How Facebook Killed the High School Reunion

In the mid-90s I went to my 20 year high school reunion and had a great time.

I was really psyched about seeing the old gang and how they’ve turned out, and hoped that there would be a few who hadn’t matured too much so I’d have someone to relate to. I wasn’t at all worried that I didn’t have many braggable accomplishments under my belt because my fear and pride were eclipsed by my curiosity as to how the high school babes blossomed into middle-aged beauties. I was happy to find that a few people attended who I had spent a considerable amount of time with over the years from Kindergarten through Grade 11.

Dr. R was there (he got the “Dr.” in university)… I have known him since kindergarten when we were both mad scientists. He showed up with three albums which everyone though contained photos of his family. As he approached, the people at my table expressed dread over looking at a bunch of Dr. R’s vacation snapshots and made their escape. I greeted Dr. R and asked about the photos. He produced pages and pages of stunning photos of the moon, planets, and all kinds of things he’s seen while looking upwards through a telescope at night. We pledged to get together again, and he suggested that I allow him to mix the drinks, an ominous suggestion coming from a toxicologist. I wasn’t sure if he meant that he knew some secret ratio of tequila and orange juice that would plunge me into a stupor with no lingering effects the next morning or if he planned on bringing a little bag of some compound home from work to mix into my cocktail to punish me for some long-forgotten transgression. Except for the “Dr.”, R was the same old R.

Tall, Blonde, and Sweet was there, a girl I dated in high school. She was virtually unchanged and still as real a person as you’d ever want to meet. Ajax was there, too, as was The Pres who gave her the name Ajax (she’s a redhead with very pale skin) in Grade 1, and I was there when he did it [I’ve mentioned them both in a previous post, as I did The Dane who I’ll talk about a little later on]. Poor Ajax… that name stuck for a couple of years.

It was great catching up with old friends! I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought the reunion was a success because there was talk of having another reunion in five years.

But because the affair was hastily organized, most of the people who showed up were representative of only certain cliques and only one other former member of the gang I used to hang out with, The Dregs of Society Club, attended. I didn’t want history to repeat itself five years hence so I built a web page that listed my high school’s alumni and actively sought out some of my former classmates, including many Dregs. The web page ended up listing the contact info of a couple hundred ex-students, some of whom graduated two decades before I even entered high school. A few people provided bios and one or two posted to the photo page. Everything was going great, and then The Troubles began.

First of all, some of the people listed on my site began listing themselves on Classmates.com, which was much glitzier and more professional-looking. People bought into appearances because some of the alumni listed on my site stated a preference for updating their info on Classmates even though, if memory serves, I had more of my high school’s alumni listed on my site than were on Classmates. Quite insulting considering that listing oneself on my site was free — I ate the hosting fees and did all the design and data updating myself.

Then one day I received about 500 automated e-mails from people I didn’t know informing me that my e-mails to them were rejected by their servers’ spam filtering. Someone had begun sending out spam directing readers to a hosted-in-China Viagra store with my website’s domain spoofed in the phony return address! The e-mails kept pouring in, day after day, week after week. My web hosting contract came up for renewal and my hosting company declined my application to renew.

I thought about restarting the site with a much more complicated name that the spammers might not think of spoofing, but things were kind of hectic and I was discouraged by the declining interest in my last site. I let the site die an honourable death but never completely abandoned the idea of having an on-line resource where people who went to my school could look up a former friends and use it to announce a future reunion.

Then came Facebook.

I joined Facebook because I was encouraged to do so by coworkers. Wanting to appear like the team player that I pretend to be, I signed up and friended everyone in sight. I won’t lie to you — Facebook was fun at first. I could connect with actual friends back home in Montreal and even today Facebook is the surest way of getting in contact with my son.

But then the novelty wore off and it became hard to come up with crap to tell people to make my life not sound as boring as it appears on the surface. You see, I’m a stop-and-smell-the-roses type of guy and that doesn’t translate well into gripping Status Updates. I thought of lying through my teeth just to wow whoever was gullible enough to believe it, but I didn’t want the extra attention and posts to my “wall” that would require me to answer.

I came to the realization that Facebook, in my humble opinion, is the John Waters film of social networking — it is where mundane lives are elevated to a state of supreme grotesqueness (This is a bit of a bad metaphor because I like John Waters’ movies — even the early ones shot on the streets of Baltimore on a budget that wouldn’t even buy a brand new compact car today). Let me give you an example…

I’ve known a certain woman since high school, and maybe before that. I always thought that she was OK but a bit of a braggart who very tactfully worked mentioning her latest accomplishment or material acquisition, however unimpressive and unsubstantiated, into every conversation. So after maybe fifteen years of not being in touch with her, we “friended each other” on Facebook but didn’t communicate directly.

As the weeks passed, I notice that she was posting Status Updates about how she intended to buy a giant super-duper TV, and then she started counting down to the day it was actually delivered, and then posted about how super-duper it was… even better in her living room than on the showroom floor. Gripping stuff, eh? But the thing that really got me was that then she started counting down the days left before she was to take a two-week Caribbean vacation!

I thought about writing to ask if after having posted to the world the details of her new expensive TV and the dates she’d be away she had also installed a super-duper alarm system so that when she came back from her holiday all sun-burnt and hung over she wouldn’t find her back door kicked in and her TV missing.

So anyways, Facebook provides a venue for people to boast about their giant TVs and exotic vacations while showing the world how bald and pudgy we’ve all become — we no longer have any reason to get together face-to-face at periodic reunions.

And that’s how Facebook has rendered the high school reunion obsolete. The only reunion feature that Facebook doesn’t provide is a plate of mediocre chicken.

I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook just to get out of his own high school reunion.

Special Bonus Section: Who I’d Like to See at My Next Reunion (if there is one).

Frick and Frack: During the very first social gathering after I entered high school, two lovely Grade 9 girls approached me and we actually talked! We remained very friendly but I’m still puzzled as to why two good-looking Grade 9ers singled me out. I figure they just were not the clique social climber types and saw me alone. Thanks for the confidence boost and I hope you two are happy and healthy!

Millilitre and Igor: These two guys were devious, very intelligent,  and got into all kinds of trouble. I guess I enjoyed getting in trouble too, and that’s why I enjoyed their company so much. The only difference between us was that they seemed to like butting heads with authority on purpose, and I kind of preferred it when it was a surprise. I’ve tried googling them but, “zip”, I couldn’t find them.

Shelby Tim, Teriyaki, and Mini Guy: Three gearheads who were so much more than that. Weekends in The Laurentians, notably in Arundel, and I even worked with them after graduation. I’ve known Teriyaki since kindergarten and Mini Guy since soon after that. Tim had a Shelby GT that could pop wheelies while driving at highway speed, and he proved it several times while I was a passenger. Hope you’re still keeping it between the lines, bros!

The Dane: I’ve known this guy since Grade 4 and see him on holidays when he breezes into town to spend a couple of days at my place. I’d like to see The Dane at the reunion not to reminisce with him, but to have someone to compare notes with on the way home.

The Cheesy Guy: I think I’ve known this guy since Grade 4 (possibly earlier) and the “Cheesy” in his pseudonym is a reference to his appearing in commercials for cheese that were shown both in the U.S. and Canada for many years. He also played a character in a Canadian soap opera that revolved around hockey called Lance et Comptewhich also was filmed with English dialogue and called He Shoots, He Scores.

The Cheesy Guy was the only jock I could call a true friend and was a head taller than me, coordinated, and didn’t bring out the Mr. Woodcock in Phys Ed teachers the way I did. He was a genuinely warm and funny guy in spite of his good genes. Cheesy Guy was there when The Dane attended his first gym class in Canada.

The Dane walked into the gym wearing an Olympic-style gym uniform from his former school in Europe and it became apparent to me and Cheesy that he was seriously musculated. His calves were like my chubby thighs, only taught and rippling, and his arms were like baked hams, only without the cloves sticking out. Remember… this is Grade 4 so we, including The Dane, were only ten years old!

Cheesy turned to me and said something like, “Crap! This guy is going to raise the bar and we’re going to have to work even harder!”

We both stood there watching as The Dane approached the climbing rope. You know the ones… they have a giant knot at the bottom and a 12-inch leather sheath over the loose end to prevent it from unravelling. So anyways, we watched as The Dane approached the rope, spat on his hands, grabbed said rope, put it behind his back (WTF?), brought the knot and sheath through his legs from behind, closed his legs to trap the knot and sheath at his crotch area, held onto the rope with his hands over his head, and then bent his knees raising his feet off the floor! While his weight caused the robe to twist ever so slowly, he made this ridiculous high-pitched grunting/whining sound while looking at his manila genitals.

This display eased Cheesy Guy’s and my fears and got me to wonder about what other marvels of European culture this Danish whacko had knowledge of. The Cheese’s status as gym class top dog was left unchallenged.

California Burger: California Burger came to our school from California and was arguably the most self-destructive substance abuser I have ever known. He was probably also the emotionally strongest person I’ve ever met. Non-judgmental, generous, and a great listener who gave great advice (only when asked for it), he was a great friend.

CB got married (I was almost his best man when his brother was late coming in from The U.S.) and then moved to Florida where I visited him and his wife a couple of times. Over the years we lost touch. Years later I tried to reconnect but only managed to track down the woman he had married. She said that they had divorced and, after a while, he just fell off the face of the Earth. Neither she nor his family had heard anything from or about him in years.

I hope you’re OK, CB, and just living life on your own terms somewhere. I never look at a McDonald’s milkshake, matzoh, an overpass over a rainy highway, or Lower Westmount without thinking about you. Love you, guy.

Fat Tommy: This is the kind of guy who makes you wonder if he missed the orientation class before being placed on this planet. He was overweight, brash, and was missing that filter between thought and mouth that most of us learn to maintain. He was also a loyal friend who never once tried to gain some sort of advantage at my expense.

I’m not sure if he went to my high school or not. I lived in a middle to upper middle class town directly adjacent to the working class part of Montreal where Tommy lived. The two areas’ border was defined by a railroad so Tommy was, quite literally, from the wrong side of the tracks. I suspect that “the wrong side of the tracks” is actually defined by which side Fat Tommy happens to be living on (I’m kidding).

Tommy was not exactly what I would think women would consider attractive, but he always seemed to be making friends with gorgeous creatures.

Take “The Canary”, for example. She lived in my town but I met her through Tommy. The Canary is a couple of years younger than I but even as a young teen she was gorgeous. I thought that she looked a bit like Valerie Bertinelli (who I held in the utmost regard at the time), only even more beautiful. From the pictures and videos I’ve seen of The Canary as an adult, she blossomed into a cross between Shania Twain and Catherine Zeta Jones. Anyways, I got a call from Tommy one evening telling me to meet him at a certain address, so out the door I went. When I got there, Tommy opened the door and then The Canary asked if I’d like something to drink. Fat Tommy made it into The Canary’s house, and I got all mumbly just talking to her in the park where all the kids hung out!

And that was not the only time that I saw him with girls I wouldn’t even have the courage to talk to. He also befriended a girl from another high school who lived with her parents in a mansion [I just looked it up on MLS… a neighbouring house is selling for $4 million] in one of the most exclusive parts of Montreal. In retrospect, the girl was obviously interested in me but I was interested in her friend, who couldn’t stand me. I was so stupid and lonely as a teen.

So one night I was at the girl’s house with her, her friend, and Tommy and some guys I didn’t know showed up. I didn’t really pay much attention because Tommy was talking with them. They went away and returned with their father, all armed with hammers and obviously viewed me and Tommy as nails. While Tommy watched my back, I played the diplomat and let the father know that his sons had lied to him about me and Tommy having assaulted or kidnapped them or whatever. Never a dull moment when Tommy was around.

He could also laugh at himself. Here’s an actual message he left with my mother… “Hello, Mrs. HoaiPhai. Is HoaiPhai There? No? Please tell him to call Fat Tommy as soon as he gets in. Thanks!”

Yes, he actually referred to himself as Fat Tommy (and is the only person in this post, including myself, whose name has not been made up). When speaking with him, I dropped the “Fat” and just called him Tommy or Tom.

One fateful Monday night, Tommy called me after dinner to invite me to go out and eat. Being two teen guys of Greek ancestry, we were hungry all the time and could eat like Trojan Horses, so we’d hit a restaurant after having dinner with our respective families. He said, “HoaiPhai, I’ve found a Chinese buffet for $2.25.” It was the mid-70s but $2.25 was still a great price for an unlimited meal.

I said, “Are you kidding?”, to which he replied, “I never joke about food. I’ll pick you up in ten minutes.”

So we got to the restaurant at 7:30 and stayed until the buffet closed at 9:00. We went back the next day, but this time we were there when the buffet opened at 5:00 and, again, stayed until the buffet wrapped up at 9:00. We did the same on Wednesday and Thursday but when we showed up at 4:55 on Friday, the manager was apparently waiting for us outside and was having a smoke.

The manager of Hum’s Restaurant told us that he could no longer allow us partake of their buffet, but we were welcome to eat à-la-carte if we wanted. Tommy asked if we could have the buffet just once more, for old-time’s sake, but the manager responded, “No. We can’t afford it!”

So, Tommy, if you’re out there, drop me a line. And if you’re ever in the Niagara area, I’ve scoped out a few buffets that you would probably approve of! Hope you’re well and still latching onto beautiful women! Ελα, ρε!

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About HoaiPhai

I'm up late digging up the dirt. View all posts by HoaiPhai

15 responses to “How Facebook Killed the High School Reunion

  • betharr

    hehehe
    do you know ‘ORBOOK”

  • Stepping My Way to Bliss

    great post and you are spot on about facebook’s (in general) insidiousness. i was on it for a minute and pretty soon couldn’t stand the status updates and the insane amount of truly personal information (from the sordid to the mundane) people were willing to put out there for just anyone to suffer…sorry, read. i think it is insightful of you to see how fb may have ended the need of reunions–very good point. this post should be pressed. (and if you figure out how that happens, please share).

    • HoaiPhai

      Thanks for the kudos! FB got painful for me very quickly. I just didn’t have the “acquaintance stamina” to maintain being in constant contact with all those people. The sad part is that if there is a reunion every five to ten years, I could handle it and even look forward to it, but catching up on a daily basis? Silly.

      And just what am I supposed to post as my Status Update? “Woo-hoo! I’ve just had to replace the last of my eight ink cartridges on my new printer! Now I can do a proper cost analysis on a per square inch basis. I’ll keep you posted!” or “Tried a new way to avoid the police radar trap. Didn’t work out the way I expected… see you in 14 to 21 days!” I’ll admit it… my life is boring to everyone except me because I “get” the context and enjoy the details of experiencing it. Blogging is so different from condensing daily life into a one-line announcement — you can dissect a moment and make a post out of it.

      Which brings me to your question about the Freshly Pressed formula. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what kinds of posts make it to that hallowed list. The posts have to…
      1. Have some sort of compelling content that appeals to a lot of people. Controversial current events with potential for debate, travelogues to places where forks and knives are not part of the traditional table setting especially if the blogger is devoting a year of his/her life as a tourist (but they never tell you where they get the money to do it), kids & puppies, and talking about writing and/or blogging are the staples of being FPed.
      2. Include graphics (photos, drawings, etc.) that look like you should consider opening your own studio.
      3. Include a photo that can be cropped to the 222×155 pixel FP banner format and still remain interesting and relevant to your post.
      4. Being a stay-at-home something or other helps, as does being an expert in something boring. Being a wing-nut tends to work against you.
      5. Be concise! Posts as long as this response never make it to FP… the reading public has a very short attention span.

      That’s all I know on the subject — how they exactly weed out the undesirables and trim down the close to one million daily new posts to their short list remains a mystery, as does who are the actual people making the decisions.

      My ego (and the Dunning-Kruger Effect) tells me that I’m way overdue to have something of mine Freshly Pressed based on my first three criteria, but common sense tells me that it’s very unlikely to happen, based on points 4 and 5.

      Now if Fat Tommy were on the FP Selection Committee, all I’d need to do to get FPed would be to send him a barrel of KFC!

      • Stepping My Way to Bliss

        LOL! I am relieved to finally read “something” about the selection criteria and process. I have a lot going against me. : )

      • HoaiPhai

        I hope they don’t pull my plug for spilling the beans.

        Your case is not hopeless… you too can become FPed! Here’s what I would do in your shoes…

        1. Call an ambulance… I’ve seen your posts about shoes and I don’t think I could make it to the end of the driveway without twisting or spraining something.
        2. Redo your “About” page and tout yourself as being a stay-at-home freelance shamanistic monk of an order that allows you to wear street clothes. As a bonus, your trips to the boutiques are now tax deductible as a religious business expense!
        3. Strap an incense burner to the back of a cute puppy, and explain that he’s the Temple of Bliss’ official incense bearer. Take a picture and post it!
        4. Send a gift certificate for a barrel of KFC (original recipe) to Fat Tommy c/o General Delivery. If there are good-looking women on the Freshly Pressed Selection Committee, Tommy is there!

        Sorry to break the news to you but your most recent post will never be FPed… Photo Challenge entries never are. But don’t be discouraged because I think that there’s a very good chance your “Chicago Yearnings” post will make the grade! It’s got tall ships, which pulls at patriotic heartstrings, there’s no cutlery in sight in the photo of Master Bliss in the restaurant (the cake server thingy doesn’t count but could easily be photoshopped out if you’re concerned), and all the other shots are gorgeous! You might want to consider changing all references to “Chicago” to “Borneo”.

        Just one thing… the photo of Master Bliss napping. Change the caption to read that he’s The Cardinal of Celestial Knowledge and is in a state of deep meditation.

        Good luck!

  • Hobbles

    I hate Facebook. Sounds like you have some fun friends!

    • HoaiPhai

      I cannot agree with you more. I have considered keeping two sets of Facebooks (like you do with your blogs) — one for the boss to be able to visit and one where I can be more playful and remind people of embarrassing moments — but that would just take time away from me being lazy in my personal life.

      I used to have fun friends! Now all the really interesting ones are either accountants posting Status Updates counting down until their Freedom 55s kick in or have gone underground and are invisible to both Facebook and Google searches.

  • Ape No. 1

    I loved the names. The mental images that popped into my head when you mentioned the troublesome duo Millilitre and Igor really cracked me right up. I can only imagine why they inherited these names.

    • HoaiPhai

      I had to try hard to come up with names because their real nicknames were so good they put a greasy clot in the creativity chamber of my brain.

      Millilitre and Igor were close friends. The former was very much into the sciences and, like me, paid very close attention during “exothermic reactions” lectures. We conducted many open-air “experiments” that didn’t cause a stir back then but if we did those things today they would make the national (or at least the city) news. Igor was his sidekick and didn’t provide much technical expertise but was very useful as the person who provided support services. And, in case you’re wondering, we didn’t cause any property damage (unless you count grass as property).

      These two guys taught me about The Dine & Dash (where you eat a meal at a restaurant and then bodily dash out the door without paying the bill). There was an A&W at the local shopping centre and I went in to get a root beer. They were already sitting there eating and invited me to join them. When the waitress came, I just ordered my drink and they insisted that I get a meal. I told them I didn’t have the money and Millilitre said he’s pick up the tab, so I ordered a meal. After we were all finished, the waitress came and asked if we wanted dessert, and they said that they wanted chocolate cake. She said that they didn’t have any but they insisted they just saw the kitchen guy put some in the display case. So when she went to look for it, they said it was on the top shelf. She got a step stool and as soon as she got on the top step, they bolted. So, what could I do? I had no money so I followed them. They were good like that, always ready to help out a hungry friend.

  • The Hook

    I think this was one of your best – ever!

  • Carl D'Agostino

    I don’t understand why the classmates are old and ugly and cranky and the women no longer attractive. I have not changed a bit in 40 years. I think.

    • HoaiPhai

      At my reunion, the physical change didn’t strike me as much as my perception that I was the only one fighting the desire to dine & dash in spite of the fact that I had prepaid for the entire evening. I still had most of my hair but since then I am the male sibling in my family who inherited the most assertive strain of my Aunt Lefty’s baldness gene.

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