On Nights Out At The Students Union

So, I’ve mentioned going out to the Students’ Union several times, but I don’t think I’ve ever really covered what that entails.

My university doesn’t really have what you’d call a thriving social scene. Unless you want to head out to Liquid Windsor (referred to by some people as ‘Shitquid’) or pay the exorbitant train/taxi fees to get into London and then have to make it home again, your best options for a night out are one of the local pubs (all three of them), the on-campus strip club night club/bar/pub, or the Students’ Union on a Wednesday or Friday night.

Let me just diverge a little bit here. What utter genius came up with the idea of holding all the biggest student nights on a Wednesday? The logic is just so sound. After all, who really needs to go to lectures on a Thursday? And who has such a busy weekend that they desperately need that early night on Friday or Saturday, so no major events can be held on those days? Obviously there must be a very sound and well-thought-out reason that I just cannot seem to think of right now.

Anyway, back to nights out at the Students’ Union. We don’t have a horrendously bad SU. We have a good sized space which can be turned into a nightclub. We have two bars (though one only serves VK, so it doesn’t count. No, I don’t care how many colours flavours of VK it serves; they’re all 4% liquid sugar in plastic bottles because no one can be trusted with glass, and they’re only going to wind up being thrown at your legs when people who should really know better than to buy four at a time decide that three times your GDA of sugar mixed with alcohol isn’t actually the brightest idea). We have…music (it’s a lottery when it comes to the standard of music being played, and the quality of the DJ playing said music). We even have a hot dog stand (for when you’re actually that desperate for the guy in the white shirt to notice you so you stand in his general vicinity putting as much decidedly over-broiled sausage smothered in not-really-ketchup into your mouth in one go while not gagging as loudly as possible).

Nights out at the SU normally start around 6pm for me, when I fling half my clothes onto my bed. I extract the ones that I want to be able to wear again, ever, and put them back in my wardrobe, before settling for something that leaves as little as possible to the imagination (the SU is no place for subtlety). I have a shower, not that there’s much point because you’re guaranteed to leave the SU smelling like the unfortunate offspring of a beer barrel and a sweaty cigarette. Makeup is carefully applied until I look nothing like I normally do during the day (it’s actually quite amusing how many people I meet on a night out fail to recognise me during the day).

I then head over to my friend’s flat, where we have maybe a glass of wine or a shot of whisky. I’m not a big drinker, but it helps to assuage the feelings of “Oh god, what am I letting myself in for” that normally hit a sober person when they see the Students’ Union.

By about 10.30pm, we are sufficiently bored with discussing the shortcomings of our coursemates, our respective flatmates and the male population at large and we head over to the SU. It’s usually freezing. I usually don’t bring a jacket (it’s £2 to put a jacket in the coat room and I am a penniless student. Plus, it’s only just up the hill. I’ll be fine. Seriously, it’s not that far. I’ll walk fast).

There’s never a queue at this time, because everyone else is too busy trying to cram as much alcohol in as possible so that a) they don’t have to go to the SU sober, and b) they don’t have to pay the exorbitant prices for plastic bottles of fermented sugar (see the VK rant above). There’s about thirty people inside the entrance, refusing to make eye contact with anyone else and thus be forced to acknowledge that they have nothing better to do with their evening than turn up early to the Students’ Union. Space is usually at a premium next to the sliding doors that separate the main bar from the main dancefloor, because this isn’t opened until about 11pm and you have to be very, very drunk to think that dancing in the entranceway near the fluorescent lights and in full view of the queue is a good idea.

Once the main area of the SU is opened up, it suddenly gets very full very fast. We’ll make our way to halfway between the exit (where there’s the most space for dancing) and the back corner of the auditorium (where the  potentially available males congregate). Our dancing is usually on the extravagant side. On the one hand, we need to attract the boys so we use techniques not dissimilar to the mating rituals of tropical birds; lots of flashy movements and flapping. On the other hand, there is always a plethora of girls whose height doesn’t exceed 5 foot 2 on top of the stilts they’ve strapped to their feet, so threat displays are also necessary. You haven’t seen a threat display until you’ve seen a highly sexualised version of the funky chicken performed directly in front of another girl who’s head is on the same level as your elbows.

We have a specific circuit around the SU. Once we’re bored of dancing/have overheated/have spotted that guy we saw last week heading for the bar/have had it up to here with being bathed in VK and sweat we’ll decide we need a drink of water and make our way to the bar. If it’s busy, we’ll wait for 40 minutes behind an installation called ‘200 Students Jostle For A Space At The Bar That Is Not Forthcoming’. If we’re lucky, a guy at the front will offer to order our drinks. If we’re desperate, we will form a phalanx of elbows and not rest until we’ve got a fingertip firmly lodged on the bar. If we’re fed up, we’ll give in and head outside to the smoking area.

The smoking area is a freezing, fenced off space in front of the SU with three benches and some bike racks for sitting on. The fences are wire mesh, so the queues waiting to get in can enjoy the sight of a cage of drunken students, Studius inebrius, in captivity. My friend and I have our spot to one side, up a slight slope, where we can survey the crowd and quietly judge the girls who’ve succeeded in pulling whichever poor, unfortunate souls we have our eyes on that night. Eventually the cold/sight of someone we have a crush on making out with someone who isn’t us/sight of someone we had a crush on last week and who blew it spectacularly will drive us back inside to dance.

Repeat ad nauseam until one of us makes it into the arms of a guy who will perform a swan dive onto your face and attempt to make off with your tongue, or until both of us are so far beyond sober that we can no longer overlook the fact that the music is rubbish and all the good ones have gone home (usually with the cow in the leather miniskirt). One of us will then dig our phone out from somewhere in the region of an armpit, wipe off the sweat, check the time and then gurn at the other until the other person agrees to go home.

I think it says something about the unavoidable mentality of studenthood that despite all of this, nights out at the SU are still considered a good time.


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