Thursday, October 20, 2011

Frat Life 101: The Costume Party

As Halloween fast approaches I am reminded of the handful of times that I have worn a costume on that day as an adult. This is the tale of one of those days. One thing to remember is that I am a person who has never felt comfortable in social settings, especially with large amounts of people, even more so when those people are consuming alcoholic beverages. I've never been one for celebrating holidays very much and also don't care for attending birthday parties or weddings and don't even get me started on funerals. To me they are all basically just another day and I feel they are only important because society has deemed that they are and now we are pressured to conform. Then I feel pressure to interact with people when I'd rather not. But I digress.

During my first semester in college as I was pledging Sigma Tau Gamma a female who was friends with a member of the fraternity invited that member and all other Sig Taus to a Halloween party that she was having. Even though it meant that I had to go to a party where I would not know the majority of the people (a terrifying thought to me) I agreed to go with some of my pledge brothers. Once that was decided the only issue was what costume to wear. Since I was a poor college student with little to no money my choices were limited and I needed to use some originality in devising what to wear.

Luckily for me while working my summer job before starting college I had "acquired" a few items from my employer that were not being used at that time. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, besides, I'm sure the statute of limitations has expired. Still, just to be safe I'm not naming where this job occurred. You see, the summer job was for a police department and among the items was a uniform or two and a few ticket books. Please remember that this was a different era and if someone tried to do something like this now they would be treated in a very different and more serious manner if caught. In my time however, it was still looked upon in a mostly innocent way. No serious harm was ever intended. It was just a young person having fun and being stupid all at the same time.

Originally I thought I would wear a pillow under my shirt and go as a fat, country police officer however that idea changed because I really didn't want to wear the pillow all night. Instead I just went as a police officer. I had a belt and nightstick that were loaned to me but did not have a badge or a gun, not even a toy one. To me it was clear that I was only wearing a costume, especially since in my mind's eye I looked nothing like what I thought a real police officer looked like. As I left my dorm room I saw another guy leaving his room from across the quad and as it happened we were going in the same direction. Later we became friends and he told me that he and his roommate had been smoking pot in their room and when he saw me he thought that someone had smelled the smoke and called the police and that he believed he was going to get arrested. That thought was cemented as fact in his paranoid brain as I followed him to the stairwell and down to the ground floor.

Once there however he slipped away to certain freedom and I stepped out the front door and stood there for a few moments taking in the night air. Several people were gathered there and most of them drifted away immediately and to those few that remained I nodded and said something like "What's up man?" They nodded back but were acting strange towards me, almost as if they were nervous. That's when it hit me, they thought that I really was a cop! Never mind the fact that the patch on the arm of the shirt was for a different city or that I really didn't look like a cop, they totally believed it. Armed with this knowledge I went over to my friends dorm room and gathered with the rest of the pledges who were going to the party.

When we arrived at the party I walked in the door and immediately saw multiple dirty looks being cast in my direction. You could almost see the thoughts that were forming, they were angry that a police officer had dared to come into the party surely only to hassle them and ruin their good time. That is until I stepped up to the keg and poured myself a beer. Then it was if a light went off for all of them and they thought "Oh right. It's Halloween. This is a costume party and that's his costume." After that all was well and the night was fairly uneventful until right before my friends and I left. We went outside and decided to start writing fake tickets and put them on all of the vehicles parked in the yard and on the street only instead of giving them real violations we made them all up. The violations that we came up with were for things like parking like an idiot or behaving like a moron.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we were not there to see the looks on peoples faces as they stumbled out to their cars and went from believing that somehow they had been given a ticket to the uncertainty as they read what it was for. That would have been hilarious. Instead it was back to the dorms for us to sleep off whatever we had imbibed and to start a new day. We did these kinds of things as a joke back then but I can't help thinking what would happen today if someone in that position were caught how much trouble they would be in. More than likely they would be in front of a judge pretty fast for impersonating an officer, theft and whatever else they could be charged with. It makes me pretty glad I lived in that era where the motto seemed to be no harm, no foul. That's really what the intent was. It's strange to think of it as a more innocent time considering what we did.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

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