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Class reunion a lesson in code talking

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Here's a sign that maybe my summer was not quite as good as I thought it was.

I was in the yard trimming hedges when my 5-year-old boy jumped out of the pool and sped by me to the back door. He looked back and said, "Watch out dad, I've got to poo-poo. But don't worry about helping me clean up cause I'm going to get right back in the pool."

Hmmm. What are the chances that this was just a one-time, random event?

Capping my summer off, I traveled back to Erie, Pa., with the wife and kids so she could attend her high school class reunion. Oh boy, there is nothing like a class reunion, especially if it isn't your own.

I did observe, however, that whether in Southwest Georgia or by the Great Lakes, most class reunions have much in common.

First of all, everyone meets, hugs and says, "Gee, John, you look great." I guess that's fine and good, but if honesty ruled the day, you'd really say, "Gee, John, you look great for someone who has gained 60 pounds, lost all his hair, wears dorky glasses and still drinks like a fish."

The women always tell each other they look great and how wonderfully attired they are. A woman could see a fellow female classmate weighing 300 pounds wearing a body bag from the morgue and with a straight face approach her and say, "Jane, it's been so long. You look just great and I love that body bag; it's just so you."

I also noticed that everyone wishes to find out what the other has been doing and, in coded language, tries to find out if anyone is more successful or making more money. I observed the answers are also usually in code.

If a classmate tells you they are in the transportation business, this means they drive a taxi cab. If the classmate says they're in sales, it means they are a drug dealer. If they state they own their own business, without defining the business, it means they sell Amway and before the night is over, you'll be on the e-mail and mailing list. If they state they're in between jobs, this means they do not have a job, they have never held a job and they have no intention of ever having a job.

It is also interesting to discuss advancement in education with former classmates. One normally will not need to dig out the fact that someone has obtained an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. or doctor's degree.

They will somehow find a way to weave in the conversation the fact they are a doctor, lawyer or an astronaut. Trust me, it is relatively difficult to have a routine discussion with someone you have not seen for over 25 years and astronaut somehow just finds itself in the conversation.

Example: John, how was your trip back to Erie?"

"Oh, it was fine. It was not nearly as grueling as my astronaut training to fly on the space shuttle."

Then, of course, on the other end of the spectrum are those who are quick to point out that they quit college to pursue a more worthy ambition.

They'll say things like, "I just wasn't cut out for college, I needed to start my own business and I could never handle the corporate world." They fail to tell you they had a 0.24 grade point average after three semesters and their business is selling fish bait beside a convenience store.

But to tell the truth, it was a pretty good bunch of folks from Erie, Pa., who graduated with my wife. Maybe we'll be back again in 25 years.

Well, she might be back in 25 years. I'll probably be sitting in a golden urn underneath the Christmas decorations in the attic.

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.