My old pal Skippy shared my aversion for class reunions, but on one memorable occasion, we both made an exception.
We were among the mourners at the wedding of a mutual friend. The reception took place at a large convention center downtown.
It became clear to us fairly early in the proceedings that the event was going to be as lame as a three-legged mule, so we began thinking of other ways to amuse ourselves. Skippy went on a reconnaissance mission in the lobby and came back with good news.
“There’s a high school reunion down the hall,” he said, “And I’m sure we could pass for their age group.”
This intrigued me. We had conducted undercover missions together in the past, and they were always enlightening.
We casually strolled down the hall and looked in on the reunion party. Our timing was perfect because the birds who had organized the thing were speaking at the other end of the room, leaving the registration table unattended.
There was a board behind the table on which was posted a notice with the headline, “Help us find our missing classmates” in bold letters. Below this was a list of absent classmates who the organizers had been unable to locate.
We quickly scanned the list and we each selected a name for the night. I became Byron Chamberlain, and Skippy became Colton Perry.
We were fortunate in that the organizers had conveniently left a copy of the school yearbook on the registration table.
We picked up the book and did a quick search for our new names to get some backstory to help build our profiles.
Fortune shone down upon us once again. It appeared neither of our characters had been involved in many school clubs or teams, so we wouldn’t be called upon to remember difficult details.
Using the markers provided, we wrote our new names on adhesive tags and pasted them to our shirt fronts. Then, we casually drifted toward the front of the room to hear what the speakers were saying.
When the presentation was over, Skippy turned on his party radar and began drifting slowly around the room searching for anything he could use.
After listening to a small group of “classmates” talking for awhile, Skippy cut a likely looking female out from the herd and greeted her warmly by name (which he has seen on her name tag), asking what she had been up to since high school.
She looked uncertainly from his face to his name tag and back again before providing a brief summary of her career.
Skippy beamed encouragingly and congratulated her on her accomplishments.
“That’s fine,” he said. “I always thought you would do well.”
The woman seemed pleased by this, and a bit surprised.
Then Skippy told her he owned a restaurant in Portland, where whenever possible, he employed homeless people to help them get back on their feet. He had heard the woman talking about her volunteer efforts, and as he had predicted, the homeless angle went down well with her.
“Byron and I crossed paths again after college,” Skippy continued. “We ended up working together, and now he is my head chef.”
I nearly missed my cue, and it wasn’t until I noticed them both looking at me expectantly that I remembered I was Byron for the evening.
“Yes,” I agreed, recovering. “We get most of the produce, dairy products, and meats we use in the restaurant from within a 50-mile radius.”
I had heard about a restaurant like that on a television program, and it sounded like the kind of place Colton and I would have.
The woman was suitably impressed.
We chatted with the woman for awhile before Skippy disengaged us and began looking for another likely subject.
He selected an attractive woman who looked like she might have been some sort of executive. With another warm greeting, Skippy said she looked like she was doing well, and asked her about her career.
Again he received the quick look from his face to his name tag, as if the woman was trying to remember who he was, but his confidence seemed to put her at ease.
The woman said she was head of a marketing company, and told us a bit about it.
In response to her question about what he did for a living, Skippy stayed with the Pacific northwest region and said he was an architect in Seattle. When she asked if she might have seen anything he designed, he modestly replied that this was unlikely, because he specialized in small office buildings with a tiny carbon footprint.
“A lot of people don’t realize it, but because Seattle is in a seismic zone, we have to design everything to withstand earthquakes,” Skippy added, for color. He had read that interesting tidbit in a magazine.
The evening continued in this way, with Skippy moving from group to group, inventing new occupations for himself as he went along. I was variously introduced as his business partner, assistant, and any other connection that fit the circumstances.
Skippy was an expert at providing enough details about his “careers” to make them seem plausible without being too specific.
Whenever possible, we incorporated details about our “classmates” that we overheard to make them think we knew them. We were careful to keep moving, never talking to any one person long enough for them to start asking awkward questions.
After a pleasant evening of meeting former classmates for the first time, we departed.
“Well, Byron,” Skippy said, still in character, “It’s been a stimulating and informative evening.”
I agreed that indeed it had.