Just around the river bend

By Eric Waldron

I’m always amazed at how unaware people are of others in the Kenan Hall elevator. I stand in the corner – arms crossed, opaque Gucci sunglasses uninviting any potential conversation – waiting for the time capsule of an elevator to slowly creep toward my afternoon class as two obviously sophomore girls start the most vulgar conversation I have ever heard south of Jersey. You can always tell who the sophomore girls are because they flawlessly pull off the finely polished ‘I was up too late last night partying in my first off-campus apartment so I’m wearing sweats, tying my hair back and trying to look a mess — aren’t I such a hottie?’ look while upperclassmen look like that because we just don’t care anymore.

I silently grin as the girls continue back and forth about some recent relationship drama worthy of a Jerry Springer special including a cheating baseball-playing boyfriend and the skanky girl he hooked up with, whom I believe they both just hugged good-bye before entering this death trap of a elevator shaft. It’s as if the creaky doors rattle shut and we’re whisked away to some sort of trash-talkin’ Utopia where dishing out smack about the person you just left on the other side of the doors is generally accepted as normal behavior.

“So, I’m totally going to have a Mariah Carey post-Glitter break down if I find out it’s been going on for a long time,” the multi-processed blonde exasperated. “I can’t believe [name withheld] would mess with my man!”

“Oh my God, totally,” the streaky spray-tanned brunette squeals in a pitch reminiscent of the ‘Mean Girls’ Plastics. “She has no idea who she’s messing with. It’ll be like some Whitney Houston after Bobby.”

“You’re so right! And to think we sat next to her on the bus to Disney freshman year,” the bottled blonde, who’s flirting with the acceptable root length, retorts.

“I know, right! When will people grow up?” asks the brunette as she slides her Nicole Richie-esque Jackie Os back onto her sunken face because the single twenty-watt light bulb struggling to stay lit is just a little too bright for hung over eyes.

The elevator comes to a clanking halt on the fourth floor and the doors rattle open like the Haunted Mansion car at Disney depositing my chic companions and me back into college reality, but leaving us with a suspicion that the worst part of the ride is probably yet to come.

But is it? Can the boyfriend-stealing, revenge-seeking, sloppy-dressing, trash-talking, edge-of-poverty-living drama get much worse? Are these girls destined for a life of water cooler chit-chat at the paper mill in Des Moines, gossiping about the hot little intern moving in on their territory? Will these girls end up marrying well and swapping trashy stories about the neighbors over mid-afternoon martinis poolside in Laguna Beach?

I couldn’t help but wonder – am I going to remain 21 and confused forever, falling in and out of love, getting locked out of hotel rooms naked at two in the morning, running from the parking patrol and never being completely satisfied with life? Will I always be compelled to gossip? Will I always be Pocahontas thinking what I really want is just around the river bend but never quite reaching it? When do we finally grow up and how do we know that we’re actually adults?

One of my greatest fears was vocalized in “Under the Tuscan Sun” when Sandra Oh’s character confronts Diane Lane (whom I believe may be one of the most beautiful celebrities in the world) with her fear that Diane’s character is becoming one of those empty shell people — the type that you look at and on the outside it’s gorgeous and confident but look a little deeper and its hallow on the inside, unfulfilled.

Will graduation move me from the irresponsible 18-24 age bracket where bank tellers don’t trust you and realtors don’t want to talk to you? Probably not. Is landing my first real job, not schlepping plates and dirty glasses for 18 percent, going to make me an adult? Maybe for a minute, but nothing lasting.

I think the more aware we are of ourselves and of our real motivations in life the closer we get to what adulthood may appear to be. Maybe you can have the 2.5 kids, the white picket fence, the Volvo sports wagon and somewhat perfect spouse, be considered to be fulfilled adult and still talk a little trash.

But let’s start our journey to adulthood by being aware of our companions in the elevator and saving the drama for your momma.

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