Chad said no
I went to bible college and believe it or not, it was magic, pure and sweet.
Bible college was magical the same way summer camp can be. Summer camp is magical because you’re young and for the first time in your life, you get to test the boundaries of what is permitted to you in your everyday life. You get to sneak away from authority and out into the woods to be unsupervised.
My first bible college — yes, I had more than one — was situated under the cover of clouds and redwoods off of highway 17 outside of Santa Cruz, California. Much like summer camp, Bethany University was full of insecure virgins testing the limits of authority, belief and identity for the first time in their lives. I was one of those insecure virgins and I had this friend named Chad.
Chad was not insecure. I cannot speak to the other thing. If not for Chad, the hardest time I have ever laughed in my life would be a stupid story about my best friend’s wife making fun of his bowel movements. Thankfully, I don’t have to tell you that story because Chad likes basketball.
The summer before my freshman year, the cafeteria at Bethany University burnt to the ground. I’m not doing a literary thing. Most of the time, when buildings catch fire, people and professional fire fighters both care enough and are equipped with the means to stop the flames. I don’t know what happened at Bethany when the building caught fire but ‘damaged by fire’ and ‘completely destroyed’ are two different things, is my point. We literally didn’t have a cafeteria; we had a fenced off black spot where a cafeteria used to be. We ate in the chapel and held chapel in the theater. We called the chapel the chapeteria. Well, knobs did. The more sophisticated of the student body referred to it as the chafé.
We called the theater the theater.
There were always at least three hills between where you were and where you needed to be, not to mention the patches of earth and groups of still invincible late teenagers (with their hair and their music) who were chasing that next sweet, Holy Spirit high. And between the times you spent getting from between where you were and where you needed to be, you would convince one of your friends to stay behind and sign the rest of you in for chapel credit or climb trees or visit the fort you named Shanty Town that you built on the roof of the library. You would fill your time with oddity because Bethany was an odd place. Take my dorm, for example:
Burnett Hall was one of five dormitories on campus. Burnett was special, though. It was the only dorm dedicated to men. I don’t know how your school worked but at mine, boys and girls couldn’t be together because Jesus wouldn’t have wanted that. I would point you to the story of the woman at the well for evidence. It’s in John, if you care. (It’s a story about Jesus hanging out with a loose woman by himself. I’m being sarcastic.)
Yes, Bethany had a four-to-one ratio of women to men. But trust me, you’re not thinking it through. It was said of Bethany long before my cohort arrived that the odds are good but the goods are odd. Regardless of the quality of the women on campus, you would think that a four-to-one, women to men ration would unite the males on campus.
It did not.
Burnett Hall was comprised of 85 rooms divided equally on two floors. The third floor was located on the second story of the building, the second floor was on the first floor and the first floor was an entire apartment, multiple rooms, a kitchen and a private bathroom located in the basement, and also not? Because the building was built into and on top of a hill.
See what I mean about Bethany being and odd place?
I lived in room 316. 316 was the farthest room from the center of campus. Seriously, I measured one day. My room was literally the northern most room on campus and, for reasons unknown to me, we called our half of the third floor West Side. The southern half of the third/second floor was called East Side. No one cared about what anyone from the second/first floor called themselves and the guy who lived in the basement apartment was also the guy who told us all what to do so we didn’t bother him.
There was a friendly animosity between West Side and East Side.
Chad changed that forever.
In our sophomore year, Chad lived directly across the hall, or east, from me in room 315. Chad was supposed to live there by himself because he was the resident advisor for the northern half of the third floor of Burnett hall, or, once again, what we called West Side.
Chad said yes! Chad said yes! Chad said yes!
This was something that was chanted around the dorm from time to time because one time, a bunch of my friends and I wanted chicken wings or a snack or something. Chad was in this close friend group, but Chad took his studying seriously. I discovered pretty early on in college that if I read before I go to bed and wake up twenty minutes early the next day, I could do any assignment given me and I didn’t really have to try. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying there’s probably a reason no one cares about your college degree. College is too easy. Anyway, we always had to convince Chad to drop whatever he was doing and go out with us. Chad said yes one night and we left Burnett chanting so. The chant continued and became an inside joke or sorts, as these things tend to become.
Both West Side and East Side residents would chant Chad said yes but it felt as though every time people from East Side chanted, they were doing so ironically. This grew and went on for about a year.
It was an intramural basketball game.
These games were packed. I swear, intramural games were more exciting than the real games. We, the students, for the most part, tended to like each other. The real basketball players did not. So the students would pack the gym out during intramural games and usually have something else to do when the Bruins were officially playing.
It was a fine game, exciting enough. It was good to be gathered together watching. Most people would hop around the stands from friend group to friend group and click to click throughout the game. The game was really just an excuse to have one big group hang.
Chad was playing. Chad is a fire fighter now and he could have been one back then too. (Maybe he could have saved our cafeteria if he’d been there.) Here’s what made me laugh harder than any other time in my life:
Chad was guarding the net. Chad’s not short, but he’s not tall either. He’s got the build of a point guard. And what Chad lacks in vertical achievement he more than makes up for in the righteous ability to win out in any hardship that would otherwise crush an ordinary man.
I don’t remember who, but someone went up for a shot. Chad, God love him, left the gravitational pull of the planet and stuffed the rock back down to the earth with such vigor that it must have rivaled the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs.
The entire room fell silent.
We were genuinely in awe. Then, some hero, some unknown comedian — I’ll never know who — broke through. In a sheepish, innocent and unknowingly brilliant voice it was called out for us all to hear:
Chad said no…
I, to this day, have never been in a room that had every living person gasping for air and laughing as hard as they could.
Chad said no! Chad said no! Chad said no!
This was the new phrase chanted by men and women, nerds and popular kids for the rest of the year. Chad not only united West Side and East Side, he brought the entire school together.
Bethany closed that summer and I am sure that Chad said no was the last thing to ever be chanted on that campus.