Tampons and Flubber

“What the hell are you talking about woman?”

Fall, 1996.  I left Dartmouth behind for an exchange term at

Some say the West Coast is the best coast.  I say it’s expensive.  I arrived on campus with very little money to my name.  My books alone were $300 and I had to take out a loan to pay for them.  And where did those lessons in Medieval Japanese History, Literature & Cinema, and Arthurian Literature take me?  Right into a second bachelors degree several years later.

But it’s the life lessons – LIFE EXPERIENCES – that are priceless!  For example, guess who was enrolled in my lit and film class?  Fred Savage.  Kevin Arnold in the flesh.  Priceless.

Anyway, did I mention I was poor?

“How poor were you?”

My funds were so low I had to scrape together change and then trek to the campus convenience store and exchange the change for dimes.  Why dimes?  Because a tampon vending machine at Green Library took dimes.  Paying for tampons one dime at a time was much cheaper than buying a box.  Apologies if you needed a tampon during a library run.  I’m fairly certain I took them all.  I could have made a doll-sized log cabin out of the cardboard tubes the tampons came in.  Yet somehow I managed to have enough money to buy a pack of Marlboro Lights…

But I did happen to snag a job while I was on campus.  A Disney movie was filming a couple of scenes at Stanford and a classmate of mine convinced me to go with her to the casting call for student extras.  We were both cast in two scenes as fans of the rival basketball team in “Flubber” starring Robin Williams.  Robin Williams!  Priceless!

Both nights of filming took hours.  All night essentially.  On the first night had to walk back and forth, back and forth, pretending to talk while acting sad and dejected because our team lost.  We would mouth words while waving our arms around because sound would be added later in the studio.

All of this silent “acting” was performed amid piles of fake fallen leaves.  Sprays of fake maple leaves hung from lights and trees and large fans blew strategically placed leaves in our path.  This was California, land of palm trees, so the grounds were camouflaged to resemble a New England college town.

What a surreal experience.

And then…Robin Williams came out!  He stood less than 30 feet away from me and repeated take after take after take.  He improvised between takes.  He joked with people around him.  Then the actor’s stand-ins came out and we had to repeat the process again.  And again.  Lighting check.  Camera check.  Repeat.  The glamorous life of a movie extra.

The next night of filming took place inside the basketball gym and we had to stand up to cheer in unison on cue.  At least we were warm but there was no Robin Williams.

In the end my short-lived acting career netted me over $100 of much needed money.  I have never seen the movie because I heard it’s terrible.  Too bad.  If I had more scenes maybe I could have saved it.

And I’m not sure what I spent my money on.  Probably not a box of tampons.


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