Syrup

(I wrote this years and years ago and just recently re-found it) Back in the day, I was on staff for my high school's newspaper. I did little assignments and wrote an article every now and then whenever someone needed me to, but my official position was webmaster for this wonderful site that we hoped to someday have. Every year (I think), there was this National High School Journalism Convention that people from our staff went to. Apparently we won all of these national awards and our adviser had been recognized as the top journalism teacher and adviser in the country in past years. Anyway, I fasted and scraped together every penny that I had for a month and managed to come along my sophomore year to Boston with four guys, three girls, our adviser, and her teaching assistant guy. It was cool. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe there, we went on a tour bus and checked out the USS Constitution and Harvard (I learned why you can't park your car in Harvard Yard), we ate at Dick's Last Resort and the original Cheers bar (The Bull & Finch Pub). Actually, I spent most of my money on food. I had to pay off some debts back home, so I hardly bought anything to bring back. Just a t-shirt, a lighter, and some syrup for my girlfriend-at-the-time. I'm not sure why, but she was absolutely obsessed with maple syrup. I'd see her walk into her kitchen all the time and chug from a big bottle of pancake syrup on top of her refrigerator. Well, I followed a friend into a gift shop and noticed a whole rack of bottles of "Grade A Pure New England Maple Syrup". There were small, round bottles. There were tall, curved bottles. There were even small and large bottles that were shaped like maple leaves. I chose carefully and bought a large $12 bottle that was curved slightly like a hip flask and a tiny $2 bottle. The convention itself was much less dignified than I thought it would be. Groups were given signs with long wooden rods to display the names of the states that they came from. People screamed and cheered and waved their signs around at any mention of their home state (the Texans quickly became a huge annoyance). In a reading of all 50 states with historical facts about each one, the speaker skipped over Alaska for some reason. A boy in the middle of the room that was holding all of the extra signs held up an Alaska sign and shook it around in protest, but the speaker had already moved on to starting a group journalism quiz. At night, there was a dance. It was pretty much the same kind of thing that I saw at any high school dances: flashing colored lights, a collection of the most popular dance songs of the month played at a volume that made me think of those old newsreels with footage of what happens to houses when hit by a nuclear bomb's shockwave (I passed too close to one of the speakers and I swear I chipped a tooth), and a giant pile of teenagers thrashing around in an attempt to soak up as much wonderful conformity as possible. My stomach was trying to find some way to vomimt acid up into my sinus cavity and digest my brain by the third time "Who Let the Dogs Out" came on. I was proud to be in a small group that pulled chairs out from against the wall of the ballroom and sat a third of the way into the center of the room with arms crossed, blankly staring at the horde of spastic drones and making relatively quiet conversation. I pulled my trench coat out from under my ass and sat in the lotus position, propping up my head with my hand and reflecting upon the impression that we must be giving all of the kids that briefly glanced up at us between humping each other and screaming out the names of their favorite Backstreet Boys as their solo came blaring from the innumerable speakers. But before the night was over, I found myself having to make the decision of staying in our hotel room and doing homework or returning to the dance (it was going on all night). I followed along three guys to the dance, finding that it was going on just as loud and obnoxious as it was an hour or two before. One of the guys that I was with was the editor-in-chief of our paper and he had the same point of view that I did. Neither of us had any real interest in socializing with these strangers, mostly because it seemed unlikely that any worthwhile conversation could be extracted from the teeny-bopper with a tank top and pigtails who gleefully hops around to a Britney Spears song and chants every single word, or the classic jock, complete with the jersey, who goes from girl to girl trying to get her to let him eitehr dance suggestively behind her or just spank her a little, or absolutely anyone that runs up next to us and screams to a person at least thirty feet away "AWWWW, NAW DAWG! YOU BE TRYIN' GIT WID HER?! YOU TRIPPIN' [racial slur excluded]!" The other two guys that I was with were much less... I'm not sure whether to say introverted, dignified, frightened, or just picky. But whatever it was that they were and we weren't, it compelled them to desperately try to lure some girls into conversation and possibly even our hotel rooms. After enduring at least ten minutes of a gabber-remix of a techno-remix of "Cottoneyed Joe" (played much to the delight of droves of cowboy-hat wearing Texans that somehow all knew an actual line dance to the song that they flawlessly performed in synch'), I used my incredible powers to find a pair of young women that looked like they would engage in conversation with us. That "us" part was a bit presumptuous of me because they just made shallow chit-chat with the two guys that I mentioned before and mostly ignored myself and our editor-in-chief. Later that night, they came up to one of our hotel rooms and watched The Fast and the Furious with the other guys. I watched it for about ten minutes until I discovered that the movie had the same intellectual appeal that the dance had and opted to go back to my room and do some homework. See, the guys were divided up into two rooms, so I could enjoy the quiet privacy of my own room next door to finish up my math homework in my boxers. I wasn't really around much when this was happening, but I guess these girls invited a bunch of college guys over to the room (the one next to mine, the second guys' room). I guess the editor-in-chief was downstairs in the hotel in the weight room or something and when he came back, he, the photographer that came with us, and I talked in my room and decided that those guys needed to leave before anything got out of hand. We talked to the guy on our staff that we figured was the one that didn't take the opportunity to tell all of those older guys to immediately leave. We told him that he had to ask all of them to go back to their room and take whatever beatings that would consequently be dealt out. They left without any problem and no harm was done. So we flew directly to Boston at the beginning of the trip, but we had to take a connecting flight to Philadelphia before flying back home at the end of the trip. We get to the airport to find that the flight to Philadelphia was overbooked and the only way back home was to fly to New York City, then back home from there. So we fly to New York. The view was amazing. The black of night above the horizon, a web of amber stars and illuminated buildings below the horizon. I could even make out the faint shape of the Statue of Liberty's torch and could see that the Empire State Building was lit up in red, white, and blue. We landed and went into the airport to get our luggage. For the first ten minutes, we were convinced that our luggage was landing somewhere in Russia and we'd never see it again. I recall shouting "What the hell kind of curse has been put on this trip?!" But our bags showed up after awhile. I found some sticky drops of something on the top of my bag and recalled a scene in The Blair Witch Project when Josh found some mysterious slime on his backpack. I ignored it at first until I had to open up the bag to get something. I then realized... to my horror, every single thing in my bag was covered in Grade A Pure New England Maple Syrup. Apparently, the throwers (see: Fight Club) had amused themselves by hurling my luggage against a wall repeatedly or perhaps rolling it down an escalator going up to see how long it would take it to reach the bottom, because the large glass bottle of syrup that I had bought and covered in bubble wrap had been shattered and its contents emptied and dispersed among my clothes and personal hygiene products (toothbrush, hairbrush, and about fifteen tiny bottles of conditioner that I stole from the hotel). I found humor in it for a full five minutes, then that all ended. But my comrades were able to enjoy my situation for much, much longer. Though I was a victim, I received almost no sympathy and was the butt of more pancake jokes than I care to mention. But at least I stole that smaller bottle of syrup so I still had some to bring back to my girlfriend. I'd end this entry right here, but I came back from this trip with an endless collection of anecdotes and enough stress to cut a decade off of my life. In New York, our flight back home was canceled for maintenance, so we stayed in the waiting room to ponder this odd situation. We had no way back home, no money for a hotel, and MY STUFF WAS FUCKING COVERED IN MAPLE SYRUP! The two guys that invited the girls from the dance to their hotel room passed the time while our adviser tried to find us either a flight or a place to stay by lying on their backs and shooting spitballs at a speaker on the ceiling of the airport, a few meters away from the waiting area. I initially stayed away from them because their favorite target had previously been my eyes, but they beckoned for me to join them. I reluctantly joined them and could see that it was actually quite difficult for them to hit this speaker. There was a huge pile of spitballs dispersed around the speaker, with only five or six actually landing on it. Neither of them had hit the center of the speaker yet. I laid down and tried once. My spitball didn't even reach the ceiling. Just then, a man with a videocamera walked up to us from the waiting area. He started saying something to the member of this small group closest to him and I heard the end of his sentence before he started walking around a railing to get closer to us. "...and I'm going to turn this in to the police." My jaw dropped in disbelief and I stared at the guy that he had just talked to. "Did he just say what I thought he said?" The man walked past us, saying, "Swallow hard." I would have laughed at such a goofy phrase, but I was a little shaken up. I had learned my lesson from committing such heinous crimes as "entering a building and photographing it" and now have an extreme fear of the police. We told our adviser that we had been threatened and I casually mentioned that I wasn't responsible for any spitballs actually reaching the ceiling. After a few minutes of us nervously waiting for our time to board a flight (we had finally found one) and looking over our shoulders, the guy with the camera came back. We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw no police officers folowing him. We laughed together and agreed that he had to have been the most pathetic guy in the world for spending his time videotaping kids shooting spitballs. Just then, two of the army guys that guard the security checkpoints with M-16s and full camouflage uniform walk up to us from the direction that the camera guy had come from. They go directly behind us and we all freeze. Not looking back at them to incriminate ourselves, we weren't sure if they were quietly radioing for backup, taking their weapons off of safety, or just checking something at the ticket desk, but we agreed that we could immediately take off running in the direction of our next flight.