In my mind, the key is in setting a low bar. You have to establish that your actions will be unpredictable, illogical, often contradictory and sometimes even borderline dangerous. While keeping up this type of behavior over the long run will likely leave you dead and/or friendless, it certainly allows for a certain type of freedom over the course of your studies. No one will question the occasional craziness of a person if that person has already established themselves as "that guy."
Accepting my premise as true (a habit you should be in by now), how best could one establish this sort of behavioral precedent? As I reflected on my auspicious entrance to the University of Northern Iowa, I realized that I was going to hard-pressed to outdo myself at a new college. But still, what lessons did I learn? Other than "gravity."
I enrolled at UNI as a trumpet major, wanting to play high notes, jazz music, and maybe some polka music for side money. For reasons as obscure as they are preposterous, the school required that *all* music majors enroll in the Panther Marching Band (hereafter PMB) for 2 years. I had some fun times in marching band, and met a lot of great people, but I didn't like having my arm twisted to join something involuntarily. Kind of like school lunch when it was sloppy joe day. Rather than complain at the time, I made a list of the possible pros/cons of being in marching band:
So I didn't whine and I tried to make the best of things. I worked hard at making sure I was involved and making friends. To this end I happily participated in events outside of practice.
And I made sure to try my best to make new friends.
Before school even started, PMB required 6 hour-a-day rehearsals for an entire week. While this sucked donkey dick, the cool part was that each night was usual capped by giant house parties hosted by the tuba players. If you didn't know this, tuba players are renowned for their massive drinking abilities, inexhaustible party energy, and inability to hold "actual jobs." It was during one of these parties during the first week that I made my "that guy" move.
I can't launch the story without first telling you some background information. I had arranged for my dorm roommate to be a friend of mine from my hometown, the awesome Grandma Beasley. Ahh, Beasley. It's hard to not go ADD and just tell you some awesome Beasley stories, but I'll hold off for now. Our room was unique in that it was on the top floor of Noehren hall, which was interesting because the ceilings were approximately 47 feet high. Since no standard loft would fit in these rooms, and I'm lazy, Beasley took it on himself one day to buy some lumber and "build" our loft over lunch. Sure, it didn't have "support" and it wasn't "safe," but at least it was there. And, before you get ahead of me, in the entire year of creaking and bowing in the middle, the loft never actually broke. I recently found a copy of the building plan Beasley used:
One night there was going to be an awesome party at a tuba player's house. I decided I was going to walk there with my friend, Bronco, because she was bringing her best high school friend along with her, a young lass named Mo. This was one of the first instances of me falsely being labeled as an "instigator" and "bad influence."
Bronco: "Shreves, I swear to God, if you sneak Mo alcohol or get her in any trouble, I'll fucking cut your balls off. She's young and innocent and I don't want you corrupting her. You hear me?"
Me: "Relax! First, I've never been a corrupter or forced someone to have fun against their will. Second, most likely I'll be too hammered to carry out a complex plan of secret manipulation. Tell you what- I won't even talk to her."
Bronco: "Why doesn't that make me feel better? I'll be watching you, Shreves."
Little did Bronco know, Mo was already on her way to being a queen partier. To this day, she's badass awesome and tons of fun. So of course she got hammered (puking) drunk that night, and despite my innocence I'm pretty sure I still got blamed.
While the parties each night up to this had been pretty epic, it was at this particular party that I enacted what I call the "Caleb emergency drunk contingency." Since, in an effort to peacock, I accepted any and all drinking challenges (always a danger with band kids), I was pretty drunk late in the night. What I call "up to the line."
As I dipped my toe over the drunk line, I received some sort of drinking challenge. I don't remember what exactly, but I think it was a "who can drink this bottle of jager?" challenge. Knowing I had to accept, and knowing the consequences, I asked Bronco to help with Drunk Caleb.
Me: "Bronco. I'm a half-beer away from incoherent, incapable drunk. And I'm about to drink most or all of this bottle of booze. Afterwards, I won't remember my name. Could you help me find my way back to the dorm?"
Bronco: "Sigh. Do you really think this is a good idea?"
Me: "Agreed then."
And I did. And I was. At this point I have to fast forward to an undetermined time later because I was too hammered to remember anything. My mind came back about halfway through the walk back, and I decided to start establishing further dominance. So, I marked my territory by peeing on the buildings on campus.
This was nearly 10 years ago, and I still argue with Bronco on which building it was I peed on. She claims it was the music building, while I (rightly) say it was the business building. Her agrument that I was drunk and obviously don't know what I'm talking about is strong. However, I have a memory like a hawk (and a keen sense of metaphor) and I specifically remember peeing on the business building. Plus, it was on the way and the music building was not.
Also, I'm sure in my inebriated state I would have found it hilarious to do my "business" on the business building. Probably the strongest argument of all.
Regardless, when I got back to my dorm I realized that I had a problem. If you'll refer back to my loft drawing, you'll see that something is missing. Besides girls. There was no ladder or way to get up onto the thing. I saw that Beasley had shoved his desk near the window so he could triple-jump his way up, and I thought the same idea would work for me. Picture me, drunk, leaping off a desk to grab the edge of my 12 foot loft, with Bronco pushing from the bottom of my feet. Yeah, "that guy." Somehow I made it up, fell asleep, and everything was fine.
I awoke to the feeling of being shot by artillery fire in the hip. Confused and hungover (read: still drunk), I looked around and found myself on the floor. Moments went by as I realized that I had tumbled out of my loft, hit the corner of my desk with my hip, and lay possibly paralyzed on the floor. Hearing the commotion, Beasley looked down groggily and asked "are you all right?" I didn't answer. He assumed this meant I was fine and went back to sleep.
First of all, I was late for rehearsal already. Second, I was pretty sure my hip was broke. Third, the penalty for missing a rehearsal was a date with Hugh Grant so I knew that I couldn't just skip and be hungover/dead all day. I had to go and at least explain that I was going to the doctor instead.
So I trudged my drunken, disheveled, alcohol-reeking ass the half mile to the stadium where rehearsal had already started. I had to tell the director that I was going to the doctor for an X-ray, but dreaded the thought of all 200 PMB members watching me limp down the stairs with my hair all fucked up to tell the director that I had an "accident." To be frank, it was so traumatizing that I blocked the memory from my mind, and only remember going to the student health center an hour later.
Yes, this was embarrassing and I still haven't lived it down. But let's look at the positives: I showed my drinking prowess, willingness to party, pain tolerance, get-out-of-shit abilities, and had funny stories to tell right out of the gate. My name was now famous in the PMB, and my loft-falling has become a thing of legend. And this was all before school even started!
So know I'm left to consider how I can accomplish these same objectives at a new school. I'm older now, and wiser, so maybe there's a way I can do it that doesn't cause massive pain. Maybe. Either way, establishing early dominance is the #1 thing on my school to-do list. Hopefully I can do it without having to shamefully limp down a flight of stadium stairs to the knowing looks of 200 college kids.
Caleb "No, my hip wasn't broke" Shreves