preparing for the future

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Humorous Bits, Observations and Commentary
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Thousands of truckers descended upon Wheaton, Illinois this week. They came from places far and near, places like Missoula, Waco, Teaneck and Cicero. They pulled their 18-wheelers into town united in a cause, joined together with a crackling energy not often seen in this country outside of tax evasion season. They arrived to help the students of Wheaton College prepare for the future.

In their semis sat tons of the most coveted merchandise to arrive in this quiet Chicago suburb since Starbucks introduced their Columbian Narino Supremo blend. These truckers, dare I say ‘heroes’, brought footwear to Wheaton, footwear for the body and soul. They brought boots of all fashions and sizes, athletic shoes fresh from Cambodia, shoes made of soft Italian leather and those stitched from imitation cowhide. They arrived with Mary Jane’s and Aerosoles, Doc Marten’s and Sketchers. One trucker unloaded thirty cases of extra rubber soles and shoe laces. The good people at Dr. Scholl’s also sent a rig filled with a wide assortment of their podiatric products. Now I know what you’re thinking – Imelda Marcus moved to Wheaton. That’s not the case. After all, a society lady like Mrs. Marcos has no need for corn pads and Desenex, items which have been flying off the shelves of the local Jewel and White Hen faster than you can say Jerome Robbins.

All this activity, all this focus on footwear, is in preparation for an event 143 years in the making. On the night of November 14th students from Wheaton College will anxiously gather together in the school gymnasium to participate in an experience never before seen at their school, a school originally opened during James Buchanan’s presidency. These fine young men and women will assemble for Wheaton College’s first student dance!

Wheaton College is a private, interdenominational Christian college with approximately 3,000 students. It has an extensive curriculum, including graduate programs which are primarily faith-based. (It counts the Reverend Billy Graham among its alumni.) It enjoys a solid reputation and by all accounts is a fine institution. But with 80% of the students living on-campus and a strict Christian ethic in place, the opportunities for a varied social life are scant. Hopefully, this dance will provide students with a harmless outlet from the pressures of their academic life.

The student body recognizes the magnitude of this event. “It is really going to improve the outlook the rest of the world has of our students,” one undergraduate remarked. Smart kid! Just last week I commented to a friend, “I feel so bad for those poor kids at Wheaton College. Stuck in a dance-less institution during the prime of their youth. That school has a lot of nerve saying they are a place of higher education!” Thank goodness that bone-chilling thought can now be laid to rest.

Although a few alumni shudder at this radical change, school officials defend their decision. “Students need to learn how to make responsible choices,” said Wheaton’s vice president of student development, Sam Shellhamer. “We want to make students learn how to think critically, be discerning and learn how to make wise choices.” Yes, by lifting the ban on dances school officials feel they are better preparing students for the real world. They couldn’t be more correct. I’ve personally experienced the horrors wrought by lack of attending college dances.

One of the most embarrassing moments of my professional career came when I was a bright-eyed kid fresh out of school, ready to make his mark on the world. I was asked to prepare a comprehensive presentation for our Regional Vice President outlining ideas for improving our business over the next several years. I toiled long and hard, spent many hours in research. I prepared dozens of beautiful slides filled with bar graphs and pie charts, P&L statements, brand immersion strategies and demographic data. In the days before office productivity software this was a mighty challenge, but one I met with bravura and gusto.

At the appointed hour I strode confidently into the conference room. There sat my boss along with our Regional Vice President and, as an added surprise, a very senior executive from Corporate. My stomach was jumpy, nerves tight. But I was ready. I knew my stuff! This was going to be my big break, my express ticket to a cushy corner office and personal assistant.

Head held high, back perfectly straight, I stood at the podium. I took a few seconds to make eye contact with everyone. I wanted them to feel my confidence. I wanted them to know I was a well-oiled machine ready to hum. I was about to start when the big shot from Corporate said he had a request.

“Certainly,” I replied. “Whatever you need.”

Without cracking a smile he said, “Before you begin I’d really like to see you do The Hustle.” I laughed nervously, thinking it a joke, but quickly realized I was alone with my laughter. He was serious. He wanted to see The Hustle and he wanted to see it NOW. Terror shot through my veins. In the one moment when I most needed the boost brought on by a well-rounded educational experience, I was lost. All those extra credit papers, late night study groups and carefully selected courses were useless to me.

I’d heard of The Hustle, of course. In those days everyone had. Hearing about it is one thing, dancing it is entirely different. I did not know the beat or the rhythm and was only vaguely familiar with the music. As far as the actual dance steps, you would have been better off asking me to recite Ode on a Grecian Urn in Latin standing on my head. So I did what any desperate person in that situation would have – I faked it. I quickly learned many things in this life can be faked, but The Hustle is not among them. My presentation, along with my dreams of a cushy corner office and personal assistant, died a swift death. That is precisely the type of traumatic experience I hope this dance will help the good students of Wheaton avoid in the future.

Therefore, I applaud Wheaton College’s forward-thinking administrators for recognizing the value of dance in this cold, cold world. I applaud them for taking the appropriate steps to ensure their students, our leaders of tomorrow, will be able to meet any future situation with their best foot forward. If I had that kind of foresight all those years ago, today I might be running a multi-national corporation with corner offices and personal assistants on every continent. More importantly, I would be an inspiration to all those young folks who either shun or do not have the opportunity to participate in dances. I say seek out dance with the same enthusiasm you would for any other part of your University experience, like scoring tickets to a Green Day concert or drinking warm vodka from a tinny flask. Believe me, a little hustle can go a long way.

Note: Written in 2003.

  1. This is why my motto has always been “When in doubt, just dance.”


  2. Do I detect a note of sarcasm?


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