Title: A Typical Friday Evening through Early Saturday Afternoon at UW-Platteville
Category: Fictionalized Biography (Jeff, Dr. Richert, and Dr. Rosenthal are real, but there is no real Bill, Fred, Greg, Steve, George, Ronald, Dr. Peppers, or Dr. Tough!)
Date Occurred (if it had occurred): Mid-October of 1981
Date Written: March 25, 2019
Written By: Joseph T. Arendt
Copyright (c) 1991
As George and I ate our Friday suppers in Glenview Cafeteria, George complained, "Dr. Peppers certainly gave us plenty to do for this next lab and homework."
I glanced down at my backpack on the floor that held it and agreed, "It's a doozy. Dr. Tough gave us a massive new assignment for Calculus as well."
George smiled as he had a different Calculus professor as he said, "Dr. Richert gave us a quiz today. No Calculus for me this weekend! Hey, there are Bill and his buddies. They seem well-lubricated!"
I glanced in the way George indicated. Bill, Fred, Ronald, and the rest of the Third West Morrow group had come into the cafeteria. They shoved each other. Fred bopped Ronald on the back of the head like this was grade school. The whole group seemed jolly and happy, until they noticed George and l looking at them. That group went to sit at one of the open tables about as far from us as they could manage.
George said, "You'd think we had bad body odor or something."
I guessed, "I think some of them are still scared we'll drag Bill back into coming to Dr. Peppers' Chemistry class."
George somberly said, "Maybe a week ago, he could have pulled it off. Not now. I don't know how anybody can figure out this new work with the lectures."
I said, "I was at the lectures, and at this point, I'm still confused. Want to look at it tonight?"
"No, I'm going out with some of the guys on my wing. You want to...oh, yeah. How about we meet after lunch at the library tomorrow?" George said.
"Sounds good," I said.
I was not surprised that what seemed what had almost been an invitation had been cut off. Although I was now eighteen and that was the legal drinking age in Wisconsin, I had steadfastly refused to touch a drop of alcohol. This was George's blow-off-steam night. Yet, I also knew he'd be at the library tomorrow afternoon, showing no obvious ill effects.
At the other end of the cafeteria, Fred was using his fork to flick mashed potatoes at his buddies. They laughed, then retaliated.
George noticed and said, "I'm glad that the group from your wing is way down there. This is my good shirt. I don't want potatoes tossed on it. You'd think this was still high school."
An adult cafeteria worker who had been serving left what she was doing. She walked into the dining room area. Bill nudged Fred, and moved his head in a way to indicate look over there in the direction of the woman. Fred did so. The potato tossing antics stopped. The woman stood and watched for a full minute without making any pretense about looking at anybody but Fred, Bill, and Ronald. Finally satisfied, she went back behind the counter to serve more food.
After George and I bused our dishes and trays, we went back to Morrow Hall. George went off to Third East. I knew I wouldn't see him again until tomorrow afternoon at the library. That was the routine. I wasn't welcome when it was drinking time.
Friday evening was my least favorite time at Platteville. The Computer Center had closed around four or five pm, not opening until one pm tomorrow. The college library had closed around four or five pm, not opening until one pm tomorrow. As guys came back from the cafeteria, they went to their rooms and cranked up the stereos. Soon, the sound on the wing was painfully loud.
I had earplugs in, but they did little good.
My roommate Jeff showed up, leaving the door open, and said at a shout as if my earplugs worked a lot better than they really did, "I'm going out with the guys tonight. You going to start drinking and join us?"
"No," I said.
Bill showed up in the doorway and said, "Hey, Spokes, you'll never meet any chicks if you don't go to the bars."
I had two bicycles on campus. The one in the room, hung in the closet, was a gorgeous bicycle. It was a hand-built Trek touring bicycle built in Waterloo, Wisconsin. I had gotten it in high school when I used to go ride in Metric Century rides, which was 62 miles, and Century rides, which was 100 miles. My Trek was made with chrome-molybdenum tubing that was thicker at the ends where they were silver-soldered into the lugs. Even the guys around campus who said they were studying mechanical engineering showed no interest whatsoever in the mechanical design of a high-end touring bicycle. I had no time for that kind of long riding as a college student, but sometimes would on a Saturday or Sunday ride out to the giant letter M some five or so miles from campus. My second bicycle was a battered old Schwinn made of simply heavy steel. I used that to ride around campus. I wasn't going to use my hand-built bicycle for that.
Because of the two bicycles, Fred had assigned me the nickname Spokes.
I replied, "There are hardly women around Platteville to be at the bars."
Jeff agreed, "I think the ratios four to one."
Bill countered, "I heard it was even worse, five to one."
I sourly remarked, "In Engineering Methods, Calculus, and Chemistry, it's more like twenty to one!"
I regretted mentioning Chemistry in front of Bill as he looked offended as he had stopped coming, but it was too late.
Jeff said, "What women there are in Platteville will be at the bars tonight. Bill, what do you think of this shirt?"
Bill looked and said, "A bit dull. I like that flashy one in the closet better."
Jeff changed to the shirt that Bill had recommended, then checked himself out in the mirror.
I conceded, "Bill's right. You look sharper in that shirt."
What I had not noticed was Fred had shown up in the hallway with his hands full of open beer bottles.
Having overheard this, Fred remarked, "Figured the fag would know something about clothes."
To my surprise, Bill defensively remarked, "It wasn't Spokes, but me that recommended that shirt. Jeff wants to impress the chicks tonight."
Jeff said, "I'll knock the ladies dead tonight."
Fred wandered in, then shoved one of the many beers he held at me and said, "Stop being a fag and drink a beer."
"Not happening," I replied.
Fred shoved it toward Jeff.
Jeff said, "We're going out to the bars. Why drink the beer now?"
Fred answered, "Cheaper here. Better to get drunk here, then pace oneself at the bar where it costs more."
Jeff nodded, reached over, and took a swig.
Fred handed another over to Bill, who also took it.
Ronald, who owned one of the few cars of anybody around that wing, came down the hall. He called out, "The chicks are waiting! Come now or walk!"
Jeff, Fred, and Bill chugged their beers down in mere seconds. They then all trailed off after Ronald like ducks in a row.
In a room a couple doors down, Greg's voice called out, "Hey, Ronald, can I come?"
Ronald said, "Sorry, Greg. My car only fits three besides myself. I've got Jeff, Fred, and Bill."
Fred suggested, "Let's go to the Patio first. You others who're walking might find us there."
My room on Third West Morrow was on the fourth floor of the building since there was a Ground Floor. I looked down from the large window of my dorm room as Ronald led the other three to his car. They all piled in, then with an unnecessary squealing of tires, they were off for their evening of fun. It was not much of a drive, only about a mile and a half.
Looking down on the sidewalk, I then saw George and some of his Third East Morrow buddies. They didn't go to a car, but merely walked away in the direction of the Second Street bars.
George and his buddies were not alone in walking. There seemed a large migration from the dorms off to the bars of Second Street, which was perpendicular to Main Street. It seemed about two thirds of the students going walked, and the other third piled in cars. It was a point of great pride to go the bars in a car, even though it really did not mean much since it was only a mile and a half. In mid-October, it was only slightly brisk outside, so there wasn't even an excuse of avoiding a walk through the snow.
As I headed to the communal men's room, Greg called out, "Hey, Spokes! Changed your mind about drinking? Want to join us in a beer?"
I stopped, looked in and saw Greg and Steve. They each had a can of beer. Three cases of cheap beer sat on the wooden dresser. While I would not have touched beer anyway, this beer looked warm. Greg and Steve did not have a dorm fridge. It was too warm to get much coolness by setting the beer on the window sill, although that would have worked well last week. Music played in their room, but it wasn't from a stereo, but a radio playing in a small digital clock radio.
I replied, "No, but thank you. Fred and the others claimed all the action is at the bars tonight. I thought you wanted a ride in Ronald's car."
Greg responded, "That was before they said they were going to the Patio. Eight dollar cover charge there."
Steve chimed in, "Once in, the beer still costs twice as much as at the other bars. I can't afford that place, at least not until I get paid next week."
"Me either," agreed Greg.
Both Greg and Steve had what were called Work-Study jobs. These were menial jobs like loading the dishwashing machines at Glenview Cafeteria, emptying trash cans around campus, or even wet mopping floors in some of the buildings. I had to admit the two of them earned what money they got doing that. Still, with three cases of warm beer sitting there on the dresser, they look set for their own quiet little drinking party. I went on my way.
Although Greg and Steve's radio in that small clock radio could hardly be heard down the hall in my room, on other floors above and below, stereos blared. It seemed some others had not gone out to the bars tonight, but some of them unlike Greg and Steve were prosperous enough to own stereos that could and did play loudly.
Still, it was quieter than it sometimes was on some other Friday nights.
I had a little trick I used. With me dorm room door shut to drown out what noise I could, I took out my Realistic tape recorder and earphones. I put on some Beethoven, putting the volume just loud enough to cover over the noise of the dorms. I got out Dr. Pepper's Chemistry materials, and got to work at my desk in the dorm room.
After some hours, I heard joking and shouting in the hallway. I looked at the blue glowing digits on my own plug-in radio alarm clock. It was around one am. That seemed a little early for returning from the bars, but not too early. I shut off my little tape recorder and took of my headphones. I switched to ear plugs that did almost no good. I knew what was coming.
As expected, the guys back early from the bars began blaring music from their stereos about as loud as they could make it play. This was such a common habit that hardly anybody on the wing had a set of speakers that did not already have the tweeters blown out. When played too loudly, the tweeters tended to be destroyed. At the time of returning from the bars, nobody seemed capable of playing their stereo at a low enough volume to save the tweeters.
I put away the Chemistry material. It was hopeless to concentrate. I would barely be able to concentrate enough to read a novel with this much noise, and it would only get worse. I had the blinds wide open. I looked down at the parking lot from four floors up. I noticed Ronald's car, weaving obviously while moving far below the speed limit. The car parked without mishap, though. Ronald, Jeff, Fred, and Bill got out.
This was far from the only car coming back the mile and a half from Second Street. Many more came back. From my vantage point, most or all of the cars seemed to weave and swerve. Yet, unlike a couple weeks ago when I did this same observation, there was not even one fender-bender. There had been quite a commotion two weeks ago with the fender bender, but I heard through the grape vine it was settled without the cops and without the insurance company.
As guys got out of the various cars far below, all the guys seemed to have the drunk way of walking with noticeable staggering. That included the drivers.
Despite the blaring of very loud stereos, now competing with each other in what everybody called Stereo Wars, I could nevertheless hear guys coming down the hallway. They all seemed boisterous and happy. They seemed to have great camaraderie.
My dorm door unlocked and in came Jeff, grinning from ear to ear.
Bill followed him in and said, "Spokes, you should've seen the jugs on the gal that Jeff danced with tonight."
Insincerely, I replied, "Sorry I missed it."
Jeff hung up his light jacket, then told Bill, "Let's go to Fred's room."
Bill agreed saying, "He said he put a bunch more beers in his fridge before we left. They'll be cold. I'll bet Steve and Greg are jealous of Fred's fridge! I saw them drinking warm beer when we left."
I looked back out the window. By around two-twenty am, it seemed all the cars that were coming back from the bars had arrived. I pulled the blinds. I wondered about something I had wondered every weekend since starting at Platteville. Not once that I ever heard of was a driver stopped no matter how apparently intoxicated in the mile and a half trip back from Second Street to the dorm parking lot. It was as if there was an unwritten agreement not to enforce drunk driving laws for that short drive on a street with a top speed of twenty-five miles per hour.
Down the hall, apparently somebody until moments ago still had an intact pair of tweeters because there was laughter and great shouting about how the tweeters had just blown. I guess I had been wrong about assuming all tweeters had already been blown, but perhaps wrong no longer.
I tried to read a Robert Heinlein novel. I wasn't too successful, as the pounding noise made it hard to do even this. Around three am, Jeff showed back up again. Around the same time, one by one, the stereos all got turned off.
Jeff remarked, "Time to crash."
That's what all the guys called heading to bed after bar time. They called it crashing.
With surprising rapidity given it was about three am, the wing and the whole building grew quiet. I went to bed and fell asleep myself.
I got up around eight am. No matter how late I went to bed, I never seemed able to sleep longer than that. Jeff was dead to the world. The entire building at that time was quiet as tomb.
I headed down the communal bathroom. Greg leaned over a toilet. I guess the warm beer had not agreed with him. He gave me a look like I wasn't supposed to notice him, so I pretended he wasn't there.
The cafeteria would not open until eleven-thirty am. I changed into exercise clothes, then pulled out my Trek bicycle from where I kept it stowed in the closet. I carried it down the stairwell as there was no elevator in the building.
I mounted the bicycle, and rode out to the giant M. It had grown chilly overnight, but after a mile or so, I didn't feel the chill anymore due to effort.
I saw a professor named Dr. Rosenthal out jogging. He was in the mechanical engineering department. He waved as I pedaled on by. I saw him jogging most times I rode out to the M, with this time being no exception.
Feeling particularly good today, I locked up the bicycle at the base of the M. Nobody was around, but I was very careful with my Trek bicycle. The giant M was made of whitewashed rocks on the slope of a large hill. Everybody called the hill a "mound."
Up close, the M looked distorted and twisted, as if drawn by a grade-school kid first learning how to write her letters. However, this had all been carefully done to account for the various gradients of the mound. Down from the perspective of the road leading by the M on its mound, the M looked perfectly formed. The small weeds growing between cracks of the rocks was also invisible from the main road, but plainly visible close up.
Leaving my locked bicycle behind, I jogged up to the top of the mound. Looking around from the top, it seemed in most directions all that could be seen was farm after farm. Some held cows, but others full of fields of corn. Even in the direction of Platteville, the tallest building on campus, Pioneer Tower, was barely visible or invisible.
The air was fresh and clean at the top of the mound. There was none of the odor of cow manure this high up that I had sometimes smelled when riding out to the M.
I jogged back down. I unlocked my bicycle, then pedaled back to campus. Once more, I waved as I passed the jogging Dr. Rosenthal.
Back at the dorm, it was still well before the cafeteria would open at eleven-thirty am. I stowed the Trek back in the closet, with Jeff only slightly stirring. There were a couple more guys rather just Greg hugging toilets when I went to take a shower in the communal bathroom. The odor was a lot worse than the manure of the cows I had passed on my ride.
I got clean and shaved quickly, then went back to my room.
Jeff still looked dead to the world. I grabbed my bookbag. I went down to the main lobby on the first floor. Something I found strange was most students seemed to own a stereo, but very few had a TV. I think more students owned cars then owned TV's, and only a minority had cars. Thus, for those who liked to watch TV, the color TV in the first floor lobby often had big crowd around watching it. Not now, though.
I got to work until eleven-thirty am when I could finally go get food at the cafeteria. The crowd was sparse for lunch. I suspected much of the party crowd would skip lunch entirely.
The computer center did not open until one pm, and neither did the library. Therefore, I went back to my room for about an hour. As I headed there, Jeff and Bill were heading the other way.
Bill saw me and said, "Hey, come with us to the cafeteria."
"I already ate," I said.
By now, the odor of puke from the communal bathroom and apparently from some of the dorm rooms as well was strong in the hallway. There was some stirrings in certain rooms, but others were still deathly quiet. At last, it was about quarter to one. I could escape. I went down the hall to George's room. The door was closed, so I knocked. I did not get an answer.
I went down, got on my old Schwinn. It felt like driving a semi-truck compared to a sports car after having been on my Trek. I pedaled off to the library.
The mystery of where George had been was solved, because carrying a heavy backpack, he stood at the locked door. I parked and locked my Schwinn. I walked up to George just as a lady inside the library showed up on the other side of the door to unlock it.
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