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Sociology 102: Aggregate Group Dynamics

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Somewhere in Colorado, in a study room, in a library at a certain Community college, five students sat at a table. Now ordinarily, these five students would pass this particular study room by, casting only a passing glance at the chaos that was sure to be happening inside, but today was different. Today was special.

Those study group douchebags weren’t on campus today. For some reason, the Dean had handpicked them to go to some ghost town for a field trip like there were the only students on campus.

Those kinds of things tended to happen a lot. But it meant a 99 percent reduction in the number of PA announcements, so most people didn’t complain.

Regardless, most days, the room was occupied, with diorama building or espionage, or, for some reason, near strip searches. The door was closed, and save for a spontaneous visit from a certain Dean with a proclivity for theatrics punctuated by colorful costumes, no one went in or out except for seven delusional, self-centered a-holes.

At least, that’s what Alex, known in most circles as Starburns (and among shadier personalities as That One Weird White Dude) thought as he walked through the library, looking for a spot to study. Or try to research the formula for that cool blue meth they had on Breaking Bad. Same thing. Either way, he didn’t even look into the study room by the front door when he entered the library at first, walking right past it until he realized, that it was, in fact, empty.

Last semester, Alex hadn’t really cared much about that one study group— outside of Britta, of course. Britta was hot— but now that his own had split up after half of of them graduated, he’d become a solo act. And maybe he wasn’t all in everyone’s face about it like Chang was, but yeah, he’d been kind of jealous. The sight of the room being empty when maybe it shouldn’t be was enough to give him pause, enough to make him throw open the glass door and cautiously walk in to figure out just what was going on.

Were they dead?

There had been that bus crash that killed the glee club earlier that year.

Either way, this was prime meth researching space, and he wasn’t about to let that group of old Asian ladies snag it before he could.

Alex sat down at the table and opened a book. So maybe it was last week’s TV guide, it was bound to have a lot of Breaking Bad meth stuff in it. By the time he’d gotten to the national listings for Thursday, he was so engrossed that he didn’t even notice when the glass door opened again and someone else entered.

And that was just the start of it. Before long, several others had joined, mostly to marvel at the abnormal occurrence.

 

Maybe it was a bit of a let down to find out that this was probably just a one-day thing-- the normal inhabitants in the room weren’t dead, as Neil helpfully informed all of them-- but the five students currently situated around the table in the study room were going to take advantage of the time they had.

The only problem here was that none of them were really sure how to do that.

 

“So what do we do now?” Neil, colloquially known as “Fat Neil” asked. He’d tentatively sat down when Vicki suggested it as they walked by. Personally, he didn’t have as much of a problem with the aforementioned study group as some of these other guys. They'd nearly ruined Dungeons and Dragons for him, but it hadn’t turned out TOO badly in the end.

“I don’t know about anyone else, but Magnitude was planning on partying today, not studying, if you know what I mean,” Magnitude said. He was sitting for now, but really just wanted to get up and dance. A one man party wasn’t a one man party with out getting down, and currently he was NOT getting down.

“We’ve got to take this study room back,” Alex said, “This room always used to be free, but now it’s pretty much always in use. And half the time, those guys aren’t even studying. Do you you know that I peeked in here once and they were all half-naked hiding behind tables? Remember when there used to be a reserve system for study rooms?”

“Oh, like you study anyway, Starburns,” Vicki chimed in, from her seat next to Neil. She was wearing her favorite hat today, and as a result, was feeling pretty confident.

“Like you can even talk. I thought you were a dance major. You guys had a recital last year where a teapot watered flowers. What kind of sense does that even make?” Alex argued.

“It’s a legitimate major!”

“Hey, leave Vicki alone, Starburns!” Garrett said, in what was possibly an overreaction to the situation. He’d wandered in last, after seeing Vicki and Neil sitting together. Not that he’d gone in JUST because of Vicki or anything. Not at all.

“My name’s Alex!”

“Whatever!”

“Guys, this isn’t helping,” Neil interceded, “If we’re going to take this room back, it’s going to take the five of us working together. That other group is in here literally all the time. Sometimes, I don’t even think they go home.”

“Sounds like a normal night to me,” Magnitude replied, “Pop pop!”

After everyone did the requisite amount of high-fiving over Magnitude’s statement (with the exception of Leonard, who only glared daggers at the one-man party), Neil managed to get the group to settle.

“We’ll set up shifts,” Alex suggested, “It’ll be like a sit-in. We’ll refuse to leave the table until they give up. I can even bring supplies.”

“Damn sit-ins,” Leonard said, mostly to himself, and only Magnitude actually heard him.

“What if we make it a party-in?” he suggested.

“What does that even mean?” Garrett challenged.

“It means shut up,” Magnitude replied, “Also, Pop pop!”

“What does THAT mean? You know those words don’t have any actual meaning, right?” Alex chimed in.

“I always just thought he was talking to me,” Leonard said.

“Do I ask why a grown man has his face shaved like stars? It means what it means. POP. POP.” Magnitude said, glaring over at Alex. Of all people to question the legitimacy of a one-man party, Starburns was the last one he thought he’d have to worry about.

“What are you talking about? My stars are cool.”

“They are SO not cool,” Vicki said.

“Says the so-called dance major. What’s your concentration? Pole?”

“You leave Vicki out of this!” Garrett chimed in once again, his face beginning to turn red.

“God, are you in love with her or something?”

Just as quickly as he’d flushed read with anger, the color drained from Garrett’s face as the room grew silent.

“Oh snap,” Leonard said.

“No, I... I just don’t think it’s fair!” Garrett spat back, in weak defense of his statement. He didn’t notice Vicki’s fleeting glance over at Neil in his haste to backtrack.

“Why are we even arguing?” Neil said, “This isn’t getting any of us anywhere.”

“That’s for sure,” Magnitude said, “This is pretty much the opposite of what I stand for.”

What does that even mean?” Alex asked him, and the room dissolved into arguing once again, the din punctuated by the occasional “PFFFT!” from Leonard. It wasn’t until they’d all been shouting back and forth at each other across the table for nearly five minutes, and Magnitude had taken his argument to his own personal dance floor a few feet away near the couch that Neil spoke up.

“It’s this table,” Neil said, realizing. He stood, backing away from it as he looked down at the piece of furniture, “This table, and this room. They’re toxic.”

“No, I’d know if this room was toxic, believe me,” Alex argued.

“No, Neil’s right,” Vicki agreed, and stood as well, “We were all fine before we sat down in here. Now we’re just like them. I don’t hate you, Leonard. You know, you actually remind me of my grandpa a little.”

“I hate YOU,” Leonard said.

“Maybe there’s a reason no one else uses this room,” Neil continued, ignoring Leonard, “There’s just... there’s something not right about it. It’s like they’ve infected it.”

“I don’t even care about the study space, if we’re just going to turn into those tools,” Alex agreed.

“Pop, pop,” Magnitude replied, and as the five of them pulled away from the table and went their separate ways, none of them questioned the meaning of the catchphrase.