Campus groups are constantly trying to recruit me, but all I want to do is pass my classes and drink bubble tea. I’m always on the lookout to avoid these clubs, but the efforts of one group, specifically the recruitment strategy of their mascot, went a bit too far last semester.
I was searching the Clubs Day displays for free candy — as we all do — when I heard the rattle of a bean-filled bag being tossed around. I turned and saw the Thunderbird throwing and catching a hackysack at the athletics booth.
As soon as it saw me looking, it held out the hackysack toward me. I floundered for an excuse to get away.
“No thanks. Sorry. I have asthma. In my arms.”
The mascot tilted its head doubtfully at me, staring right into my eyes. Staring back, I oddly couldn’t make out any silhouette through the mesh costume eyes.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a bowl of candy at another table. I made like the 99 and B-Lined toward the ‘Student Arts Something Community Whatever Club.’ Mascot forgotten.
I slept through my alarm the next day and was running late to my 7:30 a.m. STAT 101 class. Making the executive decision to have slightly damp sneakers over the perceived judgment of my classmates, I cut across MacInnes field.
I was halfway across when I spotted a hackysack flying through the air toward me. Reflexively, I kicked it up and caught it, then lobbed it back in its original direction. When I turned back to see who threw it, the T-Bird was standing two feet behind me with the hackysack in its beak.
I took a step backward, startled. “Hello?”
The mascot said nothing, while holding out an athletics lanyard.
“No thanks. I’m good,” I said, shifting restlessly.
I started walking away, but the lanyard clip swaying in the breeze was weirdly entrancing. Watching it, I began to sway side to side in a daze, like a grad student who has yet to down their third cup of coffee.
Whatever trance I was in broke when the wind changed direction and a cloud of artificial marshmallow scent wafted in my face. I hunched over, coughing. Who’s vaping this early in the morning?
When I straightened up, the field was empty. I shrugged and continued my trek to class.
The Neo table
As unsettling as my encounters with the T-Bird were, it still paled in comparison to what stood before me: two Neo representatives at their usual table in the Nest, scanning the crowds for weakness. I would normally pass right by, but I forgot my smoothie shaker bottle on the bus that morning and needed a replacement.
Mustering some resolve, I made my way over and put on my best impressionable freshman-ready-to-feel-financially-empowered expression.
The employees immediately began pitching me their revolutionary new local sustainable vegan credit card, apparently perfect for buying avocado toast and NFTs.
“Sounds interesting,” I managed to reply. “Can I have some free stuff?”
They handed me a tote bag filled with a shaker bottle and other swag and continued with their spiel. There was something about their wording that gave me pause, though.
“It’s easy to feel thrown when dealing with big banks run by corporate hacks. No need to have everything up in the air, with Neo you’ve got your finances in the bag! Your other cards can get the sack!”
Gradually, their babble seemed to drift more and more toward a certain theme. Something fell out of my swag bag. I looked down and saw a single long feather. I had to leave.
“What are your interest rates?” I blurted out, stunning them. I sprinted off while they were still gathering their wits.
Krispy Kreme sale
Okay, yes, at this point I knew to stay away. But I couldn’t resist the Krispy Kreme sale in front of the Life Building. Should I have gone home to avoid the T-Bird? Yes. Did I want donuts? Also, yes.
I glanced around anxiously, then crept up to the table. “One dozen, please.”
I went to tap my card, but instead of the cost, the display read “VICTORY FOR BLUE AND GOLD, HAIL UBC.”
I turned to the fundraiser. “I think there’s something wrong with your card reader.”
She looked at the screen, furrowing her brow, then took out her phone. “Sorry about that, I don’t know what’s up with it. I’ll text my teammate to sort it out.”
As soon as she sent it off, a buzzing sound came from under the table. I closed my eyes, praying to Santa Ono it was just someone else’s cell phone in their backpack going off.
No such luck. The six-foot tall mascot with a giant costume head clambered out awkwardly from underneath the tablecloth, taking several minutes to squeeze out but maintaining eye contact with me the whole time.
I was frozen in dread as I stood watching.
The fundraisers opened up the Krispy Kreme dozen box, filled instead with hackysacks. They pelted my back as I fled.
After the Krispy Kreme incident, I was careful to steer clear of athletics. I avoided events, fundraisers and even student-athletes themselves. I carried around an old Pez dispenser to use as a fake asthma inhaler to ward off any recruiters.
My efforts all proved fruitless when I got an unexpected text from my friend. Apparently, he had agreed to go take photos at the next UBC basketball game for The Ubyssey, but had fallen sick at the last moment. I owed him one and couldn’t refuse.
That’s how I found myself at a basketball game, with the Thunderbird staring me down from across the court.
Determined to do my job, I ignored the bird and focused on the game. The first quarter went by fast, but it was in the second quarter that my trouble began.
The announcer’s voice rang out through the gym. “UBC is calling for a time out. It looks like they’re subbing out the centre for their school paper’s photographer, and it looks like they’re subbing out the basketball with a hackysack!”
All resolve lost, I shot up and dashed wildly toward the door. I was almost at the exit when the mascot came out of nowhere to block the doorway, hackysack in hand. Distantly, I could hear the cheerleaders chanting, “Two! Four! Six! Eight! You can’t leave us, it’s too late!”
“Please,” I begged. “I’ll buy an athletics hoodie. Just don’t make me do this!”
The T-Bird advanced, ignoring my pleas.
In my panic, I did the only thing I could think of: I yanked off the mascot’s head.
There was no one inside. Hundreds of UBC athletics risk liability waivers spilled out instead, the costume falling limply to the ground. I dropped the head, then stumbled shakily away to the boos of the crowd behind me.
I never saw that bird again, but every thunderstorm since then, I swear that the patter of the rain sounds a bit like the rattle of a bean-filled bag being tossed back and forth.
The Dingbat is The Ubyssey's humour section. You can send pitches or completed pieces to email@example.com.