These days, I am a bit of a worry wart when it comes to travel. I want to make sure that everything is all set before we go, and I worry over small details to the point that it drives my wife crazy. I wasn’t always that way, however. There was a time in my life when I ignored silly little things like details, planning, and responsibility, and that time was called college. A perfect example of this was the time I was supposed to fly to Missouri to attend a seminar for my national fraternity.
First, a bit about my fraternity – when I was in school, fraternities were not recognized by UMass-Lowell, and my fraternity in particular had started up on campus just a couple of years earlier. So, instead of a grand, old beautiful house full of a bunch of jocks named Todd, we had a dirty, rat-infested house with a mishmash of guys who wouldn’t be cast as frat guys in any movie (it’s funny how you can feel nostalgic about a place when you had to wear flip flops in your own shower). I was entering what I think was my third junior year when I was elected president of the local crew.
The fraternity’s national office puts on an event called President’s Academy every year to help people figure out how to go about being president. It was important that I go (especially since my local group was considered a “colony” at that point in time and we were trying to make a good impression so that the national office would make us a “chapter” or permanent member).
In the morning in question, I woke with a start. I had a hazy memory that there was something important to be done. After my eyes focused, I remembered that I had been meaning to check the fraternity’s post office box to retrieve the plane tickets that had been sent by the national office. Those tickets, which had been languishing in that post office box for some time, would remind me which day I was to fly to Missouri. A responsible person might have called or otherwise checked the dates, but I didn’t get around to it (I’m sure I was very busy with important stuff).
At the post office, I saw that the tickets were for a flight leaving Boston that morning – in about 2 hours. There was no time to stop and panic, so I panicked while driving back to the house, and while throwing various clothing items (clean and otherwise) into a bag. During this process, I realized that I needed 2 things – money (I had almost none), and a sport coat (it was the one thing we were supposed to bring with us, and I didn’t have one – nor had I made arrangements to get one).
I ran upstairs and banged on the bedroom door of my friend Kevin, waking him up. I explained my predicament and begged the use of a sport coat (I was much thinner then, so he was a likely match). He explained that he didn’t own a sport coat, but offered me a suit coat. I took it. It would look ridiculous with my non-matching dress pants, but there wasn’t time to worry about it. I then asked him very casually about a short term loan of a hundred or so dollars, but Kevin (like me) was perpetually broke, so that was a dead end.
There was now about an hour until my flight was going to leave Boston.
I called Joe. Joe worked regularly after school and was really good about saving his money. His good sense should probably have prevented him from lending money to someone like me, but he was a fraternity brother and a friend. When I explained the problem, and my time constraint, he agreed to swing by a bank machine and come over with the dough. Lucky for me, he hustled, because I had 45 minutes left to drive from Lowell to Boston and get on a plane.
These days, what with the security and all, that sort of thing isn’t even possible. And even back in the mid-90’s, in the days before the Big Dig, the traffic should have prevented such an accomplishment. But somehow on that day I was able to powerfully weave my Nissan Sentra (purchased for $1) up Route 495, down Route 93, and to the airport. I leapt out at the terminal (a friend had volunteered to drive my car home), and rushed to the gate. I got onto the plane just as the doors were closing, popped my bag in the overhead compartment, and flew to Missouri (where I rode a mechanical bull for the first and last time).
There is no question that the entire experience would make my head explode today.
Postscripts: I paid Joe back. Also, I did look like an idiot in my non-matching suit coat/dress pants, but no one really cared.