I am smooth.

Since I started thinking about my college days again for last week’s post, I thought I’d share another college story.

When I first moved to Kalamazoo in order to attend Western Michigan University, music was something that was still primarily enjoyed by listening to the radio (that makes me feel very old all of the sudden). Illegal file sharing was yet to be made illegal, and the iPod was only a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye. While searching the dial for a station worth listening to, I stumbled across my college’s radio station, WIDR, and instantly fell in love.

WIDR | Radio EvolutionI still get nostalgic for WIDR and many’s the time when I wish that I could get the signal where I live now. All of the DJs were students, long awkward pauses and dead air were not uncommon, and I had never heard of most of the musicians they played, but it all worked. WIDR had the perfect mix of loveable amateurism and exposure to the underground music scene.

But enough of my gushing and on to the story.

I learned where the station was located after being invited to speak about the Valhalla Norwegian Society, of which I was president at the time. As it happened, WIDR’s studio was located in the same building as the registered student organization mailboxes, so in the weeks following the interview, I would stop in at random to say hi to the DJs who interviewed me with whom I had struck up a friendship.

On one such visit, rather than ask if my DJ friends were available, I stepped up to the main desk and said, “I’m here to pick up my prize pack.” Now, there was no prize pack waiting for me, but I thought that on the off chance that I could get a free t-shirt or something, I’d try my luck.

“Prize pack?” said the receptionist. “Did someone call you and tell you that you won something?”

“Um,” I replied. “Well, no.”

“Then, why did you come in?” asked the receptionist, and rightfully so.

“Um,” I replied. “I just wanted to see if I could get something. Maybe a t-shirt or something.”

“Oh,” said the receptionist. “Well, I can’t give you anything.”

“Okay,” I said. “Would you mind telling John that I’m out here then, if he’s not on-air at the moment, I mean.”

“Actually,” said a woman sitting against the wall who I had completely missed, “I was about to go record an interview with John, so he’ll be busy for a little bit.”

“Oh,” I said. “It’s cool. I’ll just check back later.”

“Wait a sec,” said the new woman. “I heard what you were trying to do with the prize pack thing. Clever and ballsy of you. If you wait around until after the interview, I’d love to give you a couple tickets to my show tonight. Maybe you could bring a date.”

I waited. True to her word, this mystery musician put my name down for two tickets to her show that night.  This turn of events gave me sufficient reason to ask out a girl that I’d been interested in a for a few weeks. What a great first date story that would be, I thought (isn’t it funny how we want to make our lives fit into clever story arcs?). To my surprise, the girl agreed and off we went.

The seats were prime. The music was good. My date and I were enjoying ourselves. And then, around the middle of the set, the musician stops and says, “Where’s Josh? I met Josh earlier at the college radio station and he told me that he was going to be on a first date tonight. Josh, are you here?”

I raised my hand. People from all directions stared at me… and my date. I should probably say that the girl that I brought to this event was a shy girl who didn’t like the spotlight.

“How’s the date going so far?”

I looked over at my date. She gave me a thumbs up, but the look on her face was not happy.

“Um, great!” I lied.

“Cool,” she said, and then she finished her show. The first date became the last date, and that was okay. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Afterward, I stopped back into the radio station to thank them for doing the interview with the musician that led to me getting free show tickets. My DJ friends invited me to talk about the evening on the air. I told them that it was a good evening, but that things didn’t work out.

That was when they decided that it would be a fun show segment to have girls call in to the station and go on dates with me (WIDR would be footing the bill) and then I would talk about my experiences the next day. At the time, I thought nothing of being pimped out by my college radio station and thought it would be a fun way to see concerts and such for free.

The promotion never came together however, and now I’m really glad that it didn’t. Now, I’m married to a wonderful woman (a bit on the shy side, I guess I have a type). And though I’m sure that my wife would never have left me when confronted with a spotlight on us, I’m glad that our story started differently.

I love my wife more than old people love racism and talking about diseases.

I am a Viking.

My Alma Mater | Western Michigan University

Universities can do strange things to people. Some people drink and party. Some people study hard and become successful and rich. I started a registered student organization devoted to watching Viking movies.

When choosing a dorm for my freshman year at Western Michigan University, I went in blind. Some people say that it is safer to be roommates with someone you know, but I didn’t want to end up hating someone that I knew from high school. I was assigned to live with a group of sophomores in the Honors College dorm, Eldredge Hall. As it happened, one of those sophomores was from my hometown anyway, though I had not seen him in many years because he went to a Catholic high school.In addition to having our hometown in common, we had a common heritage of being part Norwegian (a very small part if I am honest). For some reason, we bonded over this fact and the Valhalla Norwegian Society (VNS) was born.

This film is officially endorsed by the Valhalla Norwegian Society.

At first, the VNS existed solely to watch movies about Vikings. We watched The Longships and The 13th Warrior and then The Longships again. While watching, we would drink ginger beer (the closest thing to mead we had at the time) and say things like “By the Hammer of Thor, this ginger beer is delicious,” and “By Great Odin’s Ravens, I love this film!” And then I decided that we needed to evolve as a group and become recognized by the University.

Why?

Because that is where the money is.

I discovered that if a student group is registered with the University, that group can apply for funds from the student government for things like scholarships and events. All that was needed was for the VNS to come up with a constitution and to have a President and a Vice President. Thus, we wrote a constitution and I became the president and my roommate the Vice President.

We got a mailbox in the student government offices and were featured in the student newspaper and on the student radio station. It wasn’t long before we had tripled our membership (to six) and were holding joint events with other registered student organizations.

Lego asked me to model for this minifigure.

It was fun for a semester, but as these things do, it fizzled around exam time. The following year, we didn’t bother re-registering because we didn’t have time to fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for scholarships for ourselves. I’m not sure the student government would have allocated us the funds anyway.

But for that one semester, it was real. And because it was real, I still list that I was the President of the Valhalla Norwegian Society on my CV. I am a Viking.