You'd think that people would change over the course of 20 long years. You'd think that 20 years would be long enough for people to “see the light,” so to speak. You know, to grow as people. To mature as human beings. To gain the wisdom of the years. You would think. And, according to all the evidence presented at my 20th High School reunion, you'd be dead wrong.
At my recent reunion, I ran into about 90 meat-bags (+/-) from school — a rather small showing considering the 300 or so in my graduating class — about whom nothing had changed apart from their belt size.
Upon arrival, we registered with two obviously beloved, former school employees whom I don't recall in the slightest. From these two ladies, I obtained the requisite humiliating-high-school-photo name-tag and wore my shameful past pinned to my best Armani suit like a dork.
I felt extremely odd, at first, pushing feverishly past faces I vaguely recognized (but couldn't put a name to if I had a gun to my genitals) on our way to the lobby's rolling bar. On instinct, I cosied up to the bartender and tipped her heavily for the first of what would become many, many mixed drinks that I quaffed that night. I pretended the first drink was a shot and requested my second before even leaving the bar. Two-fisting it back to my wife with her drink, I surveyed the room as the alcohol eased my blood pressure back to sub-100 levels.
I was on edge like a quadriplegic cat at an Angry Dog Convention, anticipating unpleasant run-ins with some of the Neanderthals who'd harassed me during those bitterness-inducing developmental years known as adolescence. But pleasantly, none of them showed up (due to prior lifetime commitments at Attica, I'm guessing).
A quick flip through the old “Where are they now” book, warmed my heart as many of them still listed local addresses, several kids, and/or menial job titles along the line of “Assistant Coal Mine Canary.” Living well, it's said, is the best revenge. (Now, what did I do with the keys to my BMW…?)
I'd hoped to run into some noteworthy people I remembered fondly from my High School days, but few of the corpulent bodies swarming around were cool or non-jerkwads. In total, I could count on two hands the number of school chums I was actually happy to see again. Many of those I'd hoped would show up proved their worthiness by being too smart to do so.
After inhaling the legal limit of alcohol for a person four times my weight, I located some of my old friends from band and hung out with them for the duration of the “meal” (Chicken Something, with What the hell is that? sauce, and a mixed vegetable medley).
The “Remember When” slide show was particularly amusing in the complete absence of anyone we knew. Apparently, there were people at my High School who enjoyed themselves and looked back on those days with fondness. Go figure.
Once we'd choked down the “food,” there was a brief award ceremony. My wife and I took home the coveted, “Furthest Distance Traveled Award, Male.” (Yes, for some bizarre reason, they broke the categories out by sex…) Sadly, there wasn't an award for Biggest Loser, as that category would've surely been hotly contested.
With the formalities out of the way, the DJ busted out some classic hits from the wrong decade and the crowd hit the floor. Or, at least, all the drunk blondes did.
My wife and I continued to drink and mingle with random people just to confuse them by pretending we were once best friends. Sadly, the old cliques reestablished themselves immediately, like a planet's gravitational force sucking in passing space detritus. Soon, clusters of overly loud, aging blondes and their beer-gutted ex-jock-turned-middle-manager husbands grouped together, just like old times.
At the end, as I stood there pretending to listen to one of my former schoolmates drone on about their perceived glory days, I reflected on how much I'd learned that evening.
First, if I had cared to keep in touch with anyone there, I would have. Second, jerks never change. And third, if you drink enough, you can find almost anyone interesting.