Friday, December 9, 2016

the hawaiian shirt crew

I haven't told a random school story in a long time...

I mentioned before that I didn't really fit into my undergrad geology department. Part of the problem was possibly my own class-based awareness/resentment. The whole thing came to a head right at the end of my senior year.

The geology department had a field study course requirement. The department would alternate between a "cheap" (a couple hundred dollars extra) field course and a "fun" (sky was the limit) field course annually. They were pretty damn breezy about how one was to pay for the "fun" field course, and so I did the cheap one. Fine.

So one year the fun field course was in Hawaii. All the "cool kids" who made up the core of the "real geology students" went and they had a great time, all sorts of bonding, etc. They all came back with Hawaiian shirts, and the shirts became a sort of symbol of the department.

I went to a small liberal arts school (SLAC) which was inundated with long-running, somewhat quirky traditions. One of those traditions was that the president of the school held a series of dinner parties with the seniors, organized by department or group of departments. It was considered a breach of etiquette not to attend, but I had no interest in mingling with people who'd made it clear I didn't fit in, so I skipped it. As it turned out, the other students who were also on the outs with the department mostly skipped it as well.

Word had gone around to "the cool kids" that all the geology department folks (including the professors) were to wear Hawaiian shirts to the dinner party. Nobody told me; I heard about all this later from students in other departments. So most of the department, including all the professors, came to the dinner party wearing Hawaiian shirts. And the few who didn't, because they weren't told about the arrangement, got teased mercilessly by all the other students for not matching the rest of the department. Fun party.

Those damn Hawaiian shirts precipitated my complete break with the rest of the geology department. But that's ok; I persevered without any institutional or educational support. And I'm still out here, poking at rocks, doing cool science even if I never did become one of the cool kids.

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