In my five years as the Gazette-Times’ education reporter I’ve learned that the secret to covering graduation ceremonies is to leave early.
The presentation of the diplomas is usually a good time to slip out: you dodge traffic and buy yourself a lot of extra time to meet deadline. It’s an efficient system, if unsentimental.
But this year, I decided to stay till the end of Corvallis High School’s graduation ceremony at Gill Coliseum Friday night. No, it wasn’t because I’m less of a grouchy cynic than in years past. I’m as much of a curmudgeon as ever, in fact. Maybe more.
Instead, I wanted to test whether the Corvallis School District’s decision to space out the Corvallis High and Crescent Valley graduations by two and a half hours really gave someone enough time to attend both ceremonies, something that’s been impossible in past years when the ceremonies started just 90 minutes apart.
So I spent the 35 minutes it took to award diplomas to each of Corvallis High's 330 graduates admiring the decorations the graduating seniors had affixed to their caps. A few favorites included a three-dimensional garden scene complete with a working swing set, a stuffed flying pig plush, and a princess crown. And an honorable mention to the girl whose cap said “Cavs in 7” on top, whose prediction that the Cleveland Cavaliers would rally to win the NBA finals was proven incorrect at about the same time as the ceremony concluded.
As I finally left CHS’ ceremony I tried to dawdle a little, to account for time a hypothetical person trying to attend both ceremonies might spend talking to a graduate.
As I walked away from Gill, Corvallis Superintendent Ryan Noss guessed correctly I was making the same trip to Crescent Valley he was.
“You have 40 minutes, Anthony,” he said.
I explained to him my experiment to see if it was possible to attend both ceremonies.
“It’s pretty possible,” he said, noting that this would be the first year he got to attend both ceremonies (in the past he and Assistant Superintendent Kevin Bogatin have traded off which ceremonies they attended).
With Oregon State University’s baseball team at home Friday afternoon, parking had been pretty bad when I got to campus and I had a long walk to my car. By the time I drove away from campus, I still had more than 30 minutes until the 7:30 p.m. start time of the Crescent Valley graduation.
I made it to Crescent Valley’s parking lot by 7:12, but guessed based on the number of cars circling the lot that I needed to find parking elsewhere. I was going to park on Northwest Crescent Valley Drive near the softball field when I saw some folks trying to push a car out of the ditch; the driver had been unlucky enough to discover that the remaining bits of that section of road without cars weren’t wide enough for safe parking.
I eventually parked in a wider spot on the road about a third of a mile from the school and walked to the school in the soaking rain. At one point, I realized one of my feet was wet and it occurred to me that this was the first time I’d walked in the rain I wore a hole through the sole of my signature Adidas Sambas sneakers a couple weeks ago. While I’d found it funny at the time I discovered the hole, it was less funny when my sock was absorbing approximately a half gallon of water.
I took the time to help a student’s lost grandparents find the gym where the graduation ceremony was taking place, but I still arrived five minutes before the ceremony started.
I wandered into the gym, wanting to tell someone the results of my experiment. Gazette-Times photographer Amanda Loman spotted me.
“You look like a drowned rat,” she said.
I explained to her my experiment, and boastfully concluded: “I did it with five minutes to spare."
“But at what cost, Anthony?” she said wryly. “At what cost?”
I pondered that as I left the gym with the procession music starting behind me, and a long wet slog back to my car in front of me.