Memories from a too-young RA

From 1983-85, I was a Resident Advisor in McMahon Hall at the University of Washington. RAs did a lot. It wasn’t always fun, but it was full of surprises. In those days, most advisory staff were partiers on one level or another, and some had been troublemakers of one kind or another. Most were juniors, some seniors, and a few sophomores.

McMahon, UW’s largest dorm (we were required to use the term ‘residence hall’), held nearly 1100 students, probably two-thirds of whom were freshmen. In my first year as an RA, all but about five of my residents were frosh. It was organized by clusters of four to six rooms, mostly double, sharing a common mini-lounge, balcony, and bathroom. Each floor had twelve clusters, but the stairwell in the center divided the building into north and south towers. No one standing outside the building would have had any idea of the division, but your ‘floor’ ended at the building’s center stairwell. For example, in my first year, I was RA on 10th North.

I saw a lot of the men and women in the two clusters farthest from the center, because they had to walk by my door to get to the elevators. The men’s cluster was on my side, and it was an interesting place. It had a couple of Husky linemen, Gil Swick and Mike McDonald, and a tailback by the name of David Toy. Of the three, only Dave eventually saw much playing time. In the women’s elevator cluster lived Chris Sicuro, sister of quarterback Paul Sicuro. Paul started in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, the famous Sooner Schooner game.

Expecting to hear about trouble with big jocks who aren’t there to get an education? Not happening here, on several levels. For one thing, the players on my floor always treated me with friendly respect, even at the end of the school year when they might as easily have told me to go to hell. I had a class with Paul Sicuro once, nice fellow, and learned that he had about a 3.9 GPA. This might explain why he is now Dr. Paul Sicuro (oncology). In the Don James era, football player trouble was a great rarity. The same couldn’t be said for the basketball team. But this story is wandering.

In the cluster with Dave, Gil and Mike lived a fellow by the name of Chris. I never knew much about him, but he had that entitled, snooty personality that screams ‘ruling class.’ Not all in the ruling class have it, but some do, and Chris did. In general, he was dismissive and arrogant, but I was his RA, and if he needed me to perform one of my functions, I would do it. That cluster wasn’t very rowdy, and when they would cut loose a bit, I generally didn’t pay much attention. Nothing serious would happen, and if complaints started coming in, I knew they’d tone it down on request.

One fine Saturday night (I do not recognize that morning begins at midnight, so it’s Saturday until the sun comes up or I wake up) about 2:30 AM, I was about half in the bag. We weren’t supposed to have open containers of alcohol with the door open, so my beer was well hidden. The football players’ cluster had been a little raucous all evening, but I only knew it because their area adjoined my luxurious single room with bath. There were far louder events going on throughout the building. My residents were not disturbing my reading in the least, but I was getting sleepy.

Right about then, a procession passed my open doorway. It was Gil, Mike, Dave, and someone else whose identify now eludes me. They were carrying a mattress on their shoulders, and on it was Chris, dressed only in his underwear and apparently passed out. I took a wild guess what had happened: they’d finally gotten him to have a few beers with the peasantry, he’d gotten plastered, and they were having a little fun with him. They would probably take him down to the parking garage or something. Since the door locked behind you there, without his keys, he would have to wait until someone else was coming through the door. In the meantime, in the chilly garage, he would probably experience some discomfort. It was his chance to show, if he chose, that he was a regular guy with a sense of humor.

“Hi, John!” said my residents, stopping before my room. They were smiling, but the question was in their eyes: was I going to do anything? I sized it up, pretended to squint a little, and decided that this was a problem solving itself. I followed the Sergeant Schultz playbook. “Guys,” I said, “my eyes are real tired tonight, I’ve been studying. You should probably keep moving.”

They did so, beaming. A few minutes later, they waved on the way back, sans Chris. He showed up about ten minutes later, staggering down the hall in his briefs, dragging his mattress. He did not offer me a salutation. Not long after that, I went to bed.

Around eleven the next morning, when I was just becoming coherent, there came a knock at my door. This wasn’t rare, because residents sometimes needed access to the custodial closet across the hall from my room. If they wanted the mop, they had to leave their meal card with me. I opened the door to see Chris, now fully dressed, and looking as if he didn’t feel too well.

“I need the mop,” he said, in his usual tone of command to a minion.

“No problem. Everything okay?”

“It’s fine. Just let me check out the mop, all right?”

I couldn’t resist. “Sure, Chris. Did something happen?”

His look and tone grew impatient. “It’s what you need in order to clean up barf, all right? Now can I just get the mop?”

Like I said, I never had a problem with that cluster. Situations, but not problems. I believe that Gil has since passed on, but I hope Mike, Dave, and even Chris are still doing all right.

They were good times.

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