And I am glad.
Before, I was a little nervous. Would I be bored? Would more than one or two people speak to me? Would the people who bullied me still be jerks (although, really, they stopped bullying me after 10th grade)? What would I say to the vast majority of people who showed up that were nothing more than faces attached to names in the hallways and classrooms?
You end up saying, "Wow, it's been 20 years!" and "It's been a long time, man," which to school reunions, is the equivalent of, "Have a nice summer" signed in yearbooks.
Overall, though, I give the experience a B or B+. Not an A for various silly reasons, but I am really glad I went. And takayla and I looked DAMN good. She was wearing this black sparkly number, and as beautiful as always, while I wore a black dress shirt, black slacks, and a silver abstract tie. And my magic shoes! The hotel had previous hosted Katsucon and several FanTek cons over the years, so it was funny to see that my reunion was held in the former Katsucon video gaming room. They got rid of the smell and everything! :)
The best thing for me was bringing takayla, and I am deeply grateful how she put up with being bored. I just wanted her there.
Seeing shuttergal in person after not physically seeing her for 20 years was awesome. The hat! The awesome hat! We spoke of a mutual friend, Meredith, and I hope Meredith responds to my e-mail because she's going through a dark patch and I'd like to help. We spoke of Voodoo Donuts in Portland and how awesome it would be if they made cupcakes. Maybe I should start a company here like that. Put it near College Park.
Speaking of childhood friends, Mary-Ann P was GREAT to talk to. Why the hell don't I speak to this girl more often? Alison B was also great to talk to. I had to chase her down, but she's still got the kind, sweet face I remember. Ann Y, who lived a block away from me, was a great surprise to speak with, and I am so glad I got to say hi and see she's doing well. Kit C, the "not commercial airline pilot" I had been led to believe for many years, and her husband were positively awesome. Courtney M, it was great to meet a woman who fights fires, I am totally going to tell my friend fadedblackrose about it (see, I like firefighters because I have this sick thrill that someone would willingly rush INTO a fire for noble causes), and I hope we still chat over Internet once in a while.
That also reminds me of the uneven ratio of people who went to Lewinsville Elementary School (closed 2 years after we left) that made it to the reunion. Only a handful of us that went to LES graduated MHS because it spanned a re-election congressional term and a presidential term, which always meant in my area a wave of people moving in and new people filling their homes. I think like only 20-30 of us did, and probably about a dozen of them were at the reunion. Jessica B, Mary C, Mary Ann, Mike E, Lisa N, Ann, shuttergal, Holly L, Kit, Courtney, and probably a few more I forgot.
Knock my ass over with a feather, I had planned (in my head) for the next highlight but thought it would have been much more likely no one said anything to anyone about it: Tray T, the guy who busted my neck, apologized to me. I can't imagine what guts that took. He just came right up to me in the buffet line, sincerely shook my hand and arm, and apologized in a manner that suggested it had been bothering him for 20 years. I forgot his actual words, but it was more of a general, "If there was anything I ever did to you back then, I am so so sorry..." I, of course, awkwardly accepted his apology, not because I didn't want it, but I wanted to say the right thing so there'd be closure I am sure he was looking for. I told him it meant a lot to me, but I had moved past it, but thank you. Because, really, Trey was nothing more than a catalyst that started a whole "this is why my life is fucked up!" journey back then. It could have been anyone that had hurt me bad enough to be hospitalized, even a random drunk driver, and the story would been the same. But what his apology did was remove the thread of malice that used to exist ("NERD!") and turned it into an accident. After all, he was like 15. We all did a lot of dumb shit at 15. So, yeah, Trey, totally forgiven. And I am happy to see someone who takes the time to make amends.
There were also a few of my former bullies. Most avoided eye contact, but I waved anyway. One sat at my table. "What's the WORD?" he asked. "Anime is the future!" I said, only because I had just spoken with Tor S.
Tor, who lived like 3 houses from me and had a half brother who played the drums so loud that they put soundproof plastic on his bedroom windows after the neighbors complained, I always though of as having the most Scandinavian name I had ever heard. He's a social studies teacher (the best part) at Oakton High School, and head of their anime club. And had heard of me, through his students which was like a criss-crossing of worlds that disoriented me for a bit. Tor also owns a paintball park, which I have to mention because that's too cool not to. But he said, "I know this guy, I went to school with him!" His students are like "no way!" Oakton High? It's true. He did. Mr. Strom lived close to me. We even hung out once in a while! Tor wants me to speak to his kids, I don't know what to say? "Don't do drugs, stay in school, drink your milk?" I'll think of something...
Stacy S, my partner in crime of the McLean School Sci Fi and Fantasy Club (MHS3F2C) has completely lost her geek factor. Man! I am SO totally putting up scans of the newsletter now! :)
Fred V, former gaming buddy and friends with stevonwolf was a welcome surprise of "people I was good friends with and never spoke to again after high school." Steve, he told me YOU gave Nicole P the Timex Sinclair, which he gave me, and later I gave to an astrophysics friend of mine who needed a ZX80 board for a project at NASA. I wonder if you ever knew that... that board ended up working for their Solar Labs!
Jen D! Aw man, I was glad she came, even though we hung out at stodgycat's parties and had totally caught up ages ago. We spoke about AOL, which is how we dragged Mary C into our table.
Mary C, the "famous" Mary C, not only showed up, but was incredibly sociable to everyone (and why not, she was that way in school). She sat with me for a while, and we spoke about her job at AOL, how AOL had changed for her. "I didn't know you worked for AOL until I looked you up on Wikipedia tonight," I admitted. "I'm on Wikipedia?" she asked, a bit amused. I wanted to say DUH! but she added, "I try not to Google myself." Heh. If I was in public eye in a controversial political climate, yeah, I wouldn't either. So sweet and very down to earth, same old Mary. I'd like to say, "Oh we totally hung out in school," but we didn't at all. But being from Lewinsville, we all sort of... hung out a lot at the reunion. Again, we should totally have a Lewinsville reunion. If only I was that organized... but again, it was awesome to speak to Mary. I didn't think she'd come, what with secret service detail and all, but she said, "he's around here somewhere..." while looking around the room for him. Probably one of the catering, I thought, because that's SOOO what Hollywood would have done. Hee. Now I am going to have a debriefing... :-P
She reminded me, among the kids of senators, congresspeople, and high profile people, that secret service WAS part of some of our lives. I had forgotten that. I used to live next to a senator and his kids, and sometimes dealt with the infamous van across the street (Ford Aerostar, white stripe, the CIA had a fleet of those, and I am sure leased them out) and guys in suits you don't talk to at parties because he's "doing his job right now."
Some people looked tremendously different. Some people looked eerily the same. Most were a mix. A few people hadn't changed, but for most, that was a good thing.
While the reason I went turned out better than I expected, and I had a great time, the third-party committee (Blue Isle Entertainment) hired to do the reunion were a little rough around the edges. When we came to the table, we were asked angrily "is the Potomac Valley reunion, or the McLean one?" The hotel had booked us with another reunion on the other side of the third floor. Then we got the "Memories Book" which was little more than a cheesy Kinko-bound book with a smattering of what people were up to now, outdated addresses, and a LOT of misspellings (and I noticed this, me, the KING of misspellings). Not just names, which was the bulk of it, but kerning and uses of "with" and "which" which I know personally is because of spell checkers. "Write your name on it," we were told. "People will steal it if you don't." Classy. What's the worst "typo" was revealed at this announcement at the end of the night:
"There's a big error in the book. John Smith is NOT deceased!" There was a cheer, and a lot of people around John Smith hugged and congratulated him. Haw. Rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated, apparently. :)
The function room was also not conducive for so many people. Someone I know who was mildly claustrophobic was having issues. I had to shout most of the night to be heard across a table, and god love all of you who came, but I have a hereditary hearing loss, and I couldn't hear most of you about half the time. The cash bar was horrendously expensive, and while I know about hotel corkage fees from conventions I help run, $4 for a small 8oz glass of Pepsi is ridiculous. Mixed drinks and beer were also over $8. Really? $8 for a bottle of American beer?
One thing about reunions I would recommend is have a pre-rehearsed speech about the following, because you will have to say it over and over all night:
- Summary of your last 20 years in no more than 3-4 sentences, including college, and any jobs you had for a long time (or, "I works various tech companies for a few years, and now I am at...") If your job is industry specific, like an ISP, over-simplify it, because the guy who got a PhD in paleontology might not know what "frame relay over dark fiber" means any more than you would know who "Dr. Badamgarov from the Paleontological Institute in Ulaanbaater" is. No one is stupid, we just know different things that's all.
- Summary of your spouse and children.
- Where you live now and why.
- Answer of anything you were famous for back then, either an ex-boyfriend everyone expected you to marry, of "do you still wear funny hats?"
- Anything that you did that stands out, like "You're a writer? What did you write?" or "What is an anime convention?"
Note to self: making fun of Senator Ted Stevens and "tangled up tubes" is NOT funny to those who no nothing about the Internet or watches the news. Or whose parents are friends with him. Oops. Also, do NOT eat carrots. You will spit bits of it on people while talking. Sorry, guys... I should have also bought breath mints.
But otherwise? Yeah, I had a great time. For those of you who read this, I am so glad to have seen most of you. Sorry if I forgot who you were; I saw a few people I didn't remember wandering around alone... because I don't think anyone else remembered them, either. I wanted to talk to these people, but I had such limited time keeping up.
I only took a few pictures. I hope to have them up when I find my camera cable...