Reflections by Richard Bleil
The year 1996 carried with it my fifteen-year high school reunion (yes, I graduated in 1981, born 1963, and I’m 56…there, I saved you the math). First, a little background.
My high school class had over 850 students. Just my class. With a school that large, the clicks were coming out of the word work. We had the popular clicks, jocks, nerds, just about anything you can imagine. I myself wasn’t in a click. I was one of a handful of “nobodys” that never did anything, had very few friends, certainly not a student that anybody noticed. Or would remember.
After high school, as my regular readers know, I went from high school to have a rather, oh, let’s say interesting career. I got my bachelor’s degree in chemistry, worked as an industrial chemist for a time, went to graduate school where I earned my doctorate (that part will be germane a little further along in this post), did a few post docs, and was teaching in my first full time teaching gig after that. That teaching gig happened to be back in my old “stomping ground” and was, frankly, a few blocks away from where the reunion was.
It was an interesting experience, going to a reunion where almost nobody knew me. The woman who organized it, Penny, knew me and my story. She was very kind, complimenting what I had accomplished, telling me how some people blossom in high school, others after.
Through the reunion there were several humorous things that happened. Several people asked me which alumni’s husband I was. No, I am the alumni. You stole my lunch money, you schmuck. I had several people tell me that I have my hair. Yes, yes, I do. Thanks for telling me. I had no idea.
I stopped by to say “hi” to one of the moderately popular football players that I recognized. Well, he was pretty recognizable. I didn’t expect much since, frankly, we weren’t friends in high school anyway. I was just thinking about a little small talk. The thing that struck me was that he had an entire speech memorized. “After high school, I went to … and I … and now …” I don’t remember. But I can’t help but wonder how self-involved somebody has to be to assume that so many people would be interested that he actually wrote and memorized an autobiography. I just said, “oh, that’s great” and moooooooooved on.
One of the great regrets was my conversation with Jane. Jane was always a lovely woman and hadn’t really changed at all in the fifteen years since last I saw her. I had SUCH a crush on her friend Linda, so I have to admit, I knew who she was but never really paid much attention to her. I don’t think she had any interest in me either, but maybe I’m wrong. But she did want to chat with me at the reunion, and for the life of me, I could not remember her, at least not until after the reunion. Honestly, I should have asked her for her phone number after the reunion just because she seemed genuinely interested, but I did spend time and had a lovely conversation with her. I truly hope things turned out well for her; she was actually quite sweet and deserves to be happy.
One of the most surrealistic moments in the reunion occurred while I was visiting with Jane, actually, and on reflection, I think this is why I never got around to asking Jane for her number. As we were chatting, a rather excited young woman that I didn’t recognize (we had eight hundred and fifty students in my class, for crying out loud) came up, clearly with something she was excited to say. So, I finished my sentence with Jane, and turned to this young woman. “What’s up?” I asked. (This is the germane part to the fact that I am a doctor and was at that time.) “I’m going to win the most distinguished alumni award!” she exclaimed. “Oh? And why is that?” I asked. She looked me dead in the eye and said “I just spoke with every alumni here, and I’m the only doctor!!!!”
“Well, then, congratulations,” I said smiling to myself, and just walked away.
Now you might wonder who won the award, her, me or some other person. The reality is that nobody did. And it’s probably my fault. Remember Penny, the organizer of the event who remembered me? At one point after that happened, she pulled me aside and asked a serious question. “The reunion seems to be going so well,” she said. “I’m supposed to be giving the most distinguished alumni award, but I don’t want to stop the party for it. What should I do?”
Okay, it wasn’t meant to be vindictive, but I did suggest that if people were having fun, then there’s no reason to interrupt.