School's in. Know how I know? I got an inkling from all those television ads like the one featuring Alice Cooper, where the little girl says, "I thought you said school was out forever," and he says, "No, the song says school's out for summer," which is a big fat lie because the song does, too, say school's out forever.
But that wasn't the big tipoff. No, what really nailed it was the horde of campusoids marching through the Eaton Centre recently with their faces painted purple, shouting at the top of their lungs. I think they may have been chanting something, but I couldn't make out the words.
"What the hell is that?" I asked a woman standing by. "A strike?" Some of them were wearing hard hats, so I thought it was a good guess.
"Frosh week," she replied. "Ryerson." Oh, right. I got the what, but I didn't get the why. Biking, drinking, knitting, repainting the bathroom, looking up obscure religions or pictures of Angelina Jolie on the Internet, playing team sports: these are just a few perfectly acceptable ways to spend an afternoon before classes start.
But as far as pastimes go, heading out in public to be loud and irritating when you're not actually protesting, is something I've never understood.
Rini Ghosh, president of the U of T's Student Administrative Council (SAC), says frosh frolics are organized by the Blue Crew, otherwise known as the Spirit Squad. "There's a lot of apathy toward student politics at U of T, so all the yelling, screaming and chants are to pump SAC up," she says. "It's to show people we're here to have fun."
This week, she says, 5,000 U of T students headed to Canada's Wonderland. Gee, I bet that was a gas.
Of course, it's not just students. During this summer's European Soccer Cup, my neighbourhood, little Portugal, was a bloody nightmare. Hundreds of people stood directly outside my door after each game blasting music and screaming well into the evening, even after their team lost.
I find all this chaos without a cause baffling enough to contact Stephen Juan, a University of California at Berkeley-trained behavioural scientist, University of Sydney professor and author of The Odd Body and The Odd Brain. He tells me that mob noise is an attempt to attract attention as a group in a world that generally pays the revellers little attention as individuals.
"Being loud is necessary in order to be recognized. Such behaviour is also driven by the unconscious desire to react against a system in which they have little power and less control." It's also, he points out, behaviour exhibited by those low in a pecking order - like freshmen.
Aw. Poor little freshies. I know what a bummer it is to be a campus newbie and how hard it is not to express the sheer jubilance of having escaped high school's penal servitude. But can't you explore your need for validation in a quieter fashion?
While women do engage in these hijinks, the predisposition to making an ass of oneself is more common in men. Juan says, "Males think that when they're loutish, females find them attractive." I can't wrap my mind around the idea that this might work. Is there something wrong with me? After all, prancing and mate-calling are prevalent all over the animal kingdom. It works on female bullfrogs. Why doesn't it work on me?
Because of a very important biological distinction, according to Juan. "You are not a bullfrog."