Well, here we are! September. No, not Labor Day weekend September mascarding as August, but real, Indian Summer, football is back, pumpkin everything September. For most, that means back to school and morning traffic. For me, September means new beginnings.
For as long as I can remember, September has always been my favorite month. This goes back well before my marching career ever began. Before I spent every summer on the proverbial hot plate parking lots in Smalltown, USA. Before we moved to what eventually became my childhood home. September has always meant a time where I could reset myself.
It's no surprise that I was a dorky kid. When I moved to rural Carroll County in May of 93, I knew no one. We moved to a young neighborhood in Sykesville with lots of families with kids near our age. I'm sure my parents thought process was, "they'll have all summer to make friends before school starts." That just wasn't the case. Since my parents both worked, we spent nearly our entire summer at our grandparents (which we loved) leaving no room for the friend making process. On one of the few days we were actually home that summer, (and in what I can only assume to be the saddest attempt at companionship in recorded human history,) my younger brother sat alone in his bedroom window yelling to passing neighborhood children, "will you play with me?" A child (who later became his best friend for most of his formative years) confidently and sternly yelled back, "No! You're ugly and weird!" I knew then, at the ripe age of 7, that I was not the cool one. (I'm still not.) I just thought to myself, "if my brother was 'ugly and weird' in this new town, and I have red hair, then I am royally and unequivocally screwed in the friendship department.
I tell that story only to illustrate how desperate I was for forced interactions. I've never been good at just talking to strangers. The thought of being rejected as my brother had was, and still is terrifying to me. However, September brought school and group work, or as this geek thought, "the social lubricant" I needed to mix it up and make a friend or two.
Nadda. Zilch. Zero. That's how many friends I made in my first 2 weeks in school. Impossible, you say? Nope. Totally possible.
Here I am, 8 years old dressed in the finest purple and black silk dress shirt that I can only assume came from Tom Haverfords "Rent-a-Swag" business, copper hair (you know that shade of rust that drives all the ladies crazy), and black dress slacks covered in collie fur. To say I was "stuntin' on 'em" would've been an understatement. Despite my ridiculously forward fashion sense and boot camp haircut, I was essentially invisible.
After what felt like years, (it was probably 3 weeks) I finally caught the break I was looking for. Who knew it would be located in the bathroom of an Elementary school. Boys bathrooms in most elementary schools have very low urinals to facilitate a more cleanly evacuation of fluids if you will. Even at the nearly ground level height, the urinals that resided at Piney Ridge Elementary were too tall for me to comfortably use without pulling my pants to the floor. (Little known fact, I was essentially the same height from age 8 to 14. I think I grew like 2" in that entire span.) While I seemingly had all the looks to make friends, I wasn't about to squander them by pulling my dog-hair-covered black dress slacks to my ankles to pee into a public urinal a-la some Norman Rockwell painting.
At that exact moment, in walks my first friend. Well he really walked out... out of the stall. For anonymity purposes, we'll call him "Bill." Like a lifeline from heaven, Bill could clearly see my urination conundrum and immediately offered some sage, 8 year old advice. "Always act like you're pooping, then no one knows you can't pee at the urinal" he said. "That's what I used to do. Now I just sit because I choose to."
Like some kind of prophetic pee wizard, Bill saved me from one of the most embarrassing boyhood trials; going to the bathroom at school. In doing so, whether he knew it or not, he was my first friend. That was September of '93.
At 31, now I go to the bathroom at work just to take a mental break from excel sheets and death by PowerPoint training. To this day, sometimes I just sit down in a stall for the solitude of knowing "...I just sit because I choose to."
September has always been the month that has brought me new first. The following year, I would start band and discover a love for music and forever have the "social lubricant" that I was looking for. Music is inherently universal, but band, more specifically marching band, will forever be a place where social outcast and athletes meet and forge common bonds through teamwork and determination unmatached in most arenas. The culture extends to the families and surrounding community. But in September, when the air is crisp, as if to finally soothe the band camp sun burn that still lingers, all is again right.
As all but one of my clients have taken their first steps in public performance this month, I find solace knowing that in someway, hundreds if not thousands of people are experiencing new September firsts. Whether it be baptism into Pit Crew Parenthood, surviving your first boosters meeting, or putting on wool uniforms to do something seemingly so trivial; I'm happy to know that in some way, I had a hand in those experiences.
Here's to peeing in public and making friends.
Good luck doing it in bibbers.