The university I go to is rather small, only about 3300 people or so. It's interesting, because it's small enough that people know you by name. You're not just another number like at some places. Sometimes it's nice, because you can get to know people easier, as you see them every day. Other times, it's a pain, because everyone knows you. It's hard to remain anonymous. Especially if you get in trouble. Everyone knows gossip and bad news are the only two things that travel faster than light.

I spent three long years in the dormitories of Oklahoma University. Another Ethernet casualty, I guess you could say. The sweet, seductive vision of Massive Honkin' Bandwidth kept beckoning me back to my tiny, cramped room year after year.

Like most dormitories, upon the eve of the new semester, the Resident Advisor would go put up each resident's names on each door, to get people familiarized with everyone else... a cheap, not very effective way to contribute to a community atmosphere. One semester, though, it seemed to work very well.

During the first semester of my sophomore year, the name placards were simply decorated. They had our name buried within a graphic of a bar code, and underneath was the slogan 'Here at OU, you just aren't a number!'. Sure. All well and good. The problem was the design of the signs. The bar codes were unspeakably huge, and the slogan underneath was done in the most remarkably tiny font. So much so, that some people didn't even notice the slogan underneath for days. All you saw was the bar code.

We immediately started joking that these were our new identities, these bar codes. I and my suite-mate of the time, Joe, started joking about referring to each other as the bar codes, writing in the bar code in 'Hello! My Name Is' stickers, etc. Then we noticed that our bar codes were the same. In fact, all the bar codes were the same.

How demeaning! What, does the RA think we are all Borgs, marching in lockstep to creepy, H.R.Giger-designed classrooms, and doing whatever Borgs did for fun (which was most assuredly not the geeky booze-and-Quake lifestyle I embodied)? Oh, the outrage! This point was quickly brought up at the first floor meeting.

A long bit of joking followed, which was quickly dropped after we (the smartass geeks) realized that about half of the dormitory floor weren't really going along with the joke. The result was remarkable - those who chuckled with the joke hung around and became good friends as the year went on - you could start a conversation with any of them by invoking the 'bar code' joke. Those who didn't chuckle, later (quickly) joined fraternities and were incredibly hard to reach. I guess this says something about human nature.

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