Once upon a time, I made the fateful decision to go on a backpacking trip to New Mexico. Some perspective, I needed a three athletic credits to graduate. I was enrolled in the golf class every semester I spent in college. Not because I needed to learn, but because advanced golfers (10 handicap and below) were allowed to skip class meetings and just turn in their scorecards for credit. I thought this would qualify me for my three credits. I was wrong. So I took pickleball (tennis+ping pong). But I needed one more. Two pledge brothers told me they had enrolled in our school’s backpacking course. Since I had done my share of drunken hiking trips, I figured, why the fuck not. Big mistake, but also the best decision I ever made.
After the (secretly) whiskey-fueled bus drive, we arrived at base camp. Our bus driver took off, leaving us only with our packs, and our thoughts, and so the first day began. It was fine. Our group consisted of five fraternity guys and a diverse spread of ex-collegiate athletes, so we made good time. The only problem was, once we made camp, the temperature dropped below zero. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but we were equipped with 20 degree sleeping bags, meaning we might as well have been sleeping encased in ice with smallpox blankets for warmth.
Our first morning wakeup call was brutal, but was alleviated by my pledge brother screaming “I’ll kill you Leonard Nimoy” when our sponsor shook his tent. Anyone who has been backpacking knows the rest of the story. We slogged through six miles of high altitude terrain, only to set up our tents again for the inevitably destructive day to follow. Our next day’s objective was to summit the peak. That ordinarily would have been fun, except that one of my pledge brothers came down with altitude sickness. Now, I know that altitude sickness sounds like a bitch problem to have, but just think about this. Consider going all-out on a whiskey night and then riding a carousel whose speed is determined by Evel Kinevel. That’s what he was going through. On a fucking mountain. So I stayed behind and made sure he didn’t fucking die (never leave a pledge brother behind).
Once the group came down, we began to realize that we had to get off this fucking mountain. It was way colder than we were prepared for, and too many of our members were getting sick. So we peer pressured our professor into letting us de-summit before schedule. Getting to leave that God-forsaken mountaintop early felt better than any morning blowjob I have ever received.
So we left. We hiked down the mountain. People ate shit hiking down too fast, including me (my knee still won’t speak to me after this trip). We got back down to base camp, ready to board the bus and leave. Only problem was, our bus driver was still back in the closest town, chilling out at a cheap hotel (likely wankin’ it to shitty porn on our tuition dollars). We tried to call him, but none of our phones had service. Our professor tried to flag down a few cars, but no one stopped for him (mostly because no one stops for a hippie wearing a backpack). No one knew what to do. After a few minutes of helping, me and my pledge brothers gave up. We had plenty of Spam to eat, and we were always good at making shitty situations fun (pledging teaches you that).
We considered making conversation with the guys fly fishing in the stream next to us, but we didn’t want to bother them. It started to get chilly, so I put on my fleece, which happened to be a Columbia monogrammed with our letters. Thirty minutes later, the fishing guys came up to our group. The first thing they asked was “Are you guys ok?”, but the second thing they said changed my life forever. The lead guy asked me, “Are you really a XXX?” I was startled, but answered yes. He asked what chapter I was from. I answered. Turns out, not only were these guys from the same fraternity as me and my brothers, they were alumni of the SAME FUCKING CHAPTER. In fact, even though they’re now in their 40’s, they’ve gone fishing in this river every year since they graduated.
Needless to say, they helped us out. Two of them took our sponsors to cell phone range to call our bus driver while the other guys stayed around and swapped war stories with us about house activities and boozy nights and current events. Easily the coolest alumni conversations I’ve had, ever. And those guys got us off that fucking mountain.
The point of this story? You may get a job from your fraternity’s alumni. You may even meet your wife through your fraternity’s alumni. But someday, you might be shit out of luck and stranded in the wilderness, and your alumni just might be fly fishing in the river next to you. You never know when a fraternity brother will save your life.
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