I started a “How I met . . .” series last year, but keep forgetting to continue it. Here's another entry in the series.
My friend David VS was two years ahead of me in high school, so naturally he went off to college two years before me. He went to a college I had never heard of, a little liberal-arts school in Pennsylvania called Swarthmore.
A weird name for a school, and the fact that I'd never heard of it made me pretty sure it wasn't any good. But David loved it there, and he wrote me letters (actual paper letters! This was before email, but after written communication) telling me about all the cool people there, and especially about SWIL, the Swarthmore Warders of Imaginative Literature: the science fiction group, who really sounded like my kind of people.
Eventually, I decided to attend Swarthmore myself. (But that's another story.)
The summer after my high school graduation, David was back home, and he gave me that year's SWIL T-shirt: nifty art, with the slogan “SWIL: When reality isn't enough.”
So when I flew out to Swarthmore for the first time, for first-year orientation (it hadn't occurred to me to visit the campus while trying to decide on a school; plane flights were too expensive), I decided to wear my SWIL shirt.
The college sent a van to pick up us new arrivals at the airport. I went to my off-campus dorm room and dropped off my luggage. Then I went over to the main campus.
There was a guy lounging on the steps by the main entrance. Tall and thin, with a long and somewhat unkempt beard. He looked at me, and he said, “Hi, Jed!”
I was pretty sure I had never seen him before, but I didn't know how he would know my name if we hadn't met. I said something like, “Um, hi. Um, I don't think I caught your name?”
He said, “That's because I haven't told it to you. I'm Jay.”
And then he explained that he'd figured the only freshman likely to be wearing a SWIL T-shirt was David's friend Jed.
I was pleased, but a little too flustered to continue that conversation. So I continued on into the building, and found the mail room.
The first person I saw there was Julie (later to be known as Bhadrika), who was working in the mail room, and whom I had met previously in California when she came out for a visit; she and David and I (and others, I think, but I forget who) had gone to see a UC Santa Cruz production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in modern dress. (One of those co-productions with a production of Hamlet, with everyone playing the same roles in both.)
The next person I saw in the mail room was an unfamiliar woman who turned and looked at me and said:
“You're wearing my shirt!”
Which is still possibly my favorite first-thing-someone's-ever-said-to-me.
It turned out that her name was Kir, and that she was the artist who had drawn the shirt design.
I chatted with Julie and Kir for a while, and then was going to head back to my dorm, and I think Kir said she was going that way, and so she and a guy named Brad and I walked back in the direction of the off-campus dorms.
We got to the parking lot of one of the other dorms, and we paused, and there was some looking up at the sky and perhaps admiring the clouds or maybe the stars (was it evening by then? I'm not sure), and then Kir said something like “Do you know how to get back to your dorm?” and I realized that I was a third wheel there, so I made a hasty exit.
But still, it was a lovely welcome to Swarthmore. A little bit disconcerting to have people know who I was before I got there, but also made me feel at home, a feeling that was bolstered by spending most of the next five years there.
I see now that I told a minimal version of this story in an entry almost exactly three years ago. But I figure it's still worth posting the longer version.
I hope to continue with this “How I met” series over time, so I should mention that my main criteria are (a) whether it makes a good/interesting story, and (b) whether I remember it. I have several close friends who I have no memory of first meeting, or who I met slowly/organically as part of broader social group or writing group, or who I “met” when they submitted stories to us; I intend no slight by not writing entries about those meetings.