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Don't get fresh with me 

Welcome! This seems to be the week to welcome new students, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon. The welcome wagon. The welcome bandwagon, if you will.

WOW! You're great, we're great, and Cal Poly's great! And the war in Iraq is going really well!

Now that we've got our tone established, I want you to listen up, freshies, because I'm only going to say all of this once. In fact, I may well be too late, if experience is a guide. But here goes anyway: There is a dark side to Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo, despite the glittering veneer you've been dazzled by in your orientation. This dark side takes different forms at different times, but it's there. Don't be surprised by it when you see it. And don't forget that some of those great buddies you made in your first few bright-eyed days in SLO aren't going to make it. Survival of the fittest, and all that. Some will flunk out, some will get kicked out because of repeated infractions, some will just give up, and one or two might die. And finally, please, for the love of Britney's flabby belly, don't let your dorky WOW leader put the moves on you.

Go ahead and take a moment. Allow that to settle in a minute. Is it all making sense now?

Let's put it together. Did you know that WOW leaders aren't paid to lead you around town? Did you know that a stated purpose of WOW is to break down your inhibitions? Did you know that one of the most common inhibitions incoming freshmen have is making out with dorky WOW leaders? They've got to have some compensation, and I'm too cynical to think that every one of them is leading a group out of the sheer joy of introducing others to Cal Poly and SLO. Sure, there are leaders for whom the shiny veneer has never dulled or dimmed, but you're going to be attending a prestigious Technicolor university or something, so please put all these facts together and see where they lead. Can you see it now? The ways your WOW leader has been putting the moves on you? Did he or she touch you playfully? Did he or she try to make you laugh? Or act friendly and helpful? Did he or she make you play silly games? Can't you just see the montage developing?

Welcome to the Shredder. I'll be your full-service truth-teller, gossip-disher, and sympathetic ear for the next four years. Or five years. Or six years. Basically, for however long you end up sticking around to finish your fancy education. And if you manage to find gainful employment after that.

But buck up, you green-and-gold buttercup! I'm sure you're going to finish in record time and find a high-paying job once that diploma's in your hot little hands. And I'll bet that your WOW leader never encouraged you to play something called full-contact kissing, or a game that involved complimenting a member of the opposite sex's most noticeable ahem features, or a little activity known as Clothesline, which involves making the longest line possible out of your mentionables and, if you're daring, unmentionables. Such ahem features aren't sanctioned by the school, of course, so be glad that your welcome was nothing more than an introduction to the joys of local academic pursuits and a smattering of classy recreational activities. Hooray!

I'm being overly cheerful in fact, my cheeks are starting to hurt from all this smiling because this time of year is always bittersweet for me. It's bitter because I miss the pure, unadulterated, student-free San Luis Obispo that seems to come and go so quickly over the summer. But it's sweet because the dawn of each new school year brings me a fresh crop of students to brainwash into thinking like me. Yes, when September rolls around, I come one step closer to finally building my Shredder army, packed with snarky minions who pick at government leaders and city policies, who feast on rumors and innuendo, who babble incessantly even when they have nothing of substance to say.

It's beautiful. Really.

I happen to know that this year's batch of undergrads is particularly susceptible to my wiles, because I've bugged President Warren Baker's office, and I heard him saying something to that effect, right before his handlers packed him into his hermetically sealed chamber to ensure freshness until graduation.

My bugging was inspired by allegations surrounding SLO County Sheriff Pat Hedges and some of his staff one of whom is accusing the lawman of checking in on him surreptitiously with hidden electronic surveillance. The idea seemed like a great one, and I can't believe it never occurred to me before! I can learn all of the juiciest tidbits without actually having to be in the room. Our sheriff is a genius, or at least he probably is, if the allegations turn out to be true.

Anyway, back to you. I don't have much else to say. You're young and impressionable and probably overwhelmed from the deluge of brochures and informational packets and such you've received in the last seven days. I'll save my better bits for later days, when you're more alert. Maybe right after midterms, but before finals.

But before I go, I've got to throw you some sort of Shredderly advice. So here: Read New Times every Thursday. Really. Why would I lie to you? I just met you.

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