Thursday, January 23, 2014

Memoirs of a Georgetown Freshman: Joining the President's House Association

Part I: First Semester

Part II: The Blizzard of January 1994

After having classes canceled for a week, and being snowed-in without electricity, classes finally resumed on Monday, January 24th.

By this time, I had decided that I was going to take part in the fraternity rush period that was set to start that week, and I planned on joining the President's House Association, a non-Greek organization whose members I had been getting to know.  Besides having no national Greek organization, the main difference between PHA and the other fraternities was that the members had to vote unanimously for you to get in.  If even one person voted no, you were out.  This was highly intimidating to me and my friends who were interested in joining, but for me especially because I was very shy and really didn't know that many of the members - just a handful who were in the music program.  Going over to "hang out" in the PHA house - something a lot of hopefuls did - was too intimidating for me, so other than attending the weekly PHA devotions (yes, you read that right...PHA wasn't the only fraternity on Georgetown's campus who held weekly devotions), I never really spent much time in the house, among the members, before rush week. 

The black, cloth awning was added years after I graduated, as a way to keep people from climbing out the second floor windows onto the flat, concrete awning that is hidden by the black part.  My room was one of those rooms over the awning on the second floor, on the right.  One year, I went onto the awning in my towel after a shower, in the winter, to wave at people as a joke, and someone locked the window on me.  I think there was a picture in the house scrapbook of me, on the awning, dodging snowballs in my towel.  

I think that first week back, PHA held its so-called Formal Rush Party (there was an Informal gathering in the fall, which I think I did not attend), and this was an opportunity for all those interested in joining to come and meet people and mingle and learn about the house.  I recall impressing a group of members by playing the 3rd movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the house baby grand piano (yes, the house had a baby grand).  However, without even realizing it, I distinguished myself much more fully in a different way.

One of the members - Todd - who fancied himself a comedian and the house joker, was going around with a video camera and recording and "interviewing" all the potential candidates.  The idea was actually a good one, because (as I would later find out) when it came time to vote, a lot of members didn't know who the person was they were actually voting on.  So being able to watch a video with all the people's faces was a good way to remind people who was who.

When Todd and his cameraman (I think the cameraman was either Chris or another guy everyone called Guano) came up to me, Todd asked me why I had come to the rush party.  I was thrown for a loop because it seemed like a dumb question with an obvious answer.  So, in my nervous, shy way, I blurted out: "Because I want to be a PHA!"  Well, duh!

Afterward, I felt like I had blown my opportunity, like a beauty pageant contestant who flubs her big question.  I wished I had been able to think of something funny or clever to say instead of sounding desperate to get in.  However, I later found out that my comment had gone over pretty well when everyone watched the video at the voting meeting.  If he wants in that badly, let him in! "Because I want to be a PHA" became a sort of slogan that people repeated for the remaining four years I spent at Georgetown.

On the night of voting, me and my friends stayed up all night in Anderson Hall waiting for "the call" telling us to come downstairs to learn our fate.  The PHA voting meeting always took all night, as a matter of course, so it was probably about 4:30 in the morning when the calls finally came, one by one.  As each call came, the guy who was summoned left the room, never to return.

I was the last man standing.  Everyone got called before me and I was left alone in a gradually-sinking depression in the room.  Finally, the phone rang and I was told to come downstairs.  All the PHA's were there in the lobby, but they all noticeably ignored me as I walked down the stairs.  I was quietly ushered into a side room with Raymond, one of the upperclassmen music majors - he was the PHA who knew me best at that time.  He tried to pretend that I had been voted out, but I could tell it was all a set-up.  He finally pulled out a PHA letter shirt and put it over my head and welcomed me into the fold.

I'm not ashamed to admit it was one of the proudest moments of my young life.

My four years as a PHA at Georgetown totally changed my life.  I've always been proud of the fact that, as of 1997 when I graduated, I was the only PHA in the organization's history to win all three major house awards: Most Talented (sophomore year), Most Spirited (junior year), and Most Outstanding (senior year).  I don't know if that "record" still stands or not, and certainly no one else ever cared, but it still meant something to me.

Sophomore year house picture.  I'm in the dead center, looking somber as hell.  Somehow, I though we were doing a "serious picture," even though I was OBVIOUSLY the only one under that delusion.

Senior year, with our "Lil' Sisses."  I'm squatting on the right.  My wife is standing in front of the window on the left, two people up from the dork (Matt) in the cowboy hat.

My graduating PHA class.  Me and Mike are on the right, Sammy is on the left, and John is third from left.  Those three are the guys I waited with that night in Anderson Hall, along with Brian, who graduated before us (and, sadly, died a few years back).  The other two in this picture are Jason and Phil.

2 comments:

James Hatch said...

RE: the serious picture... Probus and Dave look like they may have had their "serious face" on.

Scott said...

Chappie too, now that I look at it.

Serene Musings Books of the Year, 2005-2015