I once conducted an interview with a student leader at Swarthmore. “We are a small and tight student body. I mean, sometimes we might have trouble a with a townie but mostly we feel safe here.”
I had never heard that word used in real life before. I thought it was purely the stuff of affected preppy movies where Matt Damon is a supporting actor. I thought it the second cousin of the phrase “daddy-o”. I smirked a little when he said it. He did not.
But as I looked around the room, and the campus, I realized I was an extra in that preppy movie. Lacrosse warm up jacketed kids mingled with scrawny girls wearing over sized knitted caps and thick glasses. A stone bell tower stands off to the side of a palatial main building, and there, off to the side, is a cottage topped with the dome of an observatory. I just imagine that inside is a grey haired fellow surrounded by plaid skirted girls and rep stripe tie wearing boys, all oohing and aaahing as the old man shows them the stars while quoting Plato.
Our interview was put on hold as we were drowned out by a piano. A passing student had decided to sit down and play something classical, I would not be the one to tell you what it was, but I will tell you it was flawless. It appeared I was the only one in the common area that thought this was in any way impressive as most never looked up from their laptops or term papers.
After the interview was over I left the building and stepped out onto the tree lined quad. I walked down a path past the small train station with its scalloped wooden rails. I walked through the parking lot where I was parked next to an old Volvo that had an Occidental sticker in the back window. I pulled the car out of the lot and pointed north toward real life. I looked back in my mirror just to see if there were credits rolling down my back window, or perhaps an added scene of Robin Williams reciting poetry standing atop a school desk.
Nope. Just a waving kid who thought nothing of his use of the word “townie.”