Wednesday, July 18, 2018

From the Archives - How to Be a UCSB Student


It’s not back-to-school time yet, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the younger generation, it’s they they’re organized and plan ahead. So as a service to them, and because it’s a slow news day, here’s a college how-to guide from my archives. Enjoy please enjoy.

(A note on this post: it’s quaint to consider the advice I gave on how to kill time back in 1989, long before the Internet.)

How To Be a UCSB Student - January 9, 1989

Chapter One: Attending Classes

Part One: The Lecture

Don’t leave your apartment until five minutes before the lecture starts. That way, you won’t be the first one to show up. Showing up late has several advantages: 1) you can choose a seat in the back without losing face with the professor, 2) you can choose a seat next to a beautiful girl without looking conspicuous, since it will be one of a handful of seats left, and 3) you waste the minimum amount of time in class, leaving more time for what life’s really about: hanging out.

(A note to this guide: I have arbitrarily assumed the reader is male. If you are female, swap the pronouns and change “beautiful girl” to “gorgeous guy,” etc.)

Pick up a copy of the school paper, the Daily Nexus (which for some reason everybody calls the Daily Necro) on the way to the lecture so you’ll have something to do. Granted, the Nexus is a rag if there ever was one, but still better than the lecture. Hasn’t anybody told these professors it’s pointless to lecture children? That’s like, Parenting 101.

Always bring your notebook. It’s amazing how many notes your neighbor will take if you’re setting a good example by scribbling away like a stenographer on speed. Of course, you don’t have to take actual notes; random doodling will do. If you’re the artistic type, draw; if you’re like me, meaningless scribbles, grids, and designs will do. Or, you can keep a running tabulation of the professor’s tics. Here’s an excerpt from my notebook this morning: 
  • Number of times arm tangled in microphone cord:  3
  • Number of apologies (e.g., for overhead projector being broken):  8
  • Number of times repeated the same thing, broken out by transitional phrase: 
    • “As I’ve said . . .” 6 
    • “Again . . .” 8 
    • “Once again . . .” 4 
    • “To repeat . . .” 2 
    • “If you will…” 3 
    • “As you know . . .” 4 
  • Number of times made the following announcement: “Please, those of you in the front, move in so that the people standing can have a seat. Otherwise the fire marshal will come in and kick them out. So just move in closer. I know this lecture hall is big enough.”: 2
Always remember: if you must sleep, don’t snore. You might wake up your neighbor.

Part 2: The Foreign Language Class

Unlike with the lecture, show up to this class good and early. Those back row seats fill up quick. Don’t worry about the professor getting offended; he’s outside smoking and will arrive late. He’ll never know you chose to sit in the back.

If possible, sit behind a tall person. That way, you minimize your chances of being called on (i.e., looking stupid). Or, employ the “zone defense”: sit next to a loud-mouthed teacher’s pet. Since foreign language teachers call on one region of the classroom at a time, you could escape.

Whenever called on, dodge the complex grammatical construction being tested. For example, if the teacher asks the foreign equivalent of “Have you been to a restaurant yet with your roommates?” you can avoid the tricky past-tense structure by responding, “I don’t have any roommates.” And remember, in a pinch ,“I don’t know” or “I can’t recall,” in the foreign tongue of course, is better than nothing.

During downtime (i.e., whenever you’re not being called on), devise strategies for sitting next to the hottest babe next time. Example: remember what seat she’s in today, and take that seat tomorrow, forcing her take an adjacent seat. (Bonus: she’s bound to notice you!)

Part 3: The Discussion Section

For once, you don’t have to worry about the professor calling on you. There’s only the T.A., who’s as anxious to reduce student/teacher impacts as you are. Still, choose a seat in the back. That way you can check out the ladies without craning your neck and looking conspicuous. As with the lecture, show up late, so that you can choose your seat according to where the best girls have situated.

The discussion section was created so that students with questions about the lecture could ask them freely in the more open atmosphere of the smaller class. However, under no circumstances should you actually ask any questions. First of all, the ill-prepared T.A. will only confuse you, and second, your students will hate you for it since it could mean a full‑length section. If nobody asks anything, the T.A. may run out of things to say and let everybody go early. This is the best-case scenario for all concerned.

Part 4: The English Class

This class is an hour and forty minutes long. No advice I could give you could possibly prepare you for what you are about to undertake. Only supreme mental discipline can prevent you from going completely mad.

Never, never look at the digits on your wristwatch. The seconds will seem to be moving in slow motion, as though the liquid crystal were starting to freeze. Do not strike the watch! This is only an optical illusion. Also, don’t look at the clock on the wall. It will seem to have stopped, which is demoralizing.

Try not to think about your situation, about how much time you have left, or how bored you are. Try to think positively: “When I get out of here, the first thing I’m going to do is run around. I’ll find a big field to roll around in and celebrate my freedom!” or, “If I get through this, the rest of my life will be gravy. Just gravy, man.”

Keep your fingernails long. That way, when you’re on the verge of falling asleep for the fiftieth time, you can press them into your palm for an extra few moments of (albeit excruciating) consciousness.

Chapter Two: Attending Parties

Part One: The Party Goal

With a few exceptions, parties pretty much mean the same thing to everybody: mass consumption of alcoholic beverages, accompanied by half-assed socializing and ear-splitting music. But every true party animal knows that to be successful at partying is just like being successful at anything: you must first have a goal. Some people announce their party goals to friends, while some keep it to themselves. Either way, a basic party goal is something like this: “I’m gonna get so f—ing wasted, they’ll have to haul my ass outta there on a gurney!”

Now, I should probably come clean about something: I don’t actually party myself. I just ride my bike really, really hard. It’s cheaper this way, and I don’t vomit so often.

So how do I know anything about partying? I interview the experts. An interview is very easy to get, because party animals love to brag. I don’t even need to ask any pointed questions. On Monday morning I’ll be like, “Dude, how was yer weekend?” and my classmate will be all, “Dude, I was so wasted! Big kegger on DP [Del Playa, the fashionable street in Isla Vista, the student ghetto]. Cops showed up and I was so blitzed I couldn’t even find my bike. So I’m  haulin’ ass outta there on foot and halfway home I’m like, damn, my pants are on backwards!”

Part Two: Training

Training is important in partying. If your tolerance is low, you won’t stand a chance in most drinking games. Certain games, like “quarters”, actually require skill, so the more parties you attend, the higher level you can achieve. Before a three‑day weekend, you should party on Tuesday and Wednesday and maybe even Thursday, to make sure your throat and liver are properly toned. Tapering is a good idea: take Friday off and do something relaxing, like studying or sleeping. That way, you’ll be fresh for the big event. This is what I’m told, anyway.

Part Three: The big night

You don’t want to be weighed down with a lot of food on the night of a big party, because that’ll make it harder to get drunk. Also, more food in the body increases the likelihood of vomiting and of course your output. So load up on chips and stuff, maybe Steak-ums if you must. Travel light to the party; the more jackets, wallets, and jewelry you bring, the more likely you are to lose them or get them ripped off.

Part Four: Being a “Party Animal”

There is plenty of room for self‑expression here. There’s no “right” way to party—just be yourself, only drunk. But don’t overdo it: having to get your stomach pumped is a real downer, and inconsiderate to whoever has to take you to the ER.

Part Five: The Day After

There is, I’m told, no greater bonding experience than being hung over with your friends and neighbors. Stand in a really long line for a greasy brunch place and recount your high jinks loudly enough to be overheard (but not too loud—remember, everyone’s head is pounding!). If you can’t remember what happened the night before, just make something up. I mean, who’s gonna fact-check you?

Part Six: Trophies

In addition to the immediate gratification of partying, you can have material reminders of your glorious night. Beer bottles, wine bottles, rum bottles, and beer cans can be displayed on the windowsill as a statement: “I party hard, and I party often. Come over any time.” If your beer intake is enough to render a mere beer bottle unexciting, just keep the bottles with fancy labels, like “Smirnoff” or “80 proof.”

I have to admit that, although I’m perfectly fine being sober at night and non-hung-over in the morning, I do kind of envy those trophies. But it would be silly to display beer bottles I snaked from somebody’s recycling. So I collect souvenirs from my long bike rides instead. Botts Dots, knocked loose by trucks or fast cars, make excellent trophies from the road, as they are unique to the highway atmosphere without being as messy to carry as roadkill. I have so many Botts Dots now, I can afford to discriminate and keep only the best specimens. Criteria include completeness (absence of chips or cracks), finish, and rarity. A mint, Ohio‑made Ray‑O‑Lite with white and red reflectors is a prime example of a rare find, as it requires the cyclist to ride the wrong way up a highway exit (as I did the other day). I think it’s pretty cool I had the nerve to do that—while stone sober, no less!

Chapter Three: Blowing Off School

Part One: Getting Bored

This step is really easy. In fact, I’m sure your professor will be glad to help. I know mine are.

Part Two: Getting Distracted

Even in the drabbest of classroom environments, a reasonably intelligent student can find distractions. Take that wall over there. Isn’t that texture interesting? And there’s always graffiti. I have whiled away countless minutes pondering “MARK E. IS HELLA GOOD TO ME.” But be only a consumer of graffiti. Getting Distracted does not include writing on desks or walls. I mean, everything really profound has already been scrawled. What makes you think you could contribute anything to the canon?

There is no better place to lose track of a lecture than UCSB. Why? I can answer that in one word: babes. I don’t leer or stare or stalk, mind you, but who wouldn’t appreciate the ladies at this school? Even if I honestly try to pay attention in class, I absolutely cannot resist gazing upon my classmates. This doesn’t mean rubbernecking, though—not at UCSB. At this blessed school, no matter where you look yet another fabulous babe is showcasing her beauty, as if solely for your benefit. This is true in the Liberal Arts department, anyway.

Part Three: Falling Behind

How can you blow off school without falling behind? After all, if you keep up with your classes, you’re really not blowing off anything. You’re just managing your time well, which is totally lame.

If you’re somehow managing to keep up anyway, it never hurts to skip class and go play Robotron at the pool hall.

There’s more to falling behind than skipping class, but not much more. The other step is to not study. If you can’t resist cracking the spine on a fresh textbook, just don’t buy it in the first place. You can save several hundred dollars per quarter this way.

Do cram for your exams, though. Being fried from Dead Week is a quintessential part of the college experience and you won’t want to miss it.

Part Four: Sleep

Although you can get plenty of sleep in class, being tired should be no problem. If your hobby doesn’t wear you out, its aftermath will (be it a hangover, or sheer fatigue). That’s why you need to take a nap every afternoon. Now, there is a right way and a wrong way to take a nap. Closing the window shades, disrobing, getting in bed, and crawling under the covers is the wrong way to nap. This is just too deliberate. Better to flop down on the nearest article of furniture, fully clothed, and pass out. If you aren’t tired enough for this technique, you need to exercise vigorously or drink heavily beforehand, depending on your particular bent.

Go to bed late. That doesn’t mean staying up studying, either. Use your imagination. Make phone calls. Watch TV. Listen to the stereo. Read something worthless, like the school paper. If you can’t waste the evening hours alone, friends are a great help. No matter how lazy you think you are, you’re bound to have an even lazier friend. If you find yourself wired at two in the morning with none of your homework done, you have achieved the highest college calling: you are hanging out.

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