Last Saturday seemed like it was going to be kind of slow. Yes, I had seen the futuristic Prelude posters, and I had heard about the courtyard party in Branford (by eavesdropping on people cooler than me). I had even heard about a party in the TD annex from the stony people who live downstairs. But even though I had the info, none of the parties seemed that exciting.

About halfway through my problem set late that afternoon I made a decision: I would host a pre-party.

I rushed to the Berkeley College computer cluster and batted out an e-mail:

Date: 28 September 2002


To: (I noticed people always do this — there might be a million people on my list!!)


starting at 9:30 tonight in Durfee B31 we’re having a little pre-party, so come by and get your buzz on before headin out to the big stuff. YeeEah, keep it real mfs!

peace, burt

Needless to say, after reading this e-mail no one came to my pre-party. Wait, that’s not exactly true.

Four people came to my pre-party.

But this was cool, it left the five of us with a fridge of beer. And hey, “Back to the Future Part III” was on (Did you know Michael J. Fox plays both Marty and Marty’s great-great-great-grandfather in that movie? And Biff plays his ancestor too! We figured it out!). After about 40 minutes we were so inspired by “Mad Dog” Biff and his posse that the five of us decided to wrap our beers in crappy “Yale Standard” Newsletters from the entryway cubbies and take to the streets.

After strutting around for a bit, feeling thuggish and toting our beers, we arrived at the Branford courtyard party. As I had suspected, it kind of sucked at first, and my posse dissolved into different directions.

As I wandered around, the beers started to set in, and my thoughts of “Back to the Future” (did Biff play “Young Biff” in BTTFII also?) faded and turned to thoughts of — aw yeah — da ladies. (Note: the tone of the column just shifted from cheesy/lame to sketchy/lame. It’s on, fellas. It’s on.)

A Wu-Tang song came on and I started patrolling, wandering around the party scanning for people I knew, or, better yet, people I knew talking to hot girls.

And that’s when, right on time, I ran into Will — my wingman.

When searching for The Quality Skank, the wingman is all-important. In addition to pressuring you into drinking more than you probably should, your wingman introduces you to girls he knows and helps you make a good impression. His presence shows you have at least one friend (I have four. We watched “Back to the Future.”) and all while making you appear funny and cool. Basically, he negates your sketchiness — not that you’re sketchy anyway (I mean, all you’re doing is trying to hook up with a girl you met half an hour ago.)

But a good wingman is hard to find. Not all your friends have what it takes.

To illustrate, take the parable of the good and the bad wingman.

Once upon a time (last year, actually) there was a Persian sophomore in Calhoun named “Fasir.” He and his wingman Ben met a girl at an Old Campus party. The party was lame, so Fasir invited her to go back to their suite and watch a movie with him and his suitemates. The movie was Fasir’s favorite, “Star Wars” (dude’s read all the “authorized” books too). So naturally, before long the young man was completing Han Solo’s lines before they were said and posing “Star Wars” trivia questions.

In other words, while Fasir did his Right-Han’-Solo impression his wingman Ben looked on mercilessly and did nothing. Then Ben violated the first rule of a good wingman: he got greedy. While Fasir elucidated the subtle differences among R2 droids, Ben seduced Fasir’s intended with his smooth wit. Two nights later, while Fasir snuggled his Ewok plush toy and watched “Return of the Jedi,” Ben was across the hall, gettin’ head.

Here’s the moral of this story: never talk to a girl about “Star Wars.” Also, it’s not really a moral of the story, but even though he did get ass, Ben was a bad wingman. You hear that, Ben? Bad wingman. A good wingman keeps his man looking good, and he doesn’t move in to score for himself.

Anyway, back to the Branford courtyard. The week before, I had “set up” Will as his wingman, basically by giving him and the girl a common topic (how ridiculously inebriated I was) and then getting out of the way (by going to the backyard of Zeta Psi to puke). So this week it was Will’s turn to help me out. We strolled around for a bit, looking for prospects.

Finally Will saw a group of girls he knew, and we walked over and he greeted them. I introduced myself, trying to sound as sexy as possible. They looked bemused and a little bit wary (although, in retrospect, I would have to say it was a very turned-on bemused and wary). The conversation continued. Will said something about FOOT. Then one of the girls said something. I stared and nodded, pretending to pay attention. Everything was going smoothly. But then I dropped the ball. Big time.

“So what classes are you taking?” I asked the cutest girl. Will’s eyes darted over to me with a look of confusion and fear. I had just emitted the lamest question in existence. It was like in that Marquez book when the guy opens his mouth and the gross fish comes out and flaps on the floor.

“Um,” she said, “English 129, Intro to Philosophy, Physics –“

“Physics?” I said, my Group IV ears sprouting up. “That’s awesome! Which one?” The girl tilted her head and looked at me inquisitively. Will was clearly panicking now. He was scanning his brain, trying to think of any way to change the subject. But it was too late; I was in a steep and inescapable dive. There was nothing my wingman could do.

“I’m taking a couple of physics classes this semester,” I gushed. “Who’s your professor? Is it Gerd Kunde? Gerd’s SWEET!” I had just referred to a physics professor by his first name and then yelled “sweet.” Game over.

“Um, no, it’s — Prof. Beausang?” she said. “The class is really hard and annoying actually.” She took a couple of steps back from me.

Awkward silence ensued.

“Um, well, it was nice meeting you –” she said. “I think my cell-phone is vibrating.” She picked up her phone, looked at it, and started an imaginary conversation. Will put his hand on my shoulder and gently guided me away.

“We’ll work on that, Burt. Next time, next time.”

Burt Helm ’04 is the Poet Laureate of Mu Alpha Chi Fraternity.