Dissecting the PSU population

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple years at Portland State, it’s that no matter how large the campus population becomes, there are only a few different types of people that frequent my classes.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple years at Portland State, it’s that no matter how large the campus population becomes, there are only a few different types of people that frequent my classes.

These people may or may not know each other, perhaps they might run into each other or even gather together at the pretentious coffee shops near campus. Whatever it is, I find myself endlessly observing, though different people each time, they all have particular characteristics I find fascinating.

They inhabit the park benches, the front row seats in the classroom, the gazebo for a smoke break with their buddies or Starbucks for that decaf Grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced, vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice.

There is, of course, the “I never shower” young male who consistently comes to class smelling like marijuana. He likes only “indie” films because he considers all types of other movies to be mainstream. He never forgets to quote Bukowski, Palahniuk or any obscure philosopher he made sure you know nothing about. He probably also has a Chrome messenger bag, but he is probably not a messenger, and he probably wears many shades of green, brown, or any other “earthy” color resembling nature, which never quite match together.

There are also the “travelers.” The first of the two types is the First World traveler. The First World traveler is the one that has either been to Europe or Japan. Generally he will have an $800 backpack and all the essentials to stay at a hostel, ride a train and maybe meet someone from Italy he will have a memorable experience with.

Although a lot of people do this, the First World traveler believes his experience is the first of its kind. And if you hang out with him at a bar, he will make sure to order the particular beer from a country he visited so he can tell you that it’s from a country he visited.

The second type of traveler is the Third World traveler. This is the person that has been to Africa, most likely to volunteer, or maybe it was Thailand just to make sure they one up the other traveler that only goes to Europe. This is because they think they are the first of their group of friends to do this and, of course, he will immediately have an idea to write a book about his unique travel experience.

It makes them feel important and good about themselves. You know, riding a train through the Sahara and listening to their iPod, eating African food and staying at a hostel. Not much different from Europe, but remember, he went to A-F-R-I-C-A.

After those, there is the young female in my classes who believes she is saving the environment and therefore, the world, by wearing hemp, organic or any other eco-friendly shirt and bracelet. She only writes on banana paper, but forgets to do the research on it to realize that it’s not as environmentally friendly as she thinks it is, as the banana agro-industry throws out an alarming quantity of pinzote in landfills or even worse, local rivers.

Needless to say, she has a lot of hair that if it is not in greasy dreadlocks, it’s probably never been brushed, as there is no way she would buy a brush that was not from a local hemp shop in order to “make a statement.” She will also only carry a large thermos, but it has to be unmarked. And if you ask her what she is drinking, the answer is never coffee, but always “tea.”

There are also those enthusiastic, believing they are more “in the know” about life in general, going back to school, middle-aged moms. They are the ones that sit in my classes that are either divorced or married with a full-time working husband. Those aren’t bad things, but the middle-aged mommy’s contributions to the class are almost always criticizing in-class reading material, i.e. books or essays that the teacher assigns, because of its lack of morals.

They have binders for every class, laminated or placed in see-through plastic covers with every handout a professor gives. They also highlight profusely and never forget to use small, brightly colored sticky notes in books.

In addition to the moms, there are the older, gray-haired women in mid-60s, early-70s. They ask irritating questions, often right as class is supposed to be over, blithely unaware that other people have places to go. They often wear sandals with socks. Wool socks.

There is the girl who wears tight-fitting spandex clothes from Hollister. She has a Tiffany necklace and more than likely, a Coach purse. They are the girls with the loud voices, traveling in packs of two or three who look exactly the same. 

There is the jock who is very tall and wide, and who consistently wears a hat, a shirt that has stripes. Baggy pants are optional, but common. They talk only to Hollister girls and also travel in packs of two or three.

And the list goes on.

It’s these people that I have again and again in my classes at PSU. It’s these people that give me a reason as to why I am in love with Portland. I doubt any other campus can provide you such endless amusement and knowledge, better than what any professor says in class.

Observing these people teaches me more about life and human behavior than any novel assigned in class or any article I have to read before a quiz. Maybe they can teach you about yourself too.