spending first semester abroad in Madrid, I drove up to Syracuse last month to
spend exam week on campus.  I had
missed my friends dearly during my four-month European adventure, but the truth
is that I didn’t drive seven hours from Maryland to Syracuse because I wanted
to see them.

reason I drove all the way from my house to campus was so that they could
see the new me.

see, my close friends all know me by a few defining characteristics from my
past.  Back in my underclassman
days I was goofy at everything, clumsier than Stevie Wonder on acid and more awkward
than puberty.  In fact, whenever anyone
does something incredibly klutzy, falls down in public or gets injured while
hitting on a girl, my friends call it “getting Fershed.”  But that was the old me.

changes people. 

Over there, style and swag aren’t
an option.  They’re a
necessity.  For every American in
that country who stubbornly holds onto his baggy jeans, un-kept hair and “aw,
shucks” mentality, there’s about thirty leather-bound, greased up Spaniards
laughing at his clothes and beer gut while stealing his girlfriend.

with help from a few locals (including my 65-year-old host mom), I switched up
my wardrobe and traded in my star-spangled slouch for some European strut.  By the time the semester was over,
every inch of me oozed of confidence, flair and second-hand hairspray. 

the program ended early enough for a week-long excursion back to Syracuse
University before winter break. 
Amidst all the joyous reunions and parties among friends, it wasn’t long
before someone challenged me to my first pong game in months.  I was eager to accept. 

rusty, I was sure my new-found swag would more than offset my lack of
practice.  Besides, it was time to
prove through domination that games like pong were simply beneath me. Us
Europeans barely even bother with such child’s play.  Over there we drink like men.  Even the women. 
And especially the children.

the get-go I knew I would win the game. 
While my mind focused on important things, like European geopolitics”¦
and showing off my new hairdo, my body easily sunk shot after shot, carrying my
team on an epic comeback until each side was down to its final cup.  Then, with a chance to win the game on
a behind-the-back shot, I zeroed in on the opponents’ cup and devoted my full
attention to demonstrating that Danny 2.0 was unbeatable.

leaned back, pointed at my target, stepped toward the table and flicked my
wrist with what I thought was the perfect combination of force and accuracy to
win the game.  The ball traveled
about three inches before it bounced off my ass and directly into my own
cup.  Game over.  Not only had I lost, but I had Fershed
myself in front of all my friends in the process. 

I stood motionless at the table, staring at my cup, everyone else in the room
burst into a fit of laughter.  Even
the women.  And especially the
children.  As it turned out, Danny
2.0 is just as clumsy, goofy and awkward as the original version.