Friday, September 02, 2005
My Glamorous Life

As some of my regulars know, my indentured servitude to my institute of higher learning is fulfilled by way of driving the college van. Back when I was here before, I always wanted to drive the van -- I love driving, and especially these days it's good to do it on someone else's fuel dime -- and I am lucky enough this term to have plenty of opportunity to do so. Normally, especially on these gorgeous autumn nights, it's a piss-easy job; I pick people up, I drive down the mountain, I let people off and pick up a few more, and I drive back up. I get to play whatever I want on the radio and/or cd player, I'm in control of the windows and AC, and I get to be grouchy with clueless teenagers who can't quite get their shit sufficiently together to be at the van stop on time. It's a pretty cool job.

Occasionally, though, things get grim.

Tonight, of course, is the first weekend of the term, and a term with a hundred new freshmen, newly released from their parents' control -- there was, it goes without saying, a big-ass party on campus. And these kids, they get rides into town to score pot and cigarettes and illicit booze, and then they expect to catch the van back up to campus. And when it's just a few of them, it's cool; when it's more than a few, it's a problem. Tonight I drove down the mountain and arrived at the designated pickup spot to discover about 35 students waiting for me -- I drive a 15-passenger van. One confident freshie strides up to the window and says, "it there a precedent for this?" And I respond, "the precedent is, whoever can get on gets on, and everyone else is out of luck." But since these were mostly bewildered first-years who had nowhere to crash and no other recourse, I agreed to make a second trip to pick up anyone patient enough to wait. It was a personal favor and a one-time thing, I pointed out. I didn't actually mind at all, but if you let 'em think you're a pushover that early on, before long you're making twenty stops per trip so people don't have to walk and doubling back and waiting around to pick up those who missed the van the first time. And there's no way in hell I'm doing that.

So I'm headed back up the mountain with a few more passengers than I'm legally allowed to carry when disaster strikes -- there's a retching sound and a groan from the entire van and slowly the aroma of sour milk and half-dissolved dining hall chow wafts up from the back of the van. Some little freshman girl -- "I just get really car-sick" -- had barfed all over the floor, one of the seats, and another girl's thigh. I get the lot of them up to campus where they purge themselves from the van with astonishing speed, then get out and go around to the side door to survey the damage, and wonder what to do next.

There's only one big van operational at present -- I've still got a small van, but that would require two more trips to get all the waiting students home. I have no cleaning supplies, and the van is rapidly turning fetid; not to mention it's probably against school policy to ask people to wallow in another student's vomit. Furthermore, I have to keep driving this van all weekend, and it's not like anyone else is going to clean it up before Tuesday (taking into account the Labor Day staff holiday.) The mess has to go, this van has to be rendered tolerable, and cleaning up puke is the last goddamn thing I wanted to do tonight. But I'm going to do it anyway.

I roll down all the windows and hang my head out the entire way back down the mountain. I stop at an all-night 7-11 on the periphery of town and gather up some overpriced carpet cleaner, a roll of paper towels, some disposable rubber gloves, and a newspaper. I get in line behind several other people -- and the guy in front of me, I shit you not, is someone I'd just been talking about with another friend the day before, someone I once went to college with who now owns a club in town, someone whose middle initials we used to joke stood for a nickname that described his imagined predilection for unnatural acts performed upon livestock, someone whom I'd just said the day before I had not yet run across in town. And there he was. He turned and looked at me, an expression of vague familiarity crossed his face and I -- with my arms full of cleaning products intended to help deal with the little issue (by which I mean "issue forth from the gut of a freshman") in the van, the van I now drive as a student at the college we both attended together nearly a decade ago... and I said nothing. We never knew each other very well anyway.

I paid for my home-brew biohazard kit, got back in the stinky van, drove to the pickup spot, and waved the remaining fifteen students away. I hopped into the back and, breathing through my mouth, sprayed the frothy frosh chuck down with carpet cleaner, put on the rubber gloves, and started scooping it up with wads of paper towels into the plastic carrier bag I'd gotten at the convenience store. How one little girl can spray so much spew I'll never know -- I only hope in the future she has sufficient presence of mind to ask to sit up front, or at least to yell at the driver to pull over when she feels her gorge rise.

Anyway, I got everyone home safe -- above and beyond the call of duty, I'd say. I left the van parked with its windows partly down in the hope that the residual barfy odor won't accumulate too much. I'll know for sure tomorrow afternoon, anyway.

Goddamn freshmen.
10:51 PM ::
Amy :: permalink