Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two Sides to the Story

Here's a good story, and not even about me (although, by the end, I'm sure it will be.)

Today, I was in the Student Services office of my building, just hanging out. A rather awkward boy came in and asked, "I need to find a student."

The worker, my good friend Heidi, said, "Well, I need some more details."

The young man explained that he had dinner with a girl the night before, and neglected to get her last name. He knew her first name, and that she was a freshman at this college, and was double-majoring in Philosophy and something else. Of course, that was little help because CGS students do not declare majors until their sophomore year. Now, Student Services staff has the ability to look up all sorts of people in our database, and there were only two freshmen with the first name he was looking for, however, that information cannot be divulged to boneheads off the street who are infatuated with someone and yet can't bother to get their last name or phone number. Still, because Heidi is a nice person, she told the kid that if he leaves a message for this young lady, she would see if she could get it into the proper hands.

After the complicated process of him locating an envelope and a piece of paper ("All the way to the right. All the way... No, right."), the boy took several minutes to compose a note to his fair maiden. He then left his missive and his information and finally left. Of course, the second the door closed, most of the girls swooned and talked about how adorable it was that this guy was going to these lengths to find this girl. They were forgetting the fact that this is 2010 and there are millions of ways to track down people, especially if they go to the same university as you, but I guess this is less stalker-y.

Let's not even talk about the simple logic (Get that number, man!), because we don't know the exact circumstances of their meeting (maybe she didn't want him to know her last name.). But knowing the culture of the school, which is around 65% women, this guy probably is a rare find. I think that girls who didn't think he was a little creepy probably would be impressed at the lengths he went and the embarrassment he risked just to see them again. With all the possibilities at the place, he must have thought she was pretty special to come all the way to her school, ask about her in the main office in front of the employees, and leave her a note, probably suggesting another dining hall meet-up. Ballsy, that's for sure.

There's also the other side of the coin (and here's where it kind of becomes about me). I am almost twice this kid's age, but locking back, if I were in his shoes, I probably would have done the same thing. Hell, I probably did. I used to rig the weekly drawing at my video store job to try and ensure that girls I liked would come in. Or I would simply get their phone number off of their account. Before facebook and internet dating, there were all manner of schemes involved in courting a woman, and almost none of them involved actually approaching them and asking them out on a date. Why, you ask? I don't know!

At the heart of this story is probably a young man who chatted up a girl in the dining hall, and before he knew it, she was gone, and if he was planning on asking her out (or getting her full name), he never made it. He was probably too chicken, like me when I was his age. Now, he wants to correct that mistake, and there's a chance he might see her again, but really, he should have nailed it down the first time. Sure, there's a fine line between being creepy and being forward, but if I've learned one thing in my years since I was that boy, it's that you might as well go for it. You may not get that second chance.

I hope it all works out for him. I don't know that it will, because the way the school is, it tends to embitter some women. Most of them probably never get properly asked out at all while they are there, and the ones that do are probably treated rather poorly. Not to disparage all BU men, but, based on the stories I've heard, when there's probably another girl right around the corner, I don't think there's a lot of incentive to be gentlemanly. This sheepish young bard may be her best chance, so she may be wise to take it. He did.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Accomplsihments: What and Why?

Y'know, it's funny. Everyone tells me that I'm not old. And I guess when you look at is in the sense that the planet is billions of years old, or that my grandmother is 93, I guess I'm not really aged. But next week I will be crossing into my mid-thirties, and old or not, it's damn weird. It's kind of an age where you'd think (or at least hope) that you would have something to show for 34 years of life.

These days, perhaps surviving is enough. When you're not overly concerned about having a family or being filthy rich, the idea of accomplishment changes. Suddenly, it is in the eye of the beholder. Sure, it's cool bar talk to tell people that you climbed a big mountain or went skydiving or that thing where you swim with Great White Sharks, but is that really what one might call an accomplishment? Personally, I'd like to have a published comic one day, but that might not mean diddly to someone who made a million dollars and has five children. But some people still compliment me on the Secret Monkey, and that was almost a decade ago and it never made a dime. It was fun, sure, but I guess I had higher hopes.

Further cause for introspection was my Ten-Year Service Recognition Luncheon at BU the other day. Ten years at one job is pretty big these days, I think, and I continue to wrestle with the fact that I either found something I was good at and enjoyed enough to stick with it, or I just was too chicken to look for something better. I guess the good thing is I was never fired or let go, so there is something to be said for longevity.

It really all comes down to the question, "What do you want on your tombstone?" In the end, I'd rather be remembered for my deeds than my accomplishments. My job may be to help the faculty and staff of CGS, and so I suppose indirectly I have I have contributed to the education of thousands of students over the years, but that's not really something for my eulogy. I'd rather it be that I was fun to be around, willing to help out, hard-working, a good drinking buddy, maybe a bit too honest at times, etc. I'd rather be remembered for stuff like that than inventing a longer-lasting light bulb. Maybe at one time, that was the goal, but one benefit of being mid-thirties is some perspective.

Maybe gaining a little perspective is an accomplishment, after all.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sell, Sell, Sell

Maybe it's an age thing, or just a reality thing, or the fact that some things that used to bring me joy don't any longer, but I doubt it. Something is up, however, and here's the story:

Last week, a friend of mine invited me and some compatriots to a comic convention in Boston. This wasn't one of those "cool" ones where a lot of professionals attend and you can meet then and get them to sign your stuff and get to see movie trailers before anybody else. These are usually only attended by overweight dealers who seem more intent on eating their sandwich than telling you how much one of their comics costs. You may get one professional there, if you're lucky, and usually when he shows up, everyone goes to his table, leaving the rest of the room rather... bereft.

So, I declined. In fact, I think my actual words were, "No thanks. That last one sucked a dick." Apparently, my friend still went, because he ended up winning the door prize: Batman #1, published in 1940. Coming on the heels of his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, the Dark Knight was given his own series, and also given a nemesis, The Joker. Yeah, my friend won the first appearance of The Joker, at the convention I bad-mouthed. Karma's a bitch.

Now, I was recently doing a little research on old comics, and had come across Batman #1 and discovered its value. Not to buy for myself, of course, but to flip in the event I had ever come across one. To put this in perspective a little, in the event that you are going through granny's attic and find a near-pristine copy of Batman #1, you could almost buy yourself a house in suburban Massachusetts with it. Now, I have my doubts that any copy in that condition exists, but a copy in pretty rough shape will net you a few thousand dollars. That's "thousand." Even one that was put in a clothes dryer would probably be valued at somewhere around $3000.

My friend ain't selling.

Now, certainly, money isn't everything and the reason comics are considered "collectibles" is that people want to collect them and save them and have things that you value as a "cool thing to have," so when you go to parties and strike up conversations... Come to think of it, why do we collect these things? I mean, when i was a kid, I bought baseball cards because I hoped that one day they would be worth something (they weren't.) At least, with comics, you can read them, and one day read them again, and maybe if they do appreciate, you can sell them, or pass them on to the next generation, or line your birdcage with them, but they have uses other than as a collectible. This is why I never understood the comic book grading process, where this company will assess the value of your book, then seal it up in a hard plastic sleeve for eternity. Certainly won't be reading that again.

But I digress... My friend has decided that the sentimental value of the first appearance of The Joker is worth more to him than $3000. Which is okay, I guess. I mean, not to get into money matters, but to give you some idea of what we're talking about, my friend lives in a humble one bedroom apartment in Quincy, and that comic could pay for a few months rent, and probably some utilities. I'm not putting him down, because I also live in a humble one bedroom apartment, and here lies that old rub again.

There are some bigger Joker fans than me, but I am definitely a big Joker fan, and a fan of comics and Batman and collecting in general, but I can say without any hesitation that I would sell that book. Maybe not today. Maybe in a couple years when the economy gets a little better, but I would sell. Just like I sold my Optimus Prime, my father's train set, and my car. My one regret? I didn't get as much for Prime as I should have.

Am I without sentiment? Not at all. I have tons of crap lying around that I keep solely because of the memories and emotional attachment. I certainly am not a wealthy man, but even a few thousand dollars wouldn't change my life. So, why would one man sell and another not? And why have most people I talked to out there agreed said they wouldn't sell either? Is it because people need things? Is it because the collector in them wouldn't allow it?

I think this is a legitimate, sociological question. Why do we collect things? I mean, is this why we collect things in the first place, in the hope that one day we will stumble upon one of these holy grails to make it all worthwhile? And how far do you take that logic? I mean, would you sell if it were a pristine one worth $160,000? Well, sure, you may say, but I say three grand is nothing to sneeze at. I make that much in a year at my crummy part-time job.

In my opinion, you can't take it with you. Sure, my friend could one day pass Batman #1 on to a nephew or child or whatever, but that will just start the cycle over again. He may fall upon serious financial difficulties and decide that it's time to sell. He might put it in a safe deposit box and hold onto it forever. In my mind, the thing is already 70 years old, so who knows if it will appreciate any more? Maybe in another 30 years, you'll see something, but let's say that it doesn't go up in value too much, what will have been the point of holding onto it? What was the point of holding onto all my baseball cards for ten years? I ended up selling them all on eBay in huge lots for very little money, so yeah, they didn't exactly net me a big return on my investment.

When I was collecting baseball cards, I used to brag to my Dad how much they were worth. He would reply, "Only to someone willing to pay that much." Obviously, he didn't foresee eBay coming, but still, he was right. In retrospect, it was the thrill of collecting that kept me going back to the card store as a kid. Now, we're all grown up. The thrill is gone. I'm betting there is someone out there willing to pay for that Batman #1. I'd sell it to them.