Monday, February 13, 2006

there's a reason no one ever wants to relive fifteen

I received an invitation to a reception being held in Boston for alumni of my highschool who happen to live in the area.

Apparently, geography is not the strong suit of the Alumni Relations department, since Rhode Island, Maine, and parts of Connecticut were included in "the area" for this reception.

How do I know? Well, in addition to the invitation -- which is being held at Rialto, a very swanky and expensive restaurant in Cambridge -- I got a list with the name, graduation year, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address of every alumnus and alumna invited to the event.

You read that right. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

But first: Now, this is clearly a fundraising gig. I have no real problem with that. What I do take issue with is the way it has been couched.

The headmaster and his wife will travel up from Missouri to be in attendance. The reception carries with it no cover charge, despite the abundance of cocktails and nibbles that are promised. From all outward appearances, this event represents a purely social gathering. It almost sounds fun!

But then you keep reading.

In the interest of veracity, I'm just going to reprint the e-mail invitation that accompanied the printed one:

"It only happens every so often, so please save the date to get together with other Burroughs alumni in the Boston area on the evening of [blah blah blah]. Drop into the reception (with or without your significant other) anytime between 6 pm and 10 pm; we hope this provides flexibility so you can finish up at work or drive in from the suburbs. There will be plenty of great food and drinks, and definitely no lulls in conversation! We will have Charles Hotel parking vouchers available. We've tried to make it as easy as possible for all to be able to join us...

In addition to seeing other alumni in your area, we also want to inform you of the exciting changes that will take place at JBS in the next few years with the school's new Campus Master Plan."

Did you see that? How they sort of slipped it in there, after sounding all friendly and wanting-to-get-to-know-us-better? All rah-rah-Go-Bombers, my ass.

I can ignore the fact that I'm slightly outraged by the clear breach of privacy (oh, I know, I know -- I'm sure at some point I gave them permission to do that, but I sure as hell don't remember doing so). I can ignore the fact that I'm more than used to the endless pleas for money. I cannot ignore the fact that I am upset at the school's attempt to hide the reason for the event, as though we need to be bribed or tricked. They send out capital campaign mailers all the time, so why have they chosen such an underhanded approach now?

It feels like a chain letter that the sender attempted to hide in a greeting card -- you don't even get the bit about the new "Master Plan" until you've scrolled down in the email. Then they capped it off in the print version with the not-so-subtle lemony twist of peer pressure. Sure, it appears, on the surface, to be merely a selective address book. Run it through the secret decoder ring, though, and you can read the subtext. To wit: "We know you won't want to come if you don't know who else will be there, so we're including the invitation list. Don't you wish the parties in high school had done that? When you know all the popular kids are going, how can you say no?"

Death and taxes may be the only elements of life that are certain, but I'm pretty convinced of one other thing. High school?

Never ends.

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