I still remember the day I was dropped off at Village 2 at the University of Waterloo. It was a couple of days before Frosh Week began and we were gathering at what would be, for many of us, our first home away from home.
My mother had convinced me to get a steamer trunk, because that’s what you do when you go to university. (Spoiler alert, it wasn’t.) My dad and I hauled it up the stairs to the second floor of the South Quad, and found our way down to room 22 (I think?). That’s where I met Roger, my roommate.
I look back on those days and I do truly wonder how I survived that first week. Right now, the mere thought of being thrown into a building full of strangers that I would have to live with causes more than a little anxiety. But I think I was in a state of mind of just needing a change, needing the excitement. And, as it turned out, I lucked out with one of the best roommates on the floor. Although easily a full foot taller than me – a fact that would actually come in handy during a false fire alarm one night in the second semester – we would become good friends in short order. Though Roger was, hands down, a far better student than me.
South Quad was the western side of a roughly W-shaped block of the Village 2 complex, the eastern side being, surprise, East Quad. There were 5 floors, South 1 through 5, spread across two sections of our side of the W, 2 floors on our section (boys on the 2nd floor, girls on the 3rd), and three floors in the next; we had the common rooms under us, which … well, frankly, reeked of stale beer.
Life on our floor was, surprisingly, unconflicted. I mean, imagine an entire floor full of “men” (I use the term loosely) fresh away from home, still in their late teens, not yet tested or tried, and coming with some difficult personalities (notable in two particular cases, one extremely standoffish, the other borderline violent). And yet we collectively got along, pranked one another, even collaborated to get free pizzas from Domino’s (back when “30 minutes or free” as a thing) by staggering our orders. Even nights of boat racing (drinking numerous 8 oz glasses of beer in a single gulp) and the Century Club (8oz of beer, I think, every minute for 100 minutes, I’m not sure as I didn’t drink until after I’d left university) didn’t cause any real issues … well, except that one time Dave exploded all over one of our two bathroom floors.
The floors were, also surprisingly, quiet. Throughout the day were the usual noises of communal living: doors opening and closing, talking with the odd bit of yelling down hallways, laundry, and the like. The TV room was at the other end of our L-shaped hallway, next to Ed and Dave’s room (a different Dave, we had four on the floor), so we never really heard any of that.
But between 22:00 and 23:00 every night was “Power Hour”, a no-holds-barred time to blow out the speakers with whatever. I was only one of three people to bring a stereo, my beloved Fischer 4-unit stereo that I’d bought with one of my first paycheques when I worked for my dad’s company as a general labourer. It wasn’t remotely high-quality, but it was easily the loudest on the floor … unless Andre (I think that was his name?) trucked out his guitar amp, which – even from his room, across from Ed’s – annihilated anything I could produce.
Roger and I got into a habit not long into the year. Every night, at 22:00 sharp, we played R. Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathrustra, which most people know as “that famous music from 2001: A Space Odyssey”, which was everyone’s queue to get things going. And for an hour, that’s what we did: play whatever we wanted. Sometimes it was from my large collection of CDs, sometimes it was Scott or Jon from next door, or it was Rich wanting to play with my SoundBlaster tools that allowed him to play Mary Had A Little Lamb to the recording of his voice: “Fuck you and your family”.
Like I said, we weren’t adults yet.
Roger and I were both fans of Monty Python (the University of Waterloo was the “geek school” at the time, and the unofficial-official film was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which every student was obliged to know nearly by heart), and one day we played – at nearly full volume – a track from Python’s The Final Rip-Off album – “Sit On My Face”.
If you’ve never heard it, the song is about mutual oral sex. And as still-teens, we found this funny as hell. It soon became a tradition, and was played ever single night – almost without fail – to close out Power Hour. And sure enough, as soon as final brass notes of the song trailed off, there was silence.
Only now, many, many years later, have I realized the inappropriateness. We never received a complaint. But above our floor was one of the two women’s floor – right above Roger and I were Rebecca and Allison, whom we knew – and never a comment. And yet, let’s be honest, two guys blaring a song about oral sex, no matter how comedic it might be, is … well, in today’s world, it’s off-putting, almost creepy. Today I would expect to have Dave (our Don, literally referred to a “Don Dave”) let us know that the song was inappropriate and not to play it again.
But that was the world I grew up in, where “boys will be boys” was a thing and we did things because it seemed like a good idea, not because of any intent or malice. I don’t know if it would be condoned to day – or if I could condone it, even knowing what I’ve done.
It doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t periodically blast it to myself.