There is a good reason why they banned toga parties at UQ for many years, and this story is just part of it.
Anarchy is not something I am used to. I have never been to Iraq or Afghanistan and I have certainly never been to a football match in Oldham and sat in the visitors section.
But being at a UQ Toga party has somehow slightly prepared me for those eventualities.
It was my first week back at uni. I was a cock-sure second year and I pranced around campus like I had concrete undies. The venue was a new multi-storey car park complex. A rock band called Custard were entertainment – and a baby tag system differentiated the drinkers from the under-aged. That was as civilised as it got.
On the way the scene got ominous. Crowds of teens pushed their way down Sir Fred Schonel Drive ad-hocly attired in white sheets stolen from mum’s linen closet. No one knew how to wear a toga. Most just closed their eyes and threw one end over the shoulder and tied the other end in a knot around the waist. Not one of them had seen National Lampoon’s Animal House but they got the general vibe. The more pathetic (myself included) had no plain white sheets but rather a whiteish sheet with a faded sunflower pattern bursting through. I mistakenly assumed the dark would hide my shame. I had not counted on the 7000 watt florescent lighting that adorned the car park – which made it seem more like the centre of the sun than a party.
Not owning sandals and deciding that my runners made me look like Noddy, I decided to go barefoot which historically ended up being one of the most idiotic decisions I have made in my life.
Once inside the complex, which involved lining up for an hour and then wildly pushing past a group of vastly outnumbered and out-of-their-depth bouncers, my friends and I set up camp on the second level. My toga was by now blood soaked as I had kicked a broken bottle during the crush to get in. The organisers of this shambles had insisted it would be glass free and I had blindly trusted them. (but maybe it was my peers that I had stupidly put my blind faith in).
To amuse ourselves in this sober hell we decided to play a game of “Derrick” which involves grabbing a stranger who passes by and pretending to know him from school.
“Mate! How the fuck are you? I haven’t seen you since school.”
“Hey! Everybody! It’s Derrick!”
“Derrick – Mate! You look fantastic – Have you started losing your hair?”
“Didn’t you get Sally pregnant?”
“Weren’t you in jail? I heard you were in jail.”
Meanwhile the victim would be flabbergasted and desperate to convince us we were mistaken. The secret was to have one person start it, then gradually more of us would join in.
We played for a while until one of our victims turned out to be actually named Derrick which threw us a bit. During this odd development I was distracted by the other chaos around me.
When I refocused on – as it turned out – a real “Derrick”, Debbie, a member of our group of friends, was busy pashing with him.
“Fair enough” I thought. Debbie had an even bigger night later. She had eaten the worm from a tequila bottle and her brain had been fried. She wallyed on to another bloke, then got separated from us and ended up swimming across the Brisbane River to get home.
I don’t know how she survived.
While Debbie and my mates were rolling around in drunken ecstasy, I however, was painfully sober – being the designated driver. Surrounded by louts and hysterics, blinded by the fluorescent hell, limping on one foot and desperate to go to the toilet – I could only show contempt.
Had I been drunk I would have viewed the events of that night in a far more mellow light. I might have even had a good time. But as it happened I was definitely not having a good time.
At the apex of my fury I went outside to find a toilet. My bladder was screaming. I took a short cut down the bottom of an embankment, which turned out to be very dark and very muddy. At one point I slipped and added mud to stains on my toga. Looking up, on all fours, I saw the silhouetted frames of group of guys all standing in a row facing me.
Suddenly I became acutely aware of a hissing sound and I choked. My eyes tracked the tiny currents of urine and they innocently made their way down the hill and pooled around my hands and feet. I ran as hard as I could out and away. I ran halfway across the uni before I found a tap. I ran past at least ten couples engaged in varying degrees of intercourse but they appeared only as a blur as my mind was steadfastly focused on the issue at hand.
Wrenching the tap to the on position, I dropped to the ground and drenched myself in water. When I was satisfied I could not get any cleaner by this method I returned to my friends and pleaded with them to leave. I heaved my wet, blood-soaked, urine-covered and muddy toga into the nearest bin.
On the way home we played chicken with drunken pedestrians as they invaded the road. One such pedestrian turned out to be a police officer. As I screeched to a stop one of my passengers became hysterical trying to extinguish a joint she’d been smoking. She failed and grudgingly was forced to throw the mostly unused portion out the window. I think my “Get rid of the fucking thing NOW!” had something to do with her decision.
Meanwhile the officer had strode up to the window and jammed a breathalyser in my mouth so I couldn’t shout at her anymore. He then shone his torch over the backseat where 4 worried looking teenagers sat – none wearing a seatbelt. I was sure I would spend the rest of the night in jail.
He asked me how many people the car was licensed to carry. I said I had no idea and added “officer” imitating the good-old Texan politeness I’d seen in movies.
He asked me to “pop the hood” so he could look at “the compliance plate”.
Now my bonnet release had broken long ago. To open the bonnet I needed a screwdriver but instead I could find only a broken biro. Thankfully it worked. While we stood in front of the car my friends started moaning about “fuckin pigs” and the “police state”. I could have killed them. The cop, who in the poor light showed a striking resemblance to the police officer in Terminator 2, looked at me sternly. I shook my head. “They’re not my friends,” I squawked.
To my astonishment, the plate actually read “6” – exactly the amount of people in the car which proceeded to erupt in cheers and a rendition of Queen’s We are the Champions. The cop handed me my license card back and bewildered I sped off.
When I got home, I took a long, long shower and used up a whole bar of soap. My skin was like sandpaper and I was all wrinkly but I did not care.
That was the last toga party at UQ as far as I know. I passed that embankment a few months later and noticed the grass hadn’t grown back at the bottom.