those distant relatives whom you’ve never seen before, or haven’t seen in decades. You don’t know them from Adam, and all they can do is kvetch about how you’ve grown up on them, and how old they feel.

Well, class reunions are slightly better. They at least won’t react with surprise and horror about how old you’ve become. They’re that old too. There might be a little surprise about the ways certain people have gone gray or wrinkly. But what’ll happen is you’ll greet, briefly, those people who aren’t your friends anymore, then go off to find those people who are your friends now—then be irritated how few of them are there. Or, if none of them are there, you’re forced to make small talk with everyone else.

As for ex-friends, whom you’re now just catching up with, you’re going to discover to your great annoyance that any “closeness” you felt in high school was based on shared experiences, and not on actually knowing one another. Some years ago I caught up with two former friends from my high school youth group. Pretty much all we could talk about was Saturday Night Live, which we were all big fans of… and reminisce a few shared experiences, and that was about it. Though they both still attended church (in fits and starts), both had largely dropped the Christianity. One of them’s a huge conspiracy-theorist Tea Partier. The other’s a libertarian, and not the good kind. They tried being Facebook friends with me. They gave up.

In the end you’re gonna wonder why on earth you spent $85 to re-experience the fresh hell of high school social awkwardness.

But you know what really makes me cringe about the email’s description? That “we will most likely be paying out of our pockets.” This is never a phrase you include on an invitation. When’s the last time you went to a wedding where the invitation stated, “Mr. and Mrs. Blofeld cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter, Inga, which they will most likely be paying for out of their pockets”? Or a birthday party where they reminded you, “Don’t worry about bringing food. We paid for it out of our own pockets.” You don’t do that.

The only reason people say such a thing is to tell you, “Pity the poor martyr.” What it really says is, “We don’t know a bloody thing about party planning, and overbudgeted, and have had to cut corners, and still need your help to bail us out. Please bail us out. And please don’t trash the place like we did those hotel rooms when we went to Disneyland Grad Night.”

Because oh man did we trash those hotel rooms. I still have some of the wallpaper. I kept a scrap in my yearbook.

Please check the website often for any possible changes, as we may not have the time to send out emails as the reunion gets closer.

’Cause if you don’t check the website, you’re gonna be awfully pissed when you find out, due to disinterest, everything was canceled except the Saturday barbecue, and you just paid 85 bucks to eat a cheeseburger at Peña Adobe with the Glee Club from the wrong graduating class.

Okay, it didn’t turn out that way. I saw some of the photos. But it’s clear from them I didn’t miss anything.

If you want to purchase a reunion T-shirt the cost is $17. All funds must be paid in advance no later than June 20.

Incidentally, they sent this email on June 21.

To be fair, that’s probably a typo, since elsewhere it suggested the shirt deadline was June 25. But T-shirts are, by and large, an impulse buy. And many people (like me) really don’t like to buy T-shirts that have dates on them, ’cause they become less and less cool as the years tick by. Even if it was the most awesome U2 concert ever, people are still gonna say, “Man, is that shirt really 22 years old?... It looks it.”

If you have contacted me about a refund I am doing my best to get it back to you. I have all the money tied up at this moment but I will do my very best to get it back to you. This was a lot harder than I ever imagined. We will miss you at the reunion.

How easy did you expect a three-day event for 100 people (which you hoped would be 350 people) might be?

Okay, I realize the folks who sent me the email, if they ever read this post, won’t appreciate it at all. But neither do I appreciate getting scolded for not giving a wet crap about their party. And since this is the tone they used to convince people how we really ought to go, I want to hang out with them even less. They sound just as unappealing as I remember.