08 March 2004

In the Spirit of Friends on the Other Side of the World


Got to talking to a co-worker today about a buddy of mine who is in the Army and currently stationed in Iraq. I have mentioned this fine young lad before, and his name is Matt Sanders, known to those of us who love him as Sanders, Sanchez, The Right Honorable Sanchez Maxton (he's very exciting), or the preferable, simple, Chez.

Chez is a man of much laughter. Infectious laughter. Rollicking if you get him going. It's a sight to see. Watch the women and children if you get him near a movie with any kind of anal expulsion comedy, as there is every chance he will one day explode. In any event, whenever we get together here in good 'ol PA--times that are, quite sadly, fewer and further between these days--we rehash every sweet story from high school. They get Chez rolling. You know it's a good night when all the drunk people at the bar are staring at the four or five idiots (usually consisting of myself; Chez; T. Richardson Brown, Banker; Patty; and Princeton Andy) mucking up epics such as The Perfect College Bowl System, The Pat Gahr Special, The Time Geoff Nearly Got An Ass-Whipping From the Entire Steel-High Starting Five With Support by the Bench as His Friends Left Him for Dead, and countless others. Most of them would be funny to only the few of us.

Most of them. Really, all but two.

In honor of my conversation about my good friend today, I will present the following two stories. One directly involves Chez; the other is simply his favorite Cedar Cliff Flashback of All Time. He told me over Christmas break that he would be out in the field, doing some kind of military exercise with other Armyans, and think about this story, which sent him into fits of laughter that he could not accurately explain to his unenlightened companions. This brought about much joy. To go a bit further, any sweet story I relay to you all will now be filed under a new GooseTown Subsection...


Chapter One, Epic I - We Can Only Hope the Desk Calendar Survived

Senior Year, circa 1997. Chez is halfway, kinda-sorta dating one of our girl friends. She is a bit standoffish. He takes her to Homecoming; she summarily dismisses any attention he gives her both at the dance and at the after-party, at the house of a girl named Beth Betherson*

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The names are changed not because I care but because I do not want to get sued. Even though that would be wicked sweet.)

Chez is honestly the nicest kid in the entire world, and it would take a hell of a lot for him to ditch anyone, let alone a girl he took to Homecoming. But there's beer, she's pissing him off, and he does so. Long story short, the kid ends up not only banging the hell out of the hottest girl at the Cliff, Stephanie Stepherson, but doing it in Mr. Betherson's office. I do not find this out until someone brings it up by accident that Monday at our lunch table. I proceed to stand, clap, then sit and bang my fists on the lunch table chanting, "SANDERS! SANDERS!" until Tony Carozza (Sean Connery V.2) asks me what the hell is going on.

Fast forward to the break immediately following Homeroom that Friday. There is a fall sports Pep Rally that afternoon. The aforementioned T. Richardson Brown, Banker is Student Council President and therefore must introduce each and every member of each Fall Sports Team at said event. He has to throw in some nicknames. Chez is on the soccer team. Stephanie is on the field hockey team. They'll be on the floor at the same time. The whole school knows what had transpired. Naturally, this is a f*cking Potential Kodak Moment if there ever was one. It was right in front of us, and we just called it out; it was on the tip of everyone's tongue--we just gave it a name. Betwixt T. Rich and myself, we decided he would introduce Chez as " Matt 'I Do My Best Work in the Office' Sanders".

F*cking brilliant, right? God I love this story.

Fast forward to lunch. Banker approaches me in a panic. "It's a no go on the Sanders thing," he tells me. The faculty liaison to Student Council (her name slips my mind at the moment) nabbed him in the hall and told him the reference to Chez was inappropriate and was not to be used, lest he risk disciplinary action. One thought crosses our minds--how in glorious f*ck could the FACULTY have found out about this? There was no reasonable connection. Befuddling. Pure insanity. They know. Trevor spends the rest of the day up until the Pep Rally sweating the decision as whether or not to use the verbage we so creatively...eh, created.

Pep Rally. Packed gymnasium. This was back when people cared about our Cedar Cliff and the sports teams were excelling. Trevor is doing his introductions. The announcement of Stephanie brings a few cat calls but nothing serious. Then we move to the Boy's Soccer Team. The tension is mounting...especially in my stomach. If banker has the balls, this is one for the books. Publicly defiling an otherwise innocent girl and sending a big F*ck You to The Man. He's calling them off...I can barely contain myself...we're three away from Chez...blind people with Parkinson's have had better luck trying to build a house of cards in a wind tunnel than I am having holding in my excitement...Chez is up...he begins to walk on the floor...Banker starts, "Next, eh, we have...uhhhhhhhhhh..."...this is it, g*ddamnit, I can feel it..."Matt......"

I'm coherent only of the fact that I'm standing and applauding before Banker spits out the fastest sentence in the History of American English: "...IDoMyBestWorkintheOfficeSANDERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Absolute. F*cking. Mayhem.

Everyone goes NUTS. I mean crazy. Standing, cheering, whistling. To that point, it's the best moment of my life, and I'm not even the one that got laid. The faculty are in disbelief. Banker looks like he has been arrested for anally raping a midget in the middle of Toys 'R Us. Pure Glory. I wish you could see the smile on my face--then and now. Stephanie is taking it quite well, not hiding behind her hands or running off the floor. Remember the goosebumps you got at the end of The Shawshank Rdemption? Multiply it by a hundred.

And Chez lives on as immortal to this day.

Chapter One, Epic II - Did He Really Think Accosting the Lunch Lady Would Solve the Problem?

I moved to Cedar Cliff when I was 15, in tenth grade, and knew only four people. They were all two years older than me, and one had been a family friend since the day I was born. Luckily, I had his lunch, and was able to position myself in a seat at one of the Senior Tables that year. The players: myself, Spencer Haller, Steve Clark, family friend Donald T. Gray Jr., Mike Brennan, and perhaps someone else.

We had these Friendly's Ice Cream Cups in the lunch line. They were damn good, as anyone who has enjoyed Friendly's Ice Cream might imagine them to be. There was one fatal flaw to them, however: the cream in the cup was fabulous, but it was covered in a hard disc of chocolate and whatever candy was the marquee in the dessert (usually M&M's, not that it matters). Most people just cut around the disc and went right for the ice cream; the chocolate was like cement and far too hard to eat, let alone work into the main attraction. You would find them all over the halls after each lunch period. Kids actually assaulted their friends with these sugary weapons. Poor John Rodnick was once sent to the hospital and received four stitches after an errant Flying Chocostar hit his temple. It was terrible.

OK, I made that last part up. I digress.

There was one day a month when the school served Sweet Potatoes at lunch. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you any more than I read Chinese. It made no sense then and it makes less now. No one ate them. They were a horrible orange color that always reminded me of cat vomit. This particular day, Mr. Clark decided to get a cup of Friendly's. He removed the cap of Petrified M&M Conglomeration from the top, ate his ice cream, and sat contently. In what would become an iconic moment in my life, he lazily set the chocolate disc back in place in the top portion of the now-empty cup. It fit in, snug as ever, and gave the appearance that it had never been touched, ice cream still waiting beneath.

I think my eyes may have lit up first, but Spencer was the one who spoke: "Steve, give me your tray."

Steve slid it over, and the magic began to unfold. Spencer packed as many Sweet Potatoes into the cup as he could, mashing them further down with a spoon. He then placed the disc back on top. Like a f*cking glove. You couldn't tell it had been touched. We all stared, dumbfounded--how could anyone have ignored the potential for so long? After a few minutes of debate involving flawless execution of Parliamentary Procedure, it was decided that Steve would place the Friendly's cup back in the freezer in the lunch line. He stood, looked around casually, and walked to the front of the cafeteria.

Had anyone been watching the front of the large room it would have been over. But everyone one served, there was no reason to look that way, and no one was paying Steve any attention. He calmly slipped into the door to the nook where the freezers were, took another quick look around, and placed The Cup (as it has become known) back inside. When he got back to the table we exchanged a few high fives. We figured that we'd hear a story from either Third Lunch that day or First Lunch the following about someone getting duped.

If we could have only known how perfectly our plan would unfold.

Minutes later, a kid everyone affectionately called "Dirt" walked up to the Lunch Line. He emerged from the serving nook with a cup of Friendly's Ice Cream. Steve was first to notice.

"Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t. Dirt's got The Cup."

We swerved to look. Steve had placed a small dent in the side of the cup, just in case. What a brilliant Just In Case it turned out to be. Dirt had the dented cup. The Cup. And he was paying for it. The poor Lunch Lady had no idea what was about to unfold. We were silent with anticipation. A strange smile had burned itself on my face. Spencer broke the void with careful advice: "Jesus Christ, don't let him see you looking at him."

Dirt took The Cup back to his table. As luck would have it, my view of Dirt, at his table, was wholly unobstructed. Donnie, Brennan and I could all see what was happening, and Steve and Spencer had to rely on our play-by-play.

Here is what I remember clearly: the whole scene played out like the most well-scripted scene ever in a movie. Dirt sat with The Cup, talking and laughing with his friends, paying no attention to The Cup as he opened it, exposing the replaced Chocolate Disc. Steve and Spencer were begging for action ("He's...yeah, he's got it open...I can't...I can't believe it, he hasn't noticed...he's not even looking...Oh God, OH GOD!"). Steve couldn't take it and turned, looking directly at the table. Spencer was half a second behind him. We watched as Dirt, distracted by the friendly (no pun intended) banter of his lunch table, drove his oversized spoon into the chocolate disc (apparently, and good for us, he was not wise to the ways of its popular extraction) and it emerged with a speck of brown and a massive underbelly of sweet, sweet orange Sweet Potato. I think I began to weep softly as he placed the massive bite into his mouth, chewing down once, twice, thir...

MASSIVE projectile expectoration. A very tiny yet angry Dirt jumped to his feet.

"What the F*CK IS THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!"

We watched in simultaneous shock and rapture as Dirt hightailed it for the inevitable scapegoat, the lunch lady. He let off with a string of obscenities that has yet to be matched by any Sailor of the High Seas. Faculty Lunch Chaperones had to restrain him, calm him down. I can recall only two things:

1. I laughed so hard I nearly blew a hole in my large intestine, and I'm not kidding.
2. I never got the hell out of a lunchroom faster.

Stuff of legend. How could it have worked so splendidly, without a single hitch? To this day I can't answer that, I can only be glad I was there.

Hope you enjoyed. There will be future yarns, and hopefully son I'll have the chance to run them by Chez during an Editorial Meeting in the Greater Harrisburg area.

Come home safe, friend. Godspeed.