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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

More MTC Antics 

by Aaron B
In the comments at my recent post at Sons of Mosiah, Grasshopper shared his fond memories of “streaking” through the halls of the MTC with nothing on but a shower cap, and the accompanying brush with ecclesiastical authority that ensued. He says he learned some lessons that have served him well. Not to be outdone, I also have an MTC experience that involves a ruckus through the MTC halls and an ecclesiastical confrontation, although it contains no nudity (alas!). (I hope all you Mormon liberals don't mind my longwindedness ...)

It is safe to say that my district was the most rambunctious in our building. Evenings were often punctuated by shaving cream fights or other high energy/high volume antics. About half of the district down the hall was similarly inclined, so our inter-district rivalry reached an intensity that warranted complaints to the authorities by elders on adjacent floors, no less.

About 7 weeks into our MTC experience, my companions and I became acquainted with another district of kindred spirits. “Where have you been all these weeks?” was a common question we would put to each other. Both districts enjoyed each other's company immensely. One evening, right before we left the MTC, this other district decided to throw us a “party.” This entailed our hanging out in their building and shooting the breeze – nothing scandalous. As 9:00 pm rolled around, it was almost time to return to our own rooms before curfew, and we really didn’t want to go. But alas, the rules are the rules.

Suddenly, a voice made an announcement over the MTC-wide loudspeaker: “Please set your clocks back one hour this evening because of Daylight Savings Time.” And then it hit me. I proclaimed, “Hey elders! The voice over the loudspeaker says to set your clocks back one hour. So it isn’t really 9:00 pm! It’s only 8:00 pm!” Everyone was quick to agree with my conclusion, and we spent the next hour leisurely shooting the breeze and goofing around.

As 9:00 pm (really 10:00 pm) came upon us, we decided we had probably better return home. Certain other elders on the floor realized we were “foreign” to the building and threatened to call the authorities on us, given the hour. We quickly exited the building, but not before a brief powwow concerning how we would make it back safely without getting caught. We were quite confident that if we proceeded with enough stealth, we could do so without being apprehended.

We guessed wrong. We were confronted no less than 3 times on the way home, each time by a caustic MTC official that demanded to know what we were doing out past bedtime. Each time I spoke on behalf of the group, insisting that the voice over the loudspeaker had told us to set our clocks back, and we had promptly complied … perhaps a little too promptly, but then we were just being obedient to instruction after all. :) I really didn’t expect this line to work, but it did! Every single time!! Each interloper accepted my explanation and we made it back through our building doors. Safe at last! (Or so we thought).

What we didn’t know at the time (but soon would) was that this particular evening happened to coincide with THE biggest drag-down, knock-out, shaving cream/random substance/pillow fight that our building had ever seen. It was started by the district next to ours – our long-time adversaries – and spread to the entire floor. Had we been present that evening, there is no question that we would have been active participants. How ironic that the one evening full-scale WAR breaks out was the one we happened to be “absent.” Anyway, apparently 5 different MTC branch presidents were called, and they converged on our floor. The imminent confrontation and chastisement was a long time in coming, and there was going to be hell to pay. However, someone apparently got wind of the presidents' arrival, and all the elders on the floor quickly sprinted to their rooms, shut their doors, and pretended to be asleep. Many elders were called out of their rooms to take the blame for the chaos, but nobody took responsibility. Apparently, everyone had been just “trying to sleep,” despite the ruckus, and nobody knew who the real culprits were. :) The branch presidents were pissed.

Ignorant of the evening’s drama, my district and I briskly climbed the stairs to our floor. On the way up, a fuming branch president confronted us. Irate at the evening’s antics, and even more upset that he didn’t arrive in time to bust the perpetrators, he accosted us in a measured, angry tone:

“There has been a problem on the floor this evening, elders. And I think I’m looking at the source of the problem RIGHT HERE!”

“Um, actually, no – we don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied non-chalantly. “We haven’t even been here this evening. We’ve been over at another building, because we mistakenly thought that, given the announcement about setting our clocks back …”

The look on the branch president’s face was classic. He was not expecting such a calm, creative, perhaps even semi-plausible reply. I can’t claim to read minds, but his face seemed to say “This isn’t supposed to be happening. I really need to bust some elders, and this group is my only chance. But they are claiming they weren’t here, and I can’t prove they’re lying. Aargh!!” (I think the president was so dead-set on finding those responsible for the pillow fight, he didn’t even bother to evaluate the appropriateness of our not being in the building on time).

“I think I’m looking at the source of the problem RIGHT HERE,” the branch president repeated (rather lamely, since he’d already said that).

I stood my ground. “No, actually, like I just said, we weren’t here this evening. We just got back from another building because we mistakenly thought that it was 8:00 rather than 9:00 because …”

What was the branch president going to say next? Nothing, it turns out – he just stood there fuming and speechless. So we quickly finished climbing the stairs and went to our rooms, passing several other indignant branch presidents along the way, and throwing them a few words of explanation. At the end of the day, nobody in my district got punished, or even yelled at, for anything that went on that night. And just as well too, since we were totally innocent.

What is the moral of the story here? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s “If you’re going to misbehave regularly, make sure that on the day you’re most likely to get caught, you’re misbehaving in some other fashion somewhere else, so you won’t get in trouble for your regular misbehavior.” Or maybe it’s “Don’t obey certain rules and you’ll be less likely to disobey other rules.” Or maybe it’s “Rationalize your actions calmly, with a straight face, and you’re sure to win over your superiors.” I really don’t know. But I am sure that whatever the moral, it can’t be found in the White Bible.

Aaron B

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