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Watching Tour Groups Watching Me

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Watching tour groups watching me provokes a rather strange sensation. The cluster of campus outsiders passes by, peering at all the current students. Those students and I turn to each other and always gasp profoundly, “Look, it’s a tour group!”—as if this guaranteed weekly sight is something we’ve never seen before.

We react to these tour groups as if they are complete strangers to our world. We comment on the terrified prospective students grasping their folders of information until their knuckles go white. We giggle at the parents who are so impressed over the charming BS spoon-fed to them by the tour guides, who are directed to pitch the school as an academic Disney Land. We stop whatever we’re doing to study these packs of intruders…(probably the only form of studying willingly performed on weekends).

Sometimes I just want to play pranks on these tour groups. I just want to dress up as a wizard and try to blend in with the group…see what happens. It’ll be like a social experiment. When the tour guide is blatantly hyping something up as much better than it actually is—like describing the wireless Internet connection as (true story) “lightning speed fast” (HA!)—I’ll open my eyes wide, drop my jaw, “wow” in awe and applaud in astonishment. When he or she asks if we have any questions, I’ll inquire if they have a major in Magic, and if the bookstore overcharges for spellbooks. When they look at me, I’ll moonwalk out of the crowd and find the most narrow tree or pole around to hide behind, pretending I can’t be seen.

Or, I just want to get a bunch of friends together to stage a giant brawl that’ll bust out as a tour group passes by…chairs violently thrown and everything. Hell, we’ll make it a traveling rumble that drags through the dorms and pathways and dining hall and campus greens and even library of the campus. I bet some of them would even join in…relieve all that frustration and boredom from listening to hours of BS all day long.

I try to imagine what I would do as a prospective student if some of the actual students conducted social experiment pranks on my tour group. But then I think back to when I really was one of those high school seniors in the tour group, and I am reminded of a key truth: the students in those tour groups are not the ones being observed—it’s us, the college students who are being observed.

College tour groups are like tour groups visiting animals at the zoo. They pass us by, observing how we behave in our natural habitats. In the dining hall, they watch as we prey on mac ‘n cheese—shoving that slice of Ellios-quality pizza down our throats a tad too forcibly as we eagerly rush to get to class. On the campus greens, they see the wild beasts at play as we condense the sport of ultimate frisbee with a blend of hockey and rugby on steroids. In the Library, they witness the cougars stalking their prey as they deceivingly pretend to type a paper while actually creeping on students’ Facebooks. In the dorm room entrances, they stare down the sad swans still swaddled in their mini dresses from the night before—heels in hand, lipstick smudged off, mascara smeared down, and eyes to the floor as they take their walk of shame.

Just imagine what we look like as we watch these tour groups watching us. There we are, sitting confidently and judgmentally as we comment and giggle over the members of the tour group. Meanwhile, they’re glaring into our cages, observing the ways of the college student species in our natural habitats. I’ve always wanted to play pranks on tour groups, but it seems the prank is on us.

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