The Cavalier Daily
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Drunkards dispense life's lessons

ONCE, DURING my senior year of high school, my friends and I huffed three cartridges of model airplane propellant and tried to go to a football game really high because we heard a few seniors had done it the year before. On the way there, we decided the hospital was a more appropriate destination. After three weeks of respirators and sponge baths we were released a little bit stupider, a little less healthy, but a lot more proud for having upheld a tradition.

In truth, none of this happened. Had it, the stupidity of those who did it first would only have been surpassed by our stupidity for repeating it. Nonetheless, if you haven't already spoken to or seen one, there are a number of fourth-year students walking around proud as a victorious gamecock today. For they have preserved the legacy of their predecessors by challenging their livers to a degree that might have made Kitty Dukakis cringe - they have successfully completed the fourth-year fifth. In addition, they taught me a number of important, invaluable lessons that I might not have learned had they not been so eager to teach.

First, I learned that the best way to get a Charlottesville Transit Service bus to stop for you is to stand in front of littlejohn's, wait for its arrival, and then jump in front of it, arms raised. Not only will the bus stop, but the driver will offer useful advice on how to get where you're going.

My next lesson was in ardent patriotism. To quote the disheveled nationalist, "If you don't like America, get the hell out." I'm not sure I had ever liked America more than at that point. Where else can such a fun, educational experience pass for tradition? Where else is the irony of combining debauchery and semi-formal wear accepted and praised? Desirous of a flag and a slice of apple pie, I continued on to learn from my classmates.

Automobile repair was next on the docket. Perhaps deserving of the award for the worst location in which to pass out, two students decided to take a snooze underneath a car next to Garrett Hall. Most likely, they got tired while performing a tune-up.

Next, I learned that there's nothing contradictory about two men loudly shouting "not gay" during the Good Ol' Song and then walking down McCormick Road with their arms around each other. It seemed, at times, that one was trying to pull out of the embrace, but I think he had inner ear problems that impeded his balance. See, male bonding can take place in a homophobic environment.

So far, I'd learned about personal skills, something that resembled government, and sociology. Who knew I'd get a math lesson too? At this point, I ran into someone who was on the verge of completing something even Mr. Jefferson didn't conceive of in years of planning the academical village - his fifth. In discussing this practice, he began to argue with the Institute for Substance Abuse Studies statistics, which show that last year, about 16 percent of fourth-year students attempted to complete the fifth. I was ready for some one-on-one teacher-student interaction.

According to him, 60 percent of fourth-year students are women (actually, it's closer to 50 percent) and "can't, shouldn't and wouldn't" attempt the fourth-year fifth. Of the remaining 40 percent, "10 percent are dorks who never drink anyway, so you gotta give me half of the 40 percent." Further, "of that 20 percent, only three-eighths try it so it's really only 5 percent." And thank God for that 5 percent.

Unfortunately for those of us who glean so much drunken wisdom from their amazing tolerance, it appears the number of fourth-year students participating in this "tradition" is dwindling. In a scientific inquiry any fourth-year fifth participant would have been proud of, I looked around and saw fewer students face down than during past years. I think the blame for this should be shouldered by those wet blankets who created Project F.E.S.T. (Fourth Years Ending Stupid Traditions). They're probably the same people who hold up nets when someone's planning to jump off a building. Even the oft-heralded brewers at Anheuser-Busch pledged their support to this effort. They must just be bitter that nobody attempts the fourth-year case.

Some do, however, continue to attempt the fourth-year fifth. If education is what you seek in your time at the University, skip the last home football game next year. Mill around the Lawn and McCormick Road and take short seminars in a bevy of subjects. In addition to those previously mentioned, you can learn about lost self-respect, overindulgence and idiocy. If you meander over to the University Hospital, they teach a lesson in stomach pumping and alcohol poisoning. A year from now, be sure to watch and listen for a drunken herd near you.

(Chris DelGrosso's column appears Mondays in The Cavalier Daily.)


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