Rag is a magical event on the university calendar. It seduces the veteran students, persuading them to come back in droves despite the early morning lectures, semester tests and exams that will inevitably ensue. But as first years, you don’t need any motivation whatsoever. It’s all new and bright, like the route the procession with be travelling this year, and the reality of student life is still glazed with novelty. You will soon realise, however, that this is about survival. Every post-Rag is littered with what we call Rag injuries. In light of this fact, here’s Perdeby’s guide to Rag (whether you’re in the procession or out) so that you can reach the after-party intact and, more importantly, alive.
Shoes: Your fingers might be blistered, bruised or lame from blommetjies vou and if you’re not careful, your feet will suffer the same fate. Wear closed shoes and avoid slip-ons or flip flops unless you’re more confident than the weather bureau that it won’t rain. You’ll land up walking barefoot – which is fine, until you’re peeling the skin off your feet for a week.
Cheating for charity: You’ve just escaped your parents’ authority, which means you’ll probably thrive on the illusion that you have ultimate independence (you’ll realise your mistake when you run out of money). But Rag is the time for an early rendezvous with the folks, with an alternate agenda of course. Just ask them to bring lots of change. It will save you time begging from people and chances are your parents will bring enough to donate to a bunch of other first years shaking their silver cans. Do it for the charities.
Hydrate: Don’t forget to bring something to drink. You’ll be walking for most of the day so it might be a good idea if you want to make it to the finish line. That’s where the party really starts. Don’t be a fool and miss it for a little water you never had.
A sense of humour: You’ll need one. If the lovely people on the side of the road have no qualms about hugging and harassing police officers, well then, you don’t stand a chance. Be nice and polite and if you’re feeling uncomfortable, scuttle off or ask someone for help. You’re surrounded by your brethren so it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid any major run-ins.
Stranger danger: You know when you were little and your mother told you not to take sweets from strangers? Now that you’re older, the rule is don’t take drinks from strangers. This might seem obvious until you ignore the section on hydration. Or you think it’s smart to circumnavigate the rules and get trashed anyway, with a little help from the spectators. Don’t be taken in by the friendly smiles – they’re really drinking the equivalent of petrol. You’ve been warned.
The call of nature: It happens, or, more specifically, it will happen. A lot. Especially once the seal has been broken and you’re eyeing every bush, evaluating the possibilities for discreet relief. Rather set up your site early and get a location close to a garage. It helps, certainly for the ladies. Squatting in a ditch is something to be avoided – everyone else probably has the same idea so expect awkward social situations if you don’t heed Perdeby’s warning.
Punch: This is the best way to get the festivities started – and it’s cheaper when done in a group. Get creative and name it. Perdeby has its own brand called Nuclear Reactor. Now Perdeby is in no way encouraging your inebriation. We’re just practical and thrifty. You should read the sections under “The police” and “After the floats”, though. Happy mixing, kids.
Undercover: Whether it’s raining or the sun is blazing, a gazebo or shade under a tree won’t go unappreciated. Alcohol and sun aren’t known to play nice and if you want your endurance to last well into the night, take care. We say this now so that you don’t consider it after the punch. It will, undoubtedly, be too late.
The police: Somehow, every single year, people suddenly lose their reverence for our police force and treat them more like old friends rather than people who have the power to arrest you. And they will. Be respectful. The officers are usually friendly until someone thinks it’s great to steal a police hat or start messing with their motorcycles. You’ll have plenty of time to mull over your actions in a cell.
After the floats: Now, it’s a line you’ve heard from all factions of society: don’t drink and drive. But this is a pretty serious consideration in light of the epic punch you’ll be making. Make sure someone is sober enough to drive. Also, keep off the road after the floats have passed. Everyone is eager to get to the Square and people have been knocked down by cars before. You are not invincible, even if you’ve had half a bottle of tequila. Make peace with it and live to see another sunny day in the capital city.
Photos: Michelle Prince and Gerhard Louw