As most of you are probably aware, I really hate graduations, or indeed similar ceremonies of any type. So it was with some dismay that I found myself, in the middle of a perfectly good Sunday afternoon, sitting at about the thirty-yard line of the football field at my cousin’s high school, waiting for the commencement ceremonies to begin.
Allow me to reiterate. I hate graduations. Before this past Sunday, the only graduation I had ever attended was my own, a fact that only occurred because on several occasions I was explicitly told that if I did not attend the ceremony, I would not be eligible to receive my high school diploma. Why that was the case, I do not know, but I do know that the event was excruciating. Pure pain. But I digress.
So there I was, just shy of the red zone, with my lawn chair and my sunglasses. The ceremony began at 2pm sharp with the high school band playing about thirty-five minutes of “Pomp and Circumstance,” which, under the best of circumstances, is only a marginally tolerable piece of music. This is to say that perhaps the high school band did not do the song its full justice, what with the flat trumpets and the squeaky French horn, but anyway, after about the sixteenth repeat, all nine thousand graduates had filed in (out?) and the speeches could finally begin.
And what speeches they were. Even if you were directly in front of the stage, the public address system left something to be desired, and I was off to the side, so I only heard snatches of the speeches, which was probably for the best, as I might have begun to heckle had I been exposed to them in their full glory. What I do know is that at one point during his speech, the principle donned a snorkel (although I’m not quite sure why) and gave the rest of his speech looking like a total douche.
It was at about this point that a line of dark clouds began to gather in the west, and the temperature dropped about ten degrees in as many minutes. The air became very windy and then very calm and then very windy again. This was small town Wisconsin, and the residents are not idiots when it comes to weather. Everyone there knew it was going to storm. A lot.
But what was really entertaining to watch was what people did with that information. Sitting where I was, in full view of the main grandstand, there was noticeable discomfort among the patrons of this event. Some shifted nervously in their seats. Some got out their umbrellas. Some, presumably of the mindset that their graduate was not worth getting wet over (really proud of you, son), simply walked toward the exits.
About twenty minutes into the proceedings, the principle interrupted to say that because of the impending storm, they were going to cut straight to handing out diplomas. At which point, the sky opened with tremendous force. It rained - as the saying in downeast Maine goes - “like a cow pissing on a flat rock.” It was a true Midwestern summer rain-storm, which is to say that everyone was fully drenched within fifteen seconds. I was able to stave off drowning by putting my folding chair over my head, but pretty soon that became saturated at which point it became about as useful of an umbrella as a tennis racquet would have been.
The really entertaining part of this debacle was that the graduates were having a fucking blast. What better of a way to end your high school experience than to see all your administrators fully soaked, and fully embarrassed, have a graduation ceremony the entirety of which took under forty-five minutes, and have what amounted to a big-ass water fight after you got your diplomas. People were literally spraying each other with water bottles (not that it really mattered at that point) as they stood in line to cross the stage. It was fantastic. I could never go to another graduation, satisfied in the knowledge that I have already seen the best there is to see.