Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good ol' Kafka University tells me I never graduated

Imagine that you're an established professional of many years. You get nostalgic for the days of yore and go to your alma mater's Web site, find that unlike every other school, they don't sell bumperstickers and other alum stuff. Then you see an offer of a free alum card ...

I can't resist a freebie. With this card I can go use the gym for free. Of course, the trip there would cost a bit, what with the two-hour flight (or was it three?) from my present lair to the haunts where I wrote faux-beat poetry.

But then, a kindly soul in the alumni office tells me that there doesn't seem to be a record of my graduation. I knew there was a reason they wouldn't admit me to MIT's PhD program in rocket science!

All these years I thought I was at least a university graduate. Do note: in Canada, my spiritual homeland, we go to "university," not merely "college." And in Montreal they have (had?) something called Collège d'Enseignement Général Et Professionnel, that everyone calls merely CEGEP (say-JEHP), so that a B.A. or B.S. takes five years, not four.

That's one way to keep youth unemployment down, eh?

Anyway, by now we've exchanged the requisite correspondence and thanks to VG and AR (you know who you are) I have just had my Dustin Hoffman moment: I'm a graduate!

OK, so it's 35 years later, but who's counting when you're having fun.

Kafka University prepared me well for life. I've had my identity stolen years before anyone knew of such a thing (try to imagine a Social Security Administration staffer showing you your record, then asking, "Are you sure that's not your mother?").

I am a walking, talking opposite profile of The Unknown Citizen, of whom W.H. Auden wrote
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint
Yet my record keepers at Kafka University, along with the denizens of various bureaucracies through which I have traversed, unwillingly likely share the view Auden's citizen-keepers
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

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