Sunday, March 13, 2011

Operation Breakfast Overload

On Wednesday morning at 8:30 I updated my Facebook status (you know, Facebook. The social network that tears people apart). Less than 48 hours later, this status had a 100+ comment thread, had provoked mass emailing, messages from the administration, two Facebook groups, an elaborate prank, secret leafleting of falsified satirical press releases, and a possibly altered election result. Thank you, untameable technology for two days of shocking entertainment.

Rewind to a few weeks ago . . .

My dear friend Annette has served as the student body president at the law school this year and has done a fantastic job doing whatever it is student government leaders are supposed to do (promising the "best year ever!" and then delivering, I suppose). Particularly, I have watched her answer email complaints, attend 245 meetings per day, and gracefully put out a new fire every hour, on the hour, for about ten months now, without breaking a sweat.

The 1Ls turned in a large writing assignment a few weeks ago, bright and early one Monday morning. For reasons still not clear to any of us, their writing professors emailed the 1L class, explaining that Annette and the rest of the SBA board members would provide the 1Ls with a congratulatory breakfast on that Monday morning. The problem: Annette never made this commitment, nor was she ever aware that the professors had made this promise on her behalf. Not a big deal, you might think; but evidently, it was to some because within hours of the breakfast disappointment, Annette had received complaint emails from members of the 1L class who apparently were on the brink of starvation and whose lives depended upon Annette feeding them. After an unsuccessful attempt to contact the professors responsible for the mix-up so that they could restore Annette's reputation as a non-flake, Annette communicated with the 1L class on her own and explained that there was a miscommunication and that she, in fact, had never made such a promise and certainly would have delivered had she done so.

This was not enough for at least one 1L, who continued to complain about the SBA's alleged failures; and these complaints culminated in an interesting campaign tactic earlier this week. This 1L (we'll call him "Home-boy") decided to run for student body president for his second year, a position typically occupied by a third year student. Home-boy was rude to Annette, continued his complaints about her, and then passed out his campaign flyers to everyone's carrels on Wednesday morning. The flyer read, "When [home-boy] promises breakfast, [home-boy] brings breakfast." A bit defensive of Annette and quite tired of the lack of appreciation for everything she has done for everyone, including home-boy, I responded with the following Facebook status update: "Eli is wondering whether a 1L's passive-aggressive attacks on Annette Thacker in his SBA campaign flyers is really going to be an effective approach. Particularly since it's well accepted that Thacker is likely the best president of anything anyone has ever seen (and that includes Pres. Palmer from 24)."

Feeling that I had done my Christian duty to defend my friend's honor, and truly not expecting anything to come of it, I went about my business. Then the madness ensued.

Several people asked around for the full story, commented on this post, and immediately jumped to the defense of Annette. In the meantime, another 1L composed a hilarious email that any 13 year old girl with a vendetta couldn't have done any better and spammed the entire 1L class, pleading with his peers to vote for home-boy and allow the four 2L candidates to split the vote among the upper classes so that the 1L class could "take control of the school." The administration responded to this by reminding everyone of the anti-spamming policy. But this was well beyond a ridiculous email by this point.

"Operation Breakfast Overload" was well on its way. Someone had the idea to fulfill the promise Annette never made by actually bringing home-boy breakfast. And a lot of it. On Thursday morning while I was at work in Salt Lake, the pictures came trickling in as several dozen of my light-hearted and creative classmates dropped off boxes of cereal, home-made muffins, pancakes, balloons, yogurt, and several other popular breakfast items, all at his carrel while home-boy sat in class. In the meantime, the 1L "spam" email had gone viral and had made it around the non-1L classes thirty or forty times, several campaign tactics were altered to draw more votes for the 2L candidates, and an all-out war had been waged on my Facebook page between unlikely combatants.

On Friday the civil war officially ended as a 2L candidate was named victor. I, of course, hope that home-boy doesn't have hard feelings and does recognize that the vast majority of the class intended no harm in what most definitely was a great overreaction to a campaign flyer that was probably intended to be not much more than a subtle joke. But overreaction is what law students do best. 

Most of us who didn't really ever have a dog in the fight, but still found the entire thing absolutely the most entertaining thing we had witnessed since 1996, wondered afterwards how so much activity could result from one half-joking status update on Facebook.

Gosh I'm going to miss high school.

~It Just Gets Stranger

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New York. New York.

The highly anticipated New York trip came and went. This was for the moot court ABA national competition. At BYU, four oralists and two brief writers qualify for the BYU national team during their second year to compete at the national competition for their third year. So I've been anticipating this competition for some time now. And it finally came last Wednesday.

Wednesday:

Our travel group of six boarded a plane for JFK. Memorable moments on the flight: my teammate Annie flossed with a string she found in her clothing because "it was an emergency" and then insisted on showing me everything she was able to pull out of her teeth as if to justify her questionable public-clothes-flossing decision. At JFK we climbed into sketchy black automobiles and asked strangers to drive us to Brooklyn in the middle of the night; one of the drivers, for reasons we still don't know, at one point put the car in reverse on a quiet street and drove at full speed for what seemed to be 30 or 40 minutes, only to put the car back into drive and cover the distance he had just back-tracked.

Thursday:

Annie was my oralist partner and Jon was our official brief writer/bailiff. Sometime on Thursday Annie and I discovered that Jon would make an amazing life out of being an assistant of some sort because for the next three days, neither of us made a single decision for ourselves (and when we finally did on Sunday, disaster. Details to come). So Jon practiced our arguments with us, told us where to go, answered affirmatively just as we requested each time we asked whether we looked like we fit our team name ("Team Sexy"), etc. On Thursday night we argued in our first round and did very well, beating the team we went up against by a pretty big margin, and getting the highest scores of anyone judged by our set of judges. We were on our way. Moot court competitions are about appellate advocacy so the way the rounds work is there is a panel of judges who pester us with difficult questions for 15 minutes at a time while we try to argue our case. As you can imagine, this can be an incredibly intimidating (but totally fun, in the same way that marathon running is fun) experience.

Friday:

More of the same: reading, practicing our arguments, having Jon tell us exactly what to do and where to go. About an hour before it was time to leave for the courthouse we also started our "beautification" process (named by Annie) in which we beautified to the best of our abilities. My beautification process was a lot simpler than Annie's. Nonetheless, I foolishly complained about it and said I was grateful I didn't have to do it very often, after which I was "informed" (in a voice that most people use to scold) that life is not fair because apparently my female friends are required by law to participate in beautification every single day of their lives. Who knew. 

Our Friday night round went as well as the Thursday night round, and after it was over we were seeded 5th out of 39 teams based on our team scores.

Saturday:

Another round in the morning. Another victory. We were getting exhausted by this point but having the time of our lives. Eventually on Saturday we were beat out in a very disappointing and shocking tie-breaker in semi-finals. Depression ensued. We stuck around for the end of the competition when all of the final results would be announced. Somewhere between 90 and 100 individuals argued in the competition and they gave out awards for the top ten individual oralists. I knew my scores were decent and I was hoping to end up in the top ten but thought it would be close. They started announcing the top ten and by the time they got to six, I was sure I hadn't made it. But, alas, I was third. Third! While I think Annie and I should have won the stupid thing, and I was quite sad we didn't, I couldn't be too sad about finishing third overall.

On Saturday night, we hit the city (along with all 7 billion other people on the planet (which means that you, too, were there that night)), wandered like zombies, and ate everything in sight.

Sunday:

Annie and I, sure that we were responsible enough to venture out without Jon to guide us, climbed aboard a Subway train and headed for what we thought was going to be some place near Central Park. When we exited, we were in a quiet neighborhood that looked pretty rundown. We walked through it, not worried one bit, until the following conversation took place:

Eli: Why does this part of the city seem so dead?
Annie: Maybe everyone is still sleeping?
Eli: Something seems strange about this place.
Annie: Hang on, let me check my clothing for loose string so I can start flossing again (ok, she didn't say that, but I don't remember what she said and I just wanted to remind you all about the nasty flossing experience from the plane).
Eli: Wait. Why does that sign say "Harlem" on that building?
Annie: Um . . . Oh it's probably just a building called Harlem.
Eli: Yeah, I'm sure that's it.
Annie: Oh . . . and that store must just be called, "Harlem market."
Eli: Now that I look around, everything seems to say "Harlem" on it.
Annie: So, are we in Harlem?
Eli: I think so.
Annie & Eli: [Both silently replaying in their heads every horror movie they've ever seen clips of that took place in Harlem. Eli also hears Cathie's voice in his head from Wednesday night, informing him that New York is full of people who will try to kill him].

Suddenly, and probably dramatically, Annie and I clung to one another with all our might and jog-walked for the next 15 minutes until we found a subway, grabbed onto the sides of the next train, and hung on until Tuesday at 4:13.

Then we attempted lunch, where Annie was served something that they claimed was "egg" but looked and tasted more like something that was scooped up off of the side-walk on a really busy and hot day, dyed yellow, and then kept uncovered in a refrigerator next to expired milk for three days until the electricity went out because someone forgot to pay the bill at which point it sat for another four days in the mostly shut room temperature refrigerator air. Plus, add salt. 

So we stopped at forty or fifty more places and ate again and again, walking through Central Park along the way (which we miraculously found by ourselves after our life-changing experiences on the streets of Harlem (we're thinking about writing a book now that we're experts on rough neighborhood life (we'll probably call it, "Wrong Subway Stop") (and by the way, I'm told that Harlem isn't really so bad anymore anyway. When I looked it up online, I was told that Brooklyn is the sketch part of town now. Ironically, we were staying in Brooklyn and thought it was rather pleasant (evidently we are not good at recognizing true sketch)))). 

We got to JFK about an hour before our flight. Climbed aboard the plane on time and waited for our departure. We were so pleased to be told that we would be sitting in the plane for about an hour and a half before taking off because, what must have been the storm of the century, had delayed some passengers who needed to board our plane; they were delayed for about 13 seconds, thus exceeding the flexibility limits of the JFK airport to the point of rendering our escape from NYC impossible without a long miserable wait. Eventually Mr. jokey jokey pilot, who evidently does not know when it's time to be a stand-up comedian and when it's time to Rambo the whole damn thing and just take off without permission, got on the intercom, cracked a few jokes, and then informed us that because JFK was apparently rebuilding the entire runway from scratch, we would be sitting on the plane for a few more hours. Fortunately Mr. jokey jokey pilot did make sure to explain to us that he was also disappointed in the delay and that we weren't the only ones suffering (this calmed all of us down, and made each of us feel better that our pilot, who was responsible for flying 800 billion pounds of materials across our nation through storms and in the middle of the night, was feeling irritable and cranky). 397 hours later, we arrived in Salt Lake City, grumpy, tired, and with the realization that reality would be hitting us in our first class of the week in just a few short hours.

But Annie and I are pretty sure we can handle anything now that we've experienced the gang life.

~It Just Gets Stranger

Annie and I right before our first round.