The sign read “honk if you love beer.”
Down the main street from the college campus, mom-and-dad vans, pickups and the occasional stock trailer were pulled in front of the couch and box-strewn yards of rental homes, ready to bring Junior home for the summer. A mom stormed out of a maroon minivan double parked on a street too narrow for double parking, probably wondering why her little princess was doing a keg stand in a yard filled with shirtless boys.
The driver in front of me honked at the kid in the lawn chair holding up the beer sign, and a crowd of finals-week revelers holding blue, plastic beer cups hooted back at the driver. Anyone who honked for beer was all right with them.
As I drove past, the kid waved the cardboard sign at me. I hit my horn and waved, not seeing any of my students at the yard party, although it was hard to tell through all the sunglasses and exposed tans.
Finals week brings out two emotions in college students – emotion No. 2 separated by the intense desire to pretend you never experienced emotion No. 1.
Emotion No. 1) Panic brought on by the “five minutes before my final” realization you spent the entire semester drinking and playing “Halo 2” instead of attending class and remembering you can read.
Emotion No. 2) A blind Id that takes over your now test-weakened Ego, beating it about the head and face with the word “party,” and running naked in the street making your Superego giggle. This is, of course, followed by an irresistible urge to paint the words “honk if you love beer” on the back of an old vodka box.
Finals week shoves into five days the entire college experience of “mom’s not here” weighed against “what if mom finds out?” Only this time the kids are worried about grades.
“Uh, Mr. Offutt,” one of my students said, walking into my office a half hour before his final exam. “Could I get my grade so I’ll know how much I should study for the test?”
“You know,” I said. “A half hour before the exam’s probably not the best time to show concern for your grade. You got a pet?”
He looked at me like I was older and less senile than I am.
Darn, and I had a great analogy about starving goldfish.
“You’re making 79.44 percent,” I said to the student who may, or may not, have had a grass stain on his forehead.
“Can’t you round it up?” the student asked.
Rounding up a grade is like giving a kid candy to stop acting like a brat – they didn’t earn the candy and haven’t learned they have to.
“Not until you stop starving your goldfish,” I said.
He didn’t get it, but he wasn’t too concerned, there was a party in some guy’s yard after the test. I’m not sure I would have understood the analogy at his age either because emotion No. 2 would have dragged me to the party by the throat and made me wear a funny hat.
A couple of blocks later, a group of college kids were standing in their yard trying to knock over empty beer bottles with a Frisbee. I honked and waved.
Maybe I shouldn’t have encouraged them, but it was finals week, and life would catch up with them soon enough.