I’m Not a Dancer

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Dateline: October 27, 1979

Two conversation threads ran on our hour-long bus ride back. For some in the group, they gushed with overwhelming enthusiasm over having taken their first step in what they expected to be a life-long political career. For others, they gushed with overwhelming enthusiasm over having just discovered the girls’ college we were spending the evening at was hosting a Halloween party.

I participated in neither discussion. Perhaps I was contemplating Bush’s anxiety. Perhaps I was mulling over my own insignificance. More likely, though, I was tired and wondering if the Buffalo Bills would beat Detroit the next day.

Eventually, the Halloween party conversation took over the bus. Despite my pleas that I just wanted to go to bed, I was dependent on my compatriots since I didn’t know where our quarters were. I had to go with them or risk getting lost and never again returning to New Haven.

I reluctantly added a key point to the dialog. This was a Halloween party. We had no costumes. We were dressed in suits and ties. We also wanted to remain low-key. There’s one thing we learned quickly upon matriculating at Yale: It’s in poor form to say you attend Yale. When asked “Where do you go to school?” it is understood the proper answer to that question is always “New Haven.”

When attending the party, the challenge was how to keep our collegial identities secret. Our present dress would immediately cause uneasiness. No college student wears a jacket and tie. Not even in the Ivy League, although that would be the common perception among those not attending Ivy League universities.

Ah, but this was a costume party. Why not hide in plain sight? Since we already looked like the stereotype, I suggested, why not simply say we were dressed as “Yale students?” The gentlemen on the bus all agreed and off we went to crash this Halloween party. Would this ruse work? Discovering the answer to this question gave me something to look forward to at a party I would otherwise not have wanted to go to.

We entered without hesitation and without any suspicion. There were some curious looks. After all, a group of strangers, all in semi-formal attire, had just entered the dimly lit auditorium. Their first thought, no doubt given the disco music permeating the air, must have been we had come dressed as characters from Saturday Night Fever. That would have been a great idea – if only we would have thought of it.

One of our vanguard, a friendly fellow who had no fear of meeting new people, especially members of the opposite sex, was asked directly, “What are you and your friends dressed as?”

“Why, we’re dressed like we’re Yale students. Can’t you tell?” he replied at a near-shout volume so as to be heard above the music.

“Of course,” smiled the woman, who then proceeded to invite us to join her friends.

Now, mind you, though this was a party at an all girls school, there were boys at the party. Just not a lot of them. And when a half dozen boys walk in dressed in spiffy suits, well, that tends to turn heads. Within the various female cliques, we became a target to be claimed. And this girl just claimed us boys for her and her friends.

This didn’t become immediately apparent. But, very quickly, everyone (save me) obligingly paired off. I felt like I was in the middle of one of those teenage-angst/coming-of-age movies. I was not a happy camper. I hated these kinds of movies. I hated mixer parties like the one I was at. I hated disco music.

But there was one thing I hated more.

“Would you like to dance,” said a small voice from behind me.

I politely turned around. It was a girl in black and white. She seemed to be hiding a pillow beneath her costume. “I’m a pregnant nun,” she shouted proudly. Thankfully it was too dark for her to see the dread in my face.

I don’t know how I did it, but I convinced her I couldn’t dance. That didn’t get me totally off the hook. In lieu of dancing, she insisted on talking. I have to admit, I felt sorry for her. All of her friends were talking to guys and she was stuck with me. (By the way, if you’re a guy, never feel sorry for a woman. Then they have you precisely where they want you.)

So, we talked. By that time, someone had spilled the beans and everyone knew we really were from Yale. This only made the bullseyes on our backs all the bigger. During the entire conversation, I was looking for the emergency exit. At the same time, I wanted to be polite. I told her I was assistant manager of the hockey team.

That was a mistake.

I kept saying we had to go. She kept asking if I’d ever be back. I knew I’d never be back. I was probably less direct than I thought I was. I got out of there alive. We all got out of there alive.

We decided to drive back that night. Someone elected me to drive. More likely, I elected myself. I was wide awake by that time and probably the only one who didn’t drink at the party. A precipitous mist enveloped the undulating terrain as I drove down the interstate. I stayed away from the big trucks, letting them pass me.

Going down one valley somewhere near White River Junction, a semi sped by me in the right-hand lane. Moments later, red lights appeared in my rear-view mirror. I thought the cop was after the truck.

Nope. He pulled me over. Said I was going over seventy.

I wasn’t, but I guessed the truck was. I also knew the radar gun reads the larger object. (You know these things when you’re a physics major.) The truck was the larger object. I told the cop. His response: “What truck?”

I instantly knew what was happening. I offered sound reasoning why he got the wrong guy. He said, “Yea, you’d probably win if you take it to court.” He knew I had Connecticut plates and New York State drivers’ license. He (quite correctly) surmised I’d never be back.

I was mad the rest of the way back to New Haven. You could understand my anger, then, when I arrived back to my room in the middle of the night only to find my belongings cleaned out. My roommates thought they’d play a prank on me. There was a note on my empty desk to a “Joe” saying “Chris has moved out. Bring your stuff in any time.”

I woke my roommates right then. Groggy-eyed, I scolded them. (Yes, “scolded” is the correct term here.) I said I expected everything back in the exact place I left it. Even then I had a complicated filing system I like to call “organized chaos.” Everything had its place. I doubted I’d ever see most of my “filed” material again.

I threw my speeding ticket on the empty desk and flopped on the bare bed to sleep.

The next morning, I went to the dining hall and had a long, relaxing breakfast/brunch. Upon returning to my room, I was surprised to find everything in its place. The only item I couldn’t find: the speeding ticket.

Because it wasn’t originally there when they removed my belongings, my roommates didn’t know where to put it. Then they didn’t know where they put it. I eventually found it, wrote a check, and begrudgingly sent it back. So ended my Vermont story.

Or so I thought.

The next February, the hockey team played at the University of Vermont. I didn’t travel with the team since I had an assignment for class I needed to finish. I did greet the team at Ingalls Rink upon their return from the weekend road trip.

The players hooted and hollered when they saw me. Apparently, the pregnant nun stalked the team and, in particular, the team trainer who she thought was me.

Like I say. I’m not a dancer.

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