The Homecoming Horror

In case you were wondering why The Daily Universe is so huge today, it’s because there are 17 blank pages scattered throughout it on which you are supposed to write your own news.

Just kidding. Actually, it’s because this was Homecoming Week, and there’s a lot going on. Specifically, there are 432 Homecoming Dances scheduled for this weekend, at least one of which you are required to attend if you desire to continue as a student here.

I went to Homecoming once, when I was a freshman. It seems like only freshmen and seniors really, really want to go to Homecoming. The freshmen do it because it reminds them so much of a high school prom, except that no one drinks afterward, and the seniors do it because they realize they’ll be graduating soon and haven’t gone since they were freshmen. The in-between classes don’t seem to care, except for the people who have boyfriends or girlfriends, who see it as another chance to trot out their companion like a trophy and show people that yes, in fact, they are Seeing Someone.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. I was a freshman, and I didn’t have any money, so I wasn’t going to go. But then I overheard this really pretty girl in my ward talking about how she’d like to go but hadn’t been asked. I figured if she was THAT desperate to go, she might even be willing to go with ME. It was a risk, but I was daring in those days, because I was young.

I considered the various ways I could ask her. Anywhere else, of course, this wouldn’t have been a factor. In a normal society, people ask other people to dances merely by, well, ASKING them. But for some reason, at BYU, you have to do something clever. For example, a guy might bake a cake with a note inside of it. When the girl eats the cake and reads the note, which says, “Will you go with me to Homecoming?”, she responds to the invitation by, say, setting the guy’s bed on fire. Then, to indicate that he received her acceptance message, he has to use computer-hacking techniques to erase all electronic evidence of her identity. She responds to this by maiming one of his family members. And it escalates like that. Only at BYU does asking someone on a date require careful planning, extensive props and, occasionally, pyrotechnic devices. The number of fingers lost and eyes poked out prior to Preference and Homecoming dances, due to creative asking methods, is probably enough to create several new people.

Anyway, I wound up just asking this girl, and she said yes, despite my non-creative invitation. Everything was going fine, up until the point that we actually left on the date.

See, we made the mistake of going to Mullboons for dinner. If you have not been to Mullboons, by all means, make a point of going sometime soon. But for heaven’s sake, don’t go on an empty stomach, because there’s no way you can afford to actually EAT there. Everyone in my group had chicken cordon bleu (French for “chicken with blue corduroys”), which was the cheapest thing on the menu, and the bill still came to — and I am not exaggerating here — seven million dollars.

Well, OK, perhaps I am exaggerating somewhat. The point is, it was very expensive, and I had not planned on it being so much. I was a freshman; I had never been anywhere. I assumed that all restaurants, including classy ones like Mullboons and Chili’s, had 99-cent Value Menus. When it was all over, I had no money left. Nothing. Not even a dollar. This, I reasoned, would be OK. We already had our tickets to the dance at the Springville Art Museum (which seems like a very odd place to hold a dance, by the way, almost as odd as holding sacrament meeting in the Varsity Theatre), and so I didn’t figure I’d need anymore money.

But as we were driving to the dance, my date turned to me and said, “So when should we have our pictures taken — right when we get there, or at the end?” Apparently, in an attempt to make this as much like a high school prom as possible, there were professional photographers there whom you could pay money to and they would take your picture. This was news to me, but it was apparently a big deal to my date. I figured now was the time to be honest and admit that dinner had cost a bit more than I expected and that I was out of money.

“Whenever you want,” I said, ignoring the aforementioned impulse to be honest.

We got there and had a swell ol’ time. We danced like crazy maniac lunatics to the fast songs by Erasure and New Order (no other fast artists were played), and we danced all slow and romantic-like to the songs by Chicago and whoever sang “Lady in Red” (no other slow artists were played).

I thought I was off the hook. It was 11:55, and there was only five minutes left before they would kick us out of the museum and send us home. My date had apparently forgotten all about pictures, what with being so caught up in the magic of the evening and the soothing voice of Peter Cetera. I thought I would get away with it.

Then, as we were strolling around the museum, we happened to walk past the room where they were taking pictures. She stopped, whirled around, faced me, and gasped, “Pictures! We still have to take pictures!”

I knew these alleged pictures had been important to her when she had first brought it up in the car. But now I could see just how much her heart was set on it. Her eyes were alight with anticipation, and her face was aglow with excitement. My brain was aterrified with terror. It was time to face the music (Get it?! We were at a dance!), and I finally told her the truth.

“I think they’ve stopped taking pictures for the evening,” I said.

She didn’t buy it. She could see them still taking pictures. And so now I had to tell her the REAL truth.

“Due to a genetic anomaly, I cannot be photographed,” I said.

She bought this even less.

“My religious upbringing causes me to believe that if a camera takes my picture, it will steal my soul as well.”

She was growing weary of my dawdling.

“I just spent my last $45 on dinner, and now I’m broke, and so the best I can do is draw a picture of you on a napkin.”

She believed this, and she understood, and she never spoke to me again.

So let this be a lesson to you, my friends. Homecoming, while full of excitement and tradition and dancing Cougarettes, can also be costly. Be careful which dances you go to, and be careful where you eat. You’re constructing memories that will last you for eternity, if not longer. Make sure they’re memories you can afford.

At the very least, make sure to bring along Dad’s credit card. It’s everywhere you want to be.

A few days before the special Homecoming Edition of The Daily Universe, the special sections editors asked me to write this column. I was quite flattered -- I had never been "in demand" before. I knew, having already written Homecoming columns for The Daily Herald, that I could do it again now. I particularly enjoyed the paragraph about the strange ways BYU students ask each other out; several people commented that they liked that part, too.

About a month after this was printed, a friend of mine who worked at Mullboons in Provo showed me the new corporate newsletter. Some bigwig named Hersh who writes a monthly column in that newsletter began his article with this:

A student at BYU recently made an unsuccessful attempt at writing Dave Barry humor in the BYU newspaper. The student wrote a long-winded piece on Homecoming in which he was critical of Mullboons for being 'expensive'.

Obviously, the kid can't recognize the difference between lobster and a Burger King value meal.... [Obviously.]

I was tickled to be mentioned in a corporate newsletter. I like how, because I ripped on his company, my attempt at humor was automatically "unsuccessful." I'm sure if I had ripped on Magleby's, ol' Hersh would have found it quite funny.