a PAW web exclusive column
by Wes Tooke '98 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lessons from a summer
on the move
I can't recall having
learned anything in kindergarten other than that the New York
Times Sports Section is pretentious and dull. At Princeton,
however, I learned how to travel - a fact I was only vaguely aware
of until I spent the last month wandering around Europe. Now, however,
I can say with authority that I developed the following invaluable
travel skills while in the great state of New Jersey.
Europe, where many of the economies seem exclusively based on swindling
Japanese and American tourists, I was often approached by hawkers
offering a variety of shady deals. Few, however, could match the
deviousness and moral ambiguity of the student agencies at Princeton.
For example, nobody offered to store my stuff for the summer, broke
everything, and then told me with a straight face that "the
optional insurance you paid for doesn't cover this kind of damage."
I awoke in London, 10 hours before I was due to fly to the States,
and discovered that my passport, credit cards, money, and plane
ticket had been stolen. I'd like to believe that the perpetrator
was master thief desperately wanted by Interpol, but I have a feeling
that he was probably some short, greasy, European with bad hair.
Either way, I spent the
next eight hours desperately trying to reassemble my life. Was it
stressful? Certainly. But did it compare to having a roommate burst
into my room and breathlessly ask why I'd missed our statistics
midterm that morning? Absolutely not.
The bouncer outside a London nightclub who carefully studied our
group before pronouncing us hopelessly unhip appeared surprised
when I burst into laughter. I assume that few of his clientele have
ever tried to get into Ivy on a Saturday night during black-pants
Ironically, the London
bouncer's objection to our outfits was that they were "too
straight" and "too preppie." You don't hear that
very often at Princeton. At least outside Terrace.
I glanced around a beer garden in Munich, where 12-year-old girls
were chugging liter steins of heavy German lager while their fathers
were passed out drooling in the corner and mothers were hitting
on Fitz the Walking Ass, and shrugged. I've seen Reunions.
Before I went to a British soccer match, I was expecting an awful
scene. These, after all, are the fans that terrorize Europe and
seem to think that getting nailed by a water cannon is the grandest
possible way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And I have to admit
that watching a 65-year-old man scream five minutes of obscenities
at a goalkeeper in the presence of his grandson was impressive.
But compared to two years ago at the Palestra, when Princeton came
from 29 points down to beat Penn, the Brits were as docile and cheery
as a Brown student with a steady dealer. I firmly believe that half
of Penn's student body would have walked off a cliff if one had
been available that night.
Kindness of Confidants:
Much like Princeton, the only reason I made it across Europe is
that a number of my roommates and friends chose to carry me. May
all the students starting at Princeton this fall be so fortunate.