This one time, at band camp… OK, my story isn’t really about band camp, it’s about band trip.
At our high school, we went on a band trip every year. We always went to Victoria, BC. I’m guessing from the hotel that it was a pretty cheap trip.
I played the trumpet. I was the classic geek when it came to music. I could totally play the instrument, but if I had to do something creative, like play a solo, I was hopeless. Give me music, I’ll play it; improvise something, um, yeah…not going to happen.
We always paid for the the trip the same way. We had a band marathon. We would play for 30 hours. Obviously we wouldn’t all play at the same time. In fact, we didn’t really play that much.
We’d do things like bring someone in to teach us disco (please remember, but also please do not comment upon the fact that we are talking the late 70’s to very early 80’s, and yes, at least one member of the group that I used to hang out with did dress, look, and act exactly like the John Travolta character from Saturday Night Fever). We were taught how to do various disco dances, and I particularly remember doing the Box Step (for a very illuminating snapshot of that historical period of time that as much as I’d like to forget, I can’t, ingrained as it is into my memory not unlike a Circle-O brand on a hapless cow down in deepest Texas, please consult this.
So, yes, I have very vivid memories of a whole line of mainly geeky band guys struggling to become hip so that we too can become part of the disco scene. I remember the box step because it literally was the only one that I could figure out. The Hustle proved to be completely out of my league, technique wise. Attempting to execute it, I think I might have ended up with a sprained ankle and a twisted neck.
For many years afterward, on the rare occasions on which I somehow found myself on a dance floor (in my periodically somewhat clumsy and nearly always futile attempts to close the female 18-inch gap), I would always fall back on the box step as the savior to keep me from hurting myself and others.
So, we weren’t exactly playing our instruments for the actual 30 hour marathon. In fact, for the cooler members of band (and yes, believe it or not, there were people in the band that were comparatively cool), would go off into one of the darkened rooms adjacent to the gymnasium where we were supposed to go to sleep but instead they’d go there and get drunk, get high, and let’s just say, bridge the 18-inch gap with willing females recklessly and repeatedly. It goes without saying that I never even ventured into said darkened rooms but instead tried to grab a little nap on the hard, cold, lonely, gym bleachers.
The whole point of the marathon was to raise funds. This was done by pledging. You were supposed to solicit people and they would sponsor you for each hour of the marathon.
Now, remember, I’m not exactly the most outgoing guy now, but back then I was positively sociophobic (and yes, that’s a real phobia; the fear of society or people in general. I just found a really cool web site that literally lists every phobia under the sun (Man, if this list doesn’t mess you up, nothing will. Reading through it, I could feel new phobias taking seed and beginning to flower in my mind like dandelions in the middle of May. There is Bromidrosiphobia, the fear of body smells. Oh my god, there is Caligynephobia, the fear of beautiful women (did I have that or what at one point?). Perhaps Boeing managers have Neophobia, the fear of anything new? Or maybe Sophophobia, the fear of learning anything new? And, of course, my favorite phobia would be Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, the fear of long words (what absolutely insanely evil psychiatrist came up with that? Um, yes, this is your phobia…Oh My God! No! That can’t be my phobia!! I’m afraid of the actual phobia that describes my fear!!!).
So, given that, the probability of me actually talking up my friends, or heaven forbid, going door-to-door to collect pledges was microscopically, vanishingly small.
So, I was in a pickle.
There was a tremendous amount of pressure for us to come up with pledges so that we could fund our band trip. Every day, the teacher would look at our pledge card and would make some positive/negative public statement regarding it.
So, if you were a pathologically shy person who had to fill out a pledge card with a list of names and donations, what would you do? Well, if you were me, you’d go to the phone book and choose random names and would list them. You’d then put relatively modest pledges next to them (I think I’d get maybe something like $40 total for all pledges or something like that. And then, depending upon whether you had a job at that time or not, you either paid for the money out of your savings or you somehow finagled your mother for the money.
So, yeah, I basically subsidized my own band trip.
You had to put a name and a phone number for each entry and during the pledge drive, I lived in constant, oppressive fear that someone in band authority would actually call someone on my list to validate the pledge. Why they would was immaterial, as far as I was concerned I was committing a serious act of fraud, and if caught, would probably do some hard time breaking rock on a chain gang with a cell mate named Long Jim who was always on the hunt for fresh fish.