Being the Old Guy is “Duff” Sometimes

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Not too long after moving to Wisconsin and getting my personal life put back together properly, I decided that I really needed to finish my degree. Fortunately, the beautiful and charming campus of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire was very close and awaiting my enrollment. I was excited. Although I’d been in and out of school for over a decade at this point, I felt very optimistic about being able to close the deal this time and earn a degree. I eventually did, and even gave the graduation speech!

Things didn’t go very well right away though. Being an older non-traditional student was getting…eh…more noticeable the longer I went without graduating. It was okay being in my twenties, after all, you’re not much older than other students at that point. Being in your thirties though, that’s a little different. How different? Let me tell you.

I guess I’ve always been punctual, but after joining the military and being employed in logistics long enough, being on time means being early. If you’re not early, you’re late. Lombardi time we call it – you have to be 15 minutes early to everything. So naturally, the second time I ever stepped foot on the UWEC campus, I was 30 minutes early to my orientation. The kid handing out name tags and some campus garb looked at me like I was stupid when I tried to check in. “Well, we won’t be kicking this off for at least another 30 minutes or so…so if you want to go downstairs and get some coffee…or whatever…you can come back in 30 minutes,” he told me nervously, like I was going to kick his ass for saying it.

I obliged and went downstairs. The commons area, or student union, was very impressive. The building was almost brand new at the time, and it was obvious. There were coffee shops, snack stores, a campus directory, a two-story fire place, a piano….this place was very nice. Before I knew it, I had purchased a coffee, drank it, and sat by the giant exterior windows admiring the campus. Only 15 minutes had passed. So I got another coffee and patiently waited a few more minutes before reappearing upstairs to try to get through the sacred gateway. The kid who rejected me earlier looked annoyed that I was there again…early again…but allowed me to enter. 30 minutes later (and if you ask me, 30 minutes late) the orientation started.

I sat there and soaked it up. I was so interested in everything. It all seemed like such relevant and important information. Like a true nerd, I was taking notes, emailing myself reminders about things I wanted to research – it felt so good to be a student again – until it happened. Apparently, if you slam two 20 oz coffees in 22 minutes, your body is able to turn it into urine in about 15 minutes all at once. I could feel 40 oz of coffee trying to make its escape. It was all fun and games until 30 minutes had passed and I was nearly to the point of tears. I say that because the guy in charge said, “We would normally take a break right now, but since we’re a little behind schedule we’ll go ahead and finish up this last part before we start the tour.” I was in pain.

Somehow, I survived to the end, and once dismissed, I waddled to the bathroom that was thankfully pretty close. I’m pretty sure I set a world record for undoing a belt, button, and zipper. It’s hard to describe the beautiful feeling of finally answering nature’s call that I experienced – but it was short-lived because I ran into a different problem. I was peeing so hard and fast, that it was splashing off the back of the urinal back onto me. I backed up a few steps, and erupted with laughter. Picture this…I’m standing about 3 feet from a urinal, further back than the dividers cover so I’m essentially in the middle of the bathroom, launching the equivalent of fire-hose-pressured amount of urine at the back of a urinal, and I’m belly laughing. It must have been a funny site. I was so wrapped up in finally feeling relieved, and laughing at my own paradox of the ultimate relief juxtaposed with the fact that I was basically splashing my own pee on me that I failed to notice the poor young kid who had left the stall at the far end of the bathroom…the poor young kid who halted in his tracks because I was laughing and peeing all over the place and blocking his access to the sinks. He didn’t seem entertained or impressed, just a little nervous. I was embarrassed. What a creepy old man I must have looked like.

Later that day, a young girl came out of a bathroom during the tour and tapped me on the shoulder. I didn’t notice how weird it was right away…but she came out, looked around, and walked straight to me like she knew who I was. It turns out she just thought she knew who I was. “Uh, sir? Excuse me? Um, someone just threw up on the floor in the bathroom.” As she walked away looking very satisfied that she’d done a good deed by letting the janitor know someone puked on the floor – I realized that the I obviously looked old. This girl thought I was a janitor – either that, or I looked like the kind of guy who would be cleaning up puke in the bathroom. Little did she know I just pee all over the place.

I survived it, and I owned my age. One day, my fatherly instinct kicked in. In one of my classes, we broke into groups and had some assignments we had to complete individually, then convene as a group and use them to turn in one big group thing. The first day we broke out into our groups, I couldn’t help but notice the young man next to me smelled like a combination of a Greek restaurant and a gym class. It hit me like a brick, and it was suddenly my turn to talk. I cleared my throat, turned to the stinky kid, and said, “Listen, let me do you a favor. Most people would  not tell you this, but I care about you and you need to know…you stink man.” Before I could continue, he immediately went to his defense, much like my kids try to do before I’m finished saying what I have to say. “I know man, I woke up late and just left – I slept in these clothes last night and…”

“Stop, ” I said. “Just stop. First of all, you’re like 18, so I don’t want to hear it. You live on campus, and this is a night class. You had all day to take care of this. I’m married, I have 5 kids, a full-time job, and a military career, and I do not ever miss a shower. You don’t need to do it for me, but I’m just trying to help you out…you know…don’t ever want to show up for a date in this condition…I just wanted you to be aware.”

Class was never the same after that. You know what though? That kid never smelled like foul balls ever again on my watch.

I felt really old in Macro Economics. While most kids were skipping or sleeping through that class, I was completely invested. I loved that class until 3/4 of the way through the semester I realized my professor was about 5 years younger than me. Not cool.

Being old is “Duff” sometimes, man. If you enjoyed this and found yourself chuckling at my expense, there’s plenty more where that came from. Please don’t forget to subscribe, like, and if you are feeling extra ambitious, leave a comment. Until next time…

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Husband, dad, soldier, veteran, transportation manager, musician, and now a blogger and podcast host...sharing stories, experiences, and debates.

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