The Ark

Whatever floats your boat...

Today is the day that the campus I work at will be billowing with caps and gowns. I feel a compulsion to greet every student wearing a gown with heartfelt congratulations, even though most of them are self-absorbed on
this day and don't even make eye contact. Their parents follow them around
toting floral arrangements that probably cost what I spend on groceries in a
month. I love this day, because I love my job as an academic advisor and seeing
those gowns makes me feel like what I do counts to someone maybe.

Waiting at the stop for the shuttle that would take me up to campus were a
graduating student accompanied by his parents who were wearing expensive
cameras as neck jewelry, and his elderly grandparents. It's a prestigious
campus that I work for. Many of the students who attend look like they not only
come from money, but from old money.
When I look at the names of the students I advise, I routinely see the surnames
of well-known politicians. This particular kid was the epitome of cockiness.
Everything in his resting facial expression and posture radiated pride that has
never had a fall. I speculated about his future, about what kind of tumble will
wipe that smirk off his face, and then I felt petty for wanting it to come to
him soon.

He was talking to his parents about his new job, a job in which he will have
some kind of supervisory authority. I've had the unpleasant experience of being
interviewed for jobs by a few of his kind. Regardless of the words that come
out of their mouths, what they really say to you is "if you become my
employee, you will have a dick for a boss."

Meanwhile, a weathered couple in late middle age boarded the shuttle,
apparently on their way to meet their child. They looked a little uncomfortable
being dressed up in what are probably their nicest clothes, even though their
best was indistinguishable from what most university employees are wearing on
casual Friday. The dad was holding a partly peeled banana for his wife in one
hand, in the other hand a bouquet of wild flowers he had placed in an empty
water bottle, the stems sealed to the bottle lip with masking tape so that the
water wouldn't spill out.

I had another janitor dream recently. For the first 15 years of my adulthood, I
worked as a night janitor while I put myself through school. I am not only the
sole member of my family to ever graduate from college, I am the only member of
my family to even finish high school. The struggle was worth it, totally worth
it. I live a charmed life now, a life that allows me to work in the service of
education, but I still have dreams occasionally that I am a janitor again.
Something about the sight of those wildflowers taped to the water bottle made my
eyes well up and made me want to hug that couple. Kiss them too.

"The thing that most concerns me," continued the cocky new supervisor
to his parents, "is getting people in that I can trust. It's a political
environment but I need people who will leave their politics out of the
job." He sniffed for punctuation, and then he said, "But I don't
think I'll have any problem. It's my experience that people are like trained
animals. When you reward them, they'll perform."

"Honey, that's what that man who trained those tigers thought," said
his mother.

Indeed. Happy graduation day, kiddo. Welcome to the world of tigers.

Views: 8

Comment by NatureJunkie on May 14, 2010 at 7:00pm
Thank you, Strawman. Thanks for reading.
Comment by photo2010 on May 15, 2010 at 11:51pm
At least the little prigs Mother seems to have a toe in the real world with the "tigers" remark. I worked at a private university for 18 years that had its' share of those entitled future CEO's. However there seemed to be a fair number of kids with a social conscience. i did find it to be a highly political, dog-eat-dog environment in general.
Comment by NatureJunkie on May 16, 2010 at 4:21pm
@NBC: The social progressive in me believes that public higher education should be free to all, and academic merit alone should determine who gets to go to the better funded research institutions, because a nation's most valuable resource is an educated populace. But I know that had my education been simply handed to me, I would not have appreciated it nearly so much. Because I had to work so hard for it, my education was an incredibly sweet achievement. It was not fair that I had to wait until I was 35 to complete my education and get a career underway, but I count myself far luckier than my privileged counterparts who have no understanding of what they missed. "Understanding the effort which goes into earning things is a character building mechanism which perhaps is out of the reach of students like this new graduate." Wish I had said that.
Comment by NatureJunkie on May 16, 2010 at 4:26pm
@ photo2010: Yes, my brief assessment of his parents, based on their body language, conversation, and especially the mother's comment, led me to believe they were quite grounded in the real world. I'm not a parent, so I've never had to dance that fine line between wanting to protect your child from all the possible harms that life will do to them, and letting them learn what only experience can teach them.

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