Tag Archives: OSU

How My Dreams Were Dashed By Evil Translucent Fish

My daughter attends my alma mater, Oregon State University.  My most recent visit to OSU found me wandering past a building and a particularly disturbing memory popped into my head.  When I attended OSU, this building’s basement contained something you would expect to find at an esteemed institution of higher education — classrooms, faculty offices, and, of course, a “chamber of horrors.”

Let me explain.

It’s the spring of 1982, and a friend tells me about an extremely lucrative job opportunity.  “Lucrative” in the sense that it paid at least ten cents over minimum wage.  I wasn’t just “dirt poor” then.  Don’t be crazy — I couldn’t afford dirt.  But this job not only paid well, it INCLUDED room and board.  I had struck gold!  Dollar signs floated in my head.

The job title was Fishing Vessel Observer.  The US government was hiring people to live on foreign fishing boats to make sure they weren’t taking the wrong kinds of fish.  This was the perfect job for me!  Mind you, I had never lived on a boat, never been on the “high seas,” nor could I speak any language other than the Alsea Public School version of English.  Nevertheless, I was overflowing with confidence.  What an adventure!  What stories to tell!

This is when I learned something that created an inkling of concern — my dream job, the one that would pay so much cash and offer such adventure — required passing a test.

This test, it turned out, involved correctly identifying different North Pacific fish species.  How hard could it be?  Only time, and a deep desire to suppress the physiological pain, have dulled my memory, but suffice it to say, here is how this ugly chapter came to a heart wrenching end.

I went to the designated building on OSU’s campus and walked down the steps to the basement.  I had a pencil and the test sheet which contained a list of fish species.  Names of fish I never knew existed.  Reams of different fish.  Fish with unpronounceable, incomprehensible, scientific names.  Maybe they were Greek fish.  Many sounded Greek, that, or maybe Klingon.

Awaiting me in that dank fluorescent basement were row upon row of jars.  Each jar contained a fish floating in fish embalming fluid.  They looked like they had been floating in those jars for a while, say, since the 1850’s. Long enough that they had lost any color and become translucent.  Their skeleton’s shined through them like X-rays.  AND, to my great shock and gut-wrenching disappointment, EVERY fish looked EXACTLY alike.

I took a slow lap around the room, and paused to reflect on the gravity of my situation.  Then I set my test sheet down and quietly made my escape, never again to visit this “chamber of horrors.”

And now, I thought as strolled by, I bet they’re all still down there — floating.


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Just a Dad Identifying as a Mom for the Weekend

My wife recently asked me to go with her to Mom’s Weekend at our daughter’s university.  I initially declined and pointed out that I was not, technically, a mom.  But after quickly realizing my mistake, I remembered the, “Happy wife, happy life” rule, and reluctantly agreed to go.

The weekend began with an All-University Sing competition.  This competition has been held annually since 1936, and, as you might imagine, the level of competition is fierce.  On a scale of 1 to 10, a solid 23½.  Mother grizzlies react with less aggression after finding someone walking off with one of their cubs than these girls.

This event has routinely been held in Gill Coliseum, but Gill is undergoing remodeling, so the event was moved to the nearby football team’s indoor practice field.  Twenty-eight hundred plastic folding chairs were arranged around a stage which could have used a little more height.  I’m not complaining, I’m just suggesting that those beyond the first row might like to watch the show.  Our seats were on the 50 yard line.  Here I am (I stood for the shot) –

Parents dutifully forked over $20 dollars a ticket to attend the show, except us.  We were luckily enough to fall into a “special” group of parents whose kids screwed up and missed the deadline to prepurchase tickets.  So we got to enjoy paying $25.

After lining up like cattle outside the practice field, the doors finally opened and the herd burst forward.  Someone announced, “No saving seats,” over the loud speaker as moms threw elbows and dove to cover a span of four or five seats yelling, “These are saved.”  SWAT team members kicking down the door of a drug cartel leader behave more politely.

The best part of the evening was getting to experience that scene from the movie Cool Hand Luke where the warden yells, “Put’em in the box,” and the guards shove Paul Newman into that little box to bake in the Florida sun.  This is because soon after sinking into the luxury of those folding chairs, we began to feel like strips of sirloin hanging in a smoker.  The body heat of 2,800 parents trapped under that tin roof turned the place into a terrarium.  I didn’t  check, but I’m pretty sure that moisture was dripping down the walls.

The competition ended in our great disappointment and outright shock.  Our girl’s team didn’t win.  Fortunately, we were able to comport ourselves with a degree of grace and dignity, by immediately declaring the event RIGGED.  We demanded an independent and thorough investigation.  Shortly thereafter, however, all was forgiven, as I, and all the other moms, enjoyed a “spirited” after party.  That’s how we moms roll.