By "the guys", I mean people who used to do DUST, Drexel University Student Technicians. I started going to Drexel in September 1999. In January, I met some of the upperclassmen in my major, who were in DUST and, mostly inadvertently, convinced me to join. I joined in January 2000, and stuck with it through August 2001 before I started Penn. DUST is the student club that handles professional audio setups on campus for all sorts and sizes of events, and pays the students for their work. Many schools have this, but it had caught on particularly well at Drexel, as DUST was given the rights to do a dozen or more events most weeks. Many of the smaller events, normally handled by unions on other campuses, generated us enough revenue to buy some really cool equipment, and that in turn boosted membership.
There was such a culture of success in DUST. It was almost military-like. New people weren't hazed, really, but were made fun of good-naturedly and were referred to as "the new guy" or whatever a lot. (Though they would be asked to coil the snakes; a thankless job, but not really hazing because someone needed to do it, and everyone needed to learn.) We were taught to respect our crew head for any given event. We were taught that, after making a mistake, the only productive things to be said were "yes", "no", and "it won't happen again"; apologies can come later. We were taught that there's a right way to do everything, and it's important to learn what that is. We learned this mostly from our more experienced peers, not the adviser. And we also learned all the details of a setup: How to run a mix board, how to place speakers, how to deal with the customer. We all loved it.
DUST fostered such camaraderie. With one or two exceptions, these guys were my best friends during my time at Drexel. And it was mostly guys: there were very few "DUST bunnies", and most of them joined because they were dating a guy already in the group. In essence, we were almost a fraternity. We never lived together, at least more than two or three at a time, but we talked about it a lot, and probably should have. Lots of us had nicknames. We had our traditions: the DUST Prayer, the "Union" greeting, always starting a soundcheck of the bigger systems with "Unforgiven II", the 24 hours of work in 32 actual hours for every Spring Jam, and many others. And we even had the clothes with our logo, worn to all events. Such a great group. It was a little weird, perhaps, that none of my DUST friends ever mixed with or even met my other friends, at all, even a little, but maybe that made it even more fraternity-like.
Anyway. Brad, one of our peers who, though a strange confluence of events, ended up dropping out of school to run DUST a few years ago, is shipping out. So after work at about 6:00, I walked into 3645B, the apartment occupied by varying DUST members for almost 6 continuous years now. And sitting there were Brad, Jamie, Riggs, Beltz, Rob, Maynard, Coop, Mark, and Lee. Most of whom I hadn't seen in three years, or even talked to in as long. (Well, aside from the Spring Jam I worked in 2002, which I still haven't been paid for.) We hung out for awhile, had dinner at Chili's, and Lee and I cut out just before the rest of them went to a strip club at about 9:30.
It was jarring, being around a group of guys who actually act like "typical guys". The DUST environment definitely fosters a testosterone-heavy mindset, as do these individuals. And they're the only people I'd be able to tolerate it from. In fact, I had a great time, in spite of the gay jokes, the constant cursing, the bathroom humor, and other such things.
I said for years that DUST was the best thing I ever did. With the perspective I have now, I need to clarify that, but only a bit. I've never partaken in a non-religious activity that I enjoyed more, and certainly none that had a bigger effect on my life. I've had better groups of friends, but not many. And in terms of ready-made groups of people, associated with a particular club or activity or task, I've certainly never had better friends. Socially, I tend to never fit quite in, and like it that way. At Penn and since, I tended to have several different groups of friends, floating between them, and never really being a full member of any of them. DUST was the one exception. I was in DUST.