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Mr. President, it’s time to retreat. You and 30 others must seclude yourselves from the outside world for three days of substance-free leadership training.
This is your first giant taste of retarded politicking that will come to define your term. Held four hours away from campus, this retreat entails a weekend chock full of small talk, team-building exercises meant for fourth graders, and ice-breakers meant for AA (ironically). The university funds the retreat to try and keep the Greek System under control, but we use it to figure out who sucks, who you can count on, and who you can push around.
No booze allowed, the organizers remind you after you board the bus, and they’ll be checking your bags. After a short speech laced with buzzwords like “Greek unity,” “good example” and “responsibility,” you say goodbye to civilization. Why? Because your brothers elected you—with your permission—to represent them. Sucker.
The bus eventually pulls up to some campsite that looks like a Sandusky Neverland Ranch, complete with rundown playgrounds and decayed lodges that smell like grandma’s house. Your particular cabin has blank walls, except for a poster that promises “The surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed.” No shit, you think, which reminds you that you only have ten minutes to take a shit before group activities start in a bigger, smellier building with more motivational posters.
The worst part is the first part: ice-breakers, these little activities that force large groups of people to interact with one another. You and 30 others make an inside circle and an outside circle, then you play a scripted version of twenty questions. Question number one: “if you were an inanimate object, what inanimate object would you be and why?”
Here’s the part where you find out how truly unbearable everyone is.
“Dildo,” says the hardest of the try hards. “No wait, a handle of McCormicks, ha.”
Yeah..fuck that guy, NEXT!
“I think it’d be cool to be like a plant in the rainforest, just you know like reaching for the sun and striving for better things,” says the King of the Stoners. Don’t waste your breath—when you tell him that since plants grow they are by definition NOT inanimate objects, he’ll just stare at you. It’s okay though, you literally won’t ever have to talk to this tree farmer again, because no one cares.
The next guy just helped start a colony. He reeks of misplaced ambition and his enthusiasm for his house borders on the occult. He wants to be a baggage carousel, carrying his organization to the next level. You wonder why he didn’t go with airplane, but quickly remind yourself that it doesn’t matter—the dude’s president of a colony, HE doesn’t matter.
You’re off to a rough start. Let’s try the women.
“Wheel,” one says. Arguably the most important invention of all time. It enabled mankind to transport, colonize and industrialize…I have no qualms with this one. Good answer.
“I don’t know, maybe I would be a microchip,” garbles the Head of the Heifers. You’re interested in her explanation, but this beast has jowls like a bulldog and you just can’t stop staring. How can someone’s skin hang that far below their face? With a solid quarter-inch of excess epidermis draped below both corners of that vacuous mouth, how does this creature work up the courage to go outside? Do those things flap in the wind? You love how she went with “micro” chip though.
“Me? I’d have to be a thermos,” says the Queen of the Smart House.
“It keeps your hot chocolate warm. It keeps your cold drinks cold. No matter what happens around a thermos, what’s inside is never tarnished. A thermos adapts to different situations and maintains a sense of consistency, and that’s what I want to do.”
That’s actually a dynamite answer. Mark this chick down as one of your go-to’s. You’ve already scratched those other four off your list as wastes of time and space,. They are only to be worked with if ABSOLUTELY necessary.
Once you’ve sufficiently broken ice, you divide into small groups to pointlessly address the same set of problems that have always plagued our organizations: alcohol, assault and apathy. You learn nothing about being an effective president. Instead you get a solid evaluation of half the houses on campus—who’s up, who’s down, who’s in hot water, and who doesn’t give a shit.
In the midst of all this fun and excitement, it can be easy to forget the real reason you’re here—to become the very best gosh darn leader you can possibly be.
After dinner you’re free to socialize. Half the guys smuggled in delicious booze, so when the chaperones—yes, 20-22 year olds still get chaperoned, another perk of being the Commander in Chief—go to sleep, you actually get to loosen up and get to know these people.
Except the guy from that fraternity that refuses to use Greek letters. He sits in his room with a laptop hugged to his chest and a blankie pulled up over his knees. This guy serves a special purpose: his profound loser-ness incites the rest of the group to collectively bash everything about him and his house, and bond in the process.
“Is he really just going to sit in there? He knows we’re all drinking out here right? Yeah, he knows. So what the fuck? I don’t know man, maybe they don’t drink? Probably not they’re fucking weird. YEAH DUDE my girlfriend said she went to one of their parties, but she got there and it was a ‘LAN party,’ whatever that is.”
Even if you know what a LAN party is (I do, sadly…I had an Asian next door neighbor growing up, sue me), don’t, and I mean DON’T, admit it. Admitting to knowledge of anything outside politics, sports, and your Greek microcosm is political suicide.
No one drinks to excess, because no one wants to be that guy. Jowly Microchip girl drinks half a fifth but she’s still very, very functional. Mental note: don’t drink with her again, she’s the only girl in this room that can definitely make every single one of the men look like pussies.
Day one’s done. Wake up, repeat, and give away as little information about your organization as possible. As the organizational figurehead, you’re now under the microscope of your university, your fellow presidents, your alumni and your members.
All involved will talk shit nonstop, question and challenge your every move, stab you in the back, then smile and shake your hand whenever they see you. This retreat? Nothing but political foreplay.
Get ready. It’s going to be a fun ride.