In the Scudder Hall dorm, at the State University College of New Paltz, my room was B-2. I had a roommate named Ron, who was a graduate student; an odd pairing, a freshman and someone doing post-graduate work. But he was a pretty easy-going guy, and I guess I didn’t drive him too crazy.
It was surprising, though, that one day, Ron decided that we really needed to thoroughly clean the room. I didn’t think it looked that bad, but surely I would not have been the gold standard for that kind of thing.
A couple of days later, which was a Sunday, my friend Uthaclena was over at one of the dining halls playing billiards. I must admit here that 1) I love playing pool, but in spite of that, 2) I’ve never gotten very good at it.
After a time, he and I went back to my dorm room. If you have had glasses, you know how it was when it’s a bit cool out, then you walk into a room that’s a bit warmer? Right – the glasses steam up. So I walk into my room, and there are my girlfriend, the Okie (I think – I’m having trouble seeing), and our friend Alice, Ron of course, but wait? Is that my father, mother, and sisters? And who is THAT guy? (It turned out to be the quasi-boyfriend of one of my sisters.) And possibly others, though it was a small room.
It was a surprise birthday party for me! My birthday wasn’t for a couple of days, and so it caught me unawares. But it was great. I was feeling a bit melancholy, my first birthday away from home. And, more than that, they brought a lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken ((back when they called it that), and there was enough left over for me to have for a couple more meals.
The event had a profound impact on me. I have subsequently helped pull off a number of surprise birthday parties over the years. Of course, I can still be surprised myself; the very next year, my parents, coordinating with the Okie, puled off another event; I think we went out to dinner. And much more recently, Uthaclena and his wife plotted with my wife to surprise me.
One last thing about the plan two score ago: my father called our dorm room one morning at 7 a.m. Ron answered the phone, and my father revealed the plan. But even as I lay on my bed half-awake, Ron never let on who he was talking to. But it DID lead to a clean dorm room.