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Painful Providence


By heath - Posted on 27 March 2006

Today I was reminded of a truly horrible time in my life. Sometimes, when you are in a situation, you don't realize how hard it really is. Today when talking about it, I almost hurt to describe the details.

While I was a freshmen at Baylor, I decided on a whim to rush Kappa Sigma. I soon learned that you don't decide to rush on a whim. This was my first problem. Guys that knew anything had been establishing themselves in the appropriate social networks all semester. I had no chance. However, in the end, the rejection of getting cut was nothing compared to my experience at The Smoker.

I cannot remember my thought processes when I decided to go. To be sure, I was unsure. I hadn't smoked anything, ever. I knew it was just guys trying to be cool, so I didn't think much of it, but I didn't plan on smoking. In the end, I did smoke, though it was not what I would have expected. I know I did have some reservation. The previous night I had been at a rush party with an out-of-town high school friend. I had decided so late to go I couldn't get a date at Baylor. Granted I was absolutely stricken with fear the few times I did call a girl. How I overcame the waves of rejection, I do not know. Nonetheless, I put on my black suit and drove my '68 Mustang down to the river.

The Smoker was at the Brazos Queen, an old steamship converted into a restaurant. I entered, and to my shock, the room was full to the brim with blazers and khaki's smoking cigarettes, cigars, cloves, and pipes. I did my best to push back my anxiety as I pushed through the crowd desperately looking for someone I knew. I finally found someone from my home-town, but he seemed only marginally interested in drawing me into the conversation. He had earlier told me that he wished he'd known I wanted to rush, and he could have done more. Apparently he had more to do for guys who had planned ahead.

Thankfully, there were some nice guys I had met the night before who drew me into a conversation or two, but for the most part I was stuck butting my way into conversations where I had to introduce myself. And, to my dismay, each little conversation group seemed to dismantle every three seconds. I was constantly forced to press against the limits of my social fear of being a nuisance in the worst possible situation.

My lowest point was perhaps my "smoke". I was foundering as usual with a group of members and rush candidates when someone alerted me that my suit coat was smoking because the heater that was blazing on my back. I don't think I could have felt much lower. There I was in my cheap polyester suit among the sea of classy wool navy blazers. I was way in over my head. The near-catching fire of my suit almost kept me under. I thought about leaving, but my dogged overdeveloped sense of duty made me stay to the end.

I was relieved when we were gathered to listen to some announcements and listen to the band. This was when I encountered the final signal that I did not belong. The band began to play Sweet Home Alabama, and the crowd broke out in song. I did not recall ever hearing the song. I'd like to say that I laughed to myself and accepted that I had been and in all likelihood was on a different path that most of these guys. Instead, I mouthed the words as best I could.

The rest of the night is a haze. The next days two very sincere acquaintances knocked on my door to let me know I was not invited to the next round. I hated to hear it, and it was painful to see the guys I liked have to undertake such a difficult task. I am sure they thought it would crush me, but I felt a mixture of disappointment and relief.

The best thing that came out of the whole experience was that my date with the high school friend ended up being the rekindling of a relationship that would end up in a blissful marriage. Sometimes God's strange providence is hard to understand.

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Eat your heart out Kappa Sig. Hearing you recall this time pained me for who you used to be but made me smile big time at who you are now. I am sorry for the hurt you had to go through, but happy that you can laugh about it now. Also thankful that, thanks to Karaoke, our sons already know the words to Sweet Home Alabama.

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