We teach children not to form opinions based on appearance. But, during our sophomore year of college, my roommate and I discovered this is not always the case. Stupidity isn’t always on the surface, but sometimes it wears a uniform.
The trouble began as such things usually do with a poor decision. My roommate, Joe, decided to take a drama class. He had been given an alternative by his advisor something along the lines of “Introduction to beekeeping” After careful consideration he selected Drama.
He had bounded into our dorm room bursting with enthusiasm after his first class. To my displeasure, this interrupted the biology discussion I was having with our neighbor Thea Beaver. “I’m a monster!” he shouted plopping onto my bunk next to the surprised Thea, who was launched into the air. Landing on her feet, she shot him a poisonous glare and muttered “tell me something I don’t know,” before stalking out of the room. His enthusiasm was such that he continued to gush away even as he batted away my furious attempts to get my fingers around his throat.
“Shutup and listen!” he demanded, “this is the chance of a lifetime.” The drama class he explained, was to stage a production of Beowulf, and he as the most monstrous student available would play the role of Grendel
Unimpressed I rummaged under my bunk for a boot or another blunt object while explaining that the “drama” was supposed to remain in class, but he was irrepressible. It turned out that his role wasn't what generated his enthusiasm, it was the costume he would wear, and it was a thing of beauty. It resembled an ape suit and after some alterations by the indentured theater majors inhabiting the costume shop covered every inch of Joe’s 6 foot 4 frame with black fur. The eyes, large purplish lenses, reflected light in the manner of mirrored sunglasses. The hands and feet bore six-inch yellow, plastic talons. My mind boggled at the applications of such a costume. Such a work of art was meant to be appreciated, not left to rot in the costume shop. The question was how to best share it with the world.
After some consideration over beverages, we decided that the costumes public debut would take place that Friday. It was our theory that because the play wouldn’t open for weeks that publicly displaying the costume would help generate enthusiasm for the production. Despite this, it seemed unlikely that the drama department would simply let Joe borrow the costume. So assuming forgiveness would be easier to obtain than permission we resolved to conduct our own promotional event. It also occurred to us that walking around campus between classes with what looked like a road-killed Sasquatch might attract premature attention, so Joe would remain after class on Friday and hide in the Drama Department’s costume shop. When everyone had left, he would conceal the costume in a duffle bag and return to our dorm looking no more like a Sasquatch than usual.
We selected our targets with considerable care. The freshman dormitory, populated by the youngest and most gullible students and a sorority, where there would doubtless be much revelry on a Friday. We would, of course, return the costume the following Monday.
Rather than cross the campus in costume, I would drive Joe’s wretched old truck. This four-wheeled abomination was known as Jesus, probably because every time he boarded the, the wretched machine, he was praying it would start and on applying the brake that it would stop. We would proceed to an isolated area where Joe would don his costume. Joe would then lie flat in the bed and dismount on reaching the target area.
The operation started well enough. Joe retrieved the costume, and Insertion at our first target, the freshman dorm went as planned, by which I mean I parked up the block, and Joe hopped out. He ran silently up the walk and entered the building via a side door. I heard a few squeals of surprise but then total silence. After what seemed like an eternity I heard laughter, lots of it. After another eternity Joe strolled out the front door, his monster mask under an arm.
“Sup,” he said casually.
“where the heck” I began.
“Candy and Amber from Drama where there,” he broke in, “They blew my cover.”
“What took you so long?” I demanded.
“Candy and Amber, duh.” He replied.
“Oh just get in.” I snapped, wondering if this “chance of a lifetime” was simply an elaborate plot to waste a perfectly good Friday evening.
The parking lot we had chosen for our next landing zone was reserved for the visiting alumni, and we retreated up the street. Joe exiting the vehicle somewhat from the target than planned. He would now have to cross all of Greek row to reach the first target the “I Phelta Thigh” sorority. At first, all went well, Joe was invisible on the unlighted sidewalk. But heads turned, and people pointed as the monster emerged into the streetlights on Greek row. Reactions were for the most part as predicted. There was some light to moderate screeching which disturbingly, began to draw a crowd. Several burly members of the football team began following the monster up the street. Seeing he was being hunted Joe broke into a run, the crowd now containing several dozen people followed. A police car, either called to the scene or deducing correctly that a large group of students meant trouble pulled up, and its occupants gaped as the beast vaulted the hood of their patrol car.
Beginning to tire, Joe entered an alley and fled back toward campus entering the first open building he came to. The Fieldhouse, where a ladies basketball tournament was underway. Basketball fans scattered as he dashed through the lobby assuming incorrectly that men's locker room would be unoccupied. Flinging the door open and bounding inside he found the visiting ladies team.
According to Joe, bedlam erupted the moment he entered. Pelted by shoes, cans of deodorant and, at least, one folding chair he let out a mighty bellow and swiped menacingly with his fake claws. Frightened, the girls fled and Joe dashed out on their heels only to find that exit led onto the basketball court. Several hundred spectators watched in confusion as the visiting team, half-naked and panicked, poured onto the court with beast-Joe hot on their heels.
Both team mascots and their respective squads of cheerleaders had been warming up the crowd before the game. They paused in disbelief as the monster emerged onto the court. Seeing the state of the visiting team, they charged to confront Joe at close range.
The scene that followed was one of the strangest in the history of college sports. The battle between the costumed Joe and two unknown students dressed as a Panther and a Cowboy (Our own Donner State survivor) was featured on regional if not national television.
Meanwhile, I had seen him enter the alley and parked on the street. From there I joined the tail of the pursuing mob. The mob which stopped, and began milling about when it reached the fieldhouse. I entered without issue the ticket taker having abandoned their post. Judging from the scattered bits of foam and faux fur he had defeated the mascots in hand-to-hand combat but was still under attack from two teams worth of cheerleaders who had been providing the mascots with indirect fire support. I shouted for him to run and he fled the court amid a hail of basketballs.
Returning to the lobby, I shouted "He's headed back toward Greek row!" and led at least part of the mob away. After traveling a block or two, I collected Joe's truck and headed back towards our dorm. It was not difficult to follow Joe’s path. Everyone I encountered was gesturing wildly and pointing uphill toward the dorms. Further along, I could see a group of people moving erratically as if chasing something. Exhausted and sweltering in the costume he could no longer evade his pursuers, and he turned at bay, dispersing them by rolling a mobile espresso cart downhill at them. Eventually, he found sanctuary in the apartment of our dorm director, Steve Newell, Steve had exited via his sliding patio door to see what the commotion was, and nearly suffered an infarction when he returned to find the monster collapsed in his recliner.
That evening, there was talk of little else on campus. McGuire’s pub was awash in alcohol-fueled rhetoric about the identity of the creature it seemed that every young man and a generous portion of the girls would love to bag themselves a Bigfoot. The remainder were seemingly convinced that the beast was merely some idiot in a suit who should be suspended in front of the administration building in a large cage as a warning to others. Joe found the later opinion rather more disturbing than the former.
The whole thing ended with a whimper rather than a bang, we returned the suit to the drama department early on Monday morning. Finding no one present, we propped up the outfit as best we could at the reception desk where later it arrested several of a secretaries vital functions when she arrived for work.