The high school I went to was one of those that insisted on the graduating students actually having achieved the full requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma prior to the graduation ceremony.  They were picky that way and there were about 500 of us to be graduated when I came through so as a result, our graduation ceremony was in November of the following year.

Everyone had already lost touch who wanted to (this included me) but we were dragged back together on a Friday night just after Halloween and just before Christmas decorations in the mall really began in earnest (maybe the 7th or so?).  The place we were dragged to was one of the largest hockey arenas in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Clarica Arena of the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.  It was most likely the largest and cheapest venue available because they certainly didn’t select it for aesthetics or acoustics (both of which it has a serious lack).  I had no interest whatsoever in attending but I was prevailed upon by others who felt it would be a good experience or bring closure or something, so I went along with it to avoid causing a scene.

Even a small and well-run graduation ceremony entails a fair amount of complexity and gives the impression of teetering at the edge of the catastrophe curve.  Mine did not teeter on the edge so much as careen wildly downward toward the trailing edge of insanity.  The 500 or so grads were herded through robing and hatting in the changerooms beneath the bleachers and led, like cattle, to the ice surface (fortunately covered up though I suspect it would have been a much more entertaining evening had we all been slipping and sliding along in our gowns and dress shoes, alas) whereupon a more-or-less adequate number of plastic folding chairs had been erected.  Our loved ones sat in the stands (behind the glass which is removable but hadn’t been taken down) like Romans in the Colosseum, awaiting the releasing of the wild beasts upon the hapless graduands.

We were each issued with a small piece of paper and the instruction to write down what we were doing with our time now that we were no longer within easy grasp of the high school.  The intent was for us each to hand the paper to the principal as we crossed the stage and he would read out our life plans and any awards we had received (scholarships, etc.).  One of the people in the mid-C range of the alphabet wrote that he was attending the DeVry Institute (and was serious about success) and that he had received the C. Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.  The principal made it all the way through that, looked a the grinning fellow and the hooting audience and decided it would be the last such note read.

All of this by-play was utterly lost on the spectators in the seats above as was every word uttered by anyone at the microphone.  Instead of providing a sound system appropriate to the event, the organizers had elected to use the built-in hockey announcing speakers which are difficult to hear at the best of times.  When the arena has 3/4 seats empty, the echoing completely precludes any opportunity of understanding.  Nobody down below had any idea of this and several people rambled on at some length about how great it was to be done with high school (possibly I am recalling this through the rose-tinted ear trumpet of memory.  Being done with high school was pretty high on my priority list).

Since everyone there had already finished up their final courses and received not only their final grades but also their diploma and yearbook, we queued and crossed the stage to collect blank sheets of paper with significant pomp and ceremony.  I decided while waiting at the side of the stage that this was the last graduation of mine that I would be attending.  I skipped out completely on my college graduation partly due to a fear of mind-numbing boredom but also because it was paired with the graduation of the police foundations students (a more drug-addled, law-breaking pile of jerks such as are rarely seen) and primarily because it was at 3:00pm on a Wednesday afternoon in my third week of my new job.  I didn’t think it was a wise plan to ask my boss for an afternoon off after having already taken off the afternoon of my very first Friday of work to attend a wedding.  I felt that mightn’t sit well.

no hurt or pain, no suffering