Engineering Alumni Reunion

November 16, 2007

Last week was LSU's homecoming week. The College of Engineering had an alumni reunion on Friday night, which I wouldn't have known about except that my friend Jeremy emailed me looking for a date. He's obviously afraid to face nerds alone.

It was to have beer, wine, and food, and it was to be free, and home is only a couple of miles from campus, so I figured I would go.

I have no idea what the real numbers are, but my best guess (and I'm really trying here -- not just making up numbers like on my previous post) is that there are at least 10,000 College of Engineering alums in the Baton Rouge area. I'm going to guess that another 10,000 were in town for the football game the next day.

Of the 20,000 of us who were already in town anyway, about 150 of us actually made the event. I might be being generous, because a lot of the people I talked to ended up being current students and employees of the college. The employees were the ones who had done organizing and had to be there. The students were the nearing graduation, scared about their lack of job prospect, looking desperately for any networking that might help them out. Now that I write it, I feel kind of sorry for those nerds. And nerds they were. At least the few that I talked to, and especially one bald kid who grilled me about my career, and suggested that the work that I had done had probably been "easy."

Early on, I was excited about a table with a bunch of old yearbooks. I went right to the one that featured a couple of photographs of my Velvet Elvis, not to be confused with our boat named Velvet Elvis in homage to this earlier work of art. Yes my friends, this was an actual painting of Elvis on Velvet. Better yet, it was a profile of fat 70s Elvis, in a white jumper, with a little tear running down his cheek. I couldn't actually find the photographs in the yearbook that night, but I found a "thank you" written to me on the credits page in the back.

Next year, I'm going to dig through every page of that book and go to this thing with the relevant page numbers memorized.

Other than Jeremy, I saw not one single person that I ever knew in college. I saw no professors that ever instructed me. And my most entertaining conversation was with an older guy who was either drunk or crazy or both, who took 20 minutes to tell a tale of some riot in the 1960s that occurred because students wallowed in the mud after a big rain storm. I'm suspicious of the accuracy of his recollection, but that was his story.

The good thing about so few people being there is that it gave pretty good odds on the door prizes. I won a short but wide purple coffee mug that says, "LSU Engineering." I drink from it with pride, and I wonder -- as an engineer -- why it never occurred to me that a wide and short coffee mug would help with my propensity to tump over my tall thin travel mugs, staining all of the papers on my desk. It's been a problem that I've just lived with for many many years.

The other main occupier of time was a tour of a new dorm building, just opening this spring for Freshman engineering students. It was nice, mostly because it was new. It had a library, some small classrooms, study rooms, and offices where professors and advisors are going to be forced to keep hours. So the young students can pad downstairs in pajamas and get help with their calculus without ever having to leave their building. Isn't that nice?

I had consumed three or four beers by the time we started this tour, and I had to use the restroom. It wasn't an emergency, but it was serious. When the group was looking at one of the sample dorm rooms, I wandered into the one next door, which was empty. I put down my empty beer bottle, walked into the connecting restroom, and started working up the nerve to use the toilet right there.

Just then, the group opened the door on the other side of the room. It seems that two dorm rooms share the same toilet, and they have doors that connect from either side. I was just a couple of minutes from being busted mid-stream by a group of residential housing tour guides and mostly elderly engineering alums.

In retrospect, I wish I had gotten caught peeing, as it would be a much better story that way.