Web Exclusives:

Tooke's Take

a PAW web exclusive column by Wes Tooke '98 (email: cwtooke@princeton.edu)

September 13, 2000:

Back to School
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.

Negotiation: Across 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."

Stress Management: 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.

Social Rejection: 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 season.

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.

Beer Consumption: 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.

Misbehaving Fans: 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.