When I graduated from college, I was a very confused nut. They told me that since I was educated in the Humanities now, I had the broad picture of life. The theory was that, amid all those practical, near-sighted automatons who’d opted to attend technical school, I alone possessed sufficient vision to define the true parameters of man’s social, moral, and ecological condition. And I can still recall vividly the commencement ceremonies when the dean waxed eloquent on the great challenges which faced us as we went out into the world with our parchments and our purple cardboard hats. It was the same night they found Eddie Fishbein, a credit-laden senior, curled up in his dorm closet with one thumb in his mouth and a sweat drenched security blanket wrapped tightly around his neck.
Understandably even more distressed by the prospect of the competitive unknown, I soon became sullen, morose, and saddened to learn that my Alma Mater had betrayed me by not telling us about the injustice which allowed someone who could recite Shakespeare, Byron, and Yeats to lose out to some YUTZ who happened to know his way around certain bathroom plumbing fixtures. Here was I, able to grasp the really significant essentials of postmodern film, the art of Phyllis Diller, and the reign of Genghis Khan, reduced to trudging the city in search of beer cans, while investing my hard-earned assets in a diversified portfolio of lottery tickets and bingo cards. Would I make it? I wondered anxiously. Would I be forced to take up residence in a dumpster and start eating re-refried beans? Would the student loan officers from my Alma Mater attend my funeral and hold a pocket mirror to my nose? In the throes of my disillusionment, it all seemed highly probable.
Luckily, that was when I got lost while searching for a restroom at the US Tennis Open. Evoking some bizarre set of circumstances, then, I was immediately mistaken for a tennis player due to my resemblance to an NBA cross-dresser. Evidently the man hadn’t shown and was presumed withdrawn. The official I addressed in the hallway as “Bud–hey Bud!” responded before I could complete my question by laughing and wringing my hand. The upshot is that he ushered me into this room where the pros were sitting around sipping grape Koolaids and discussing the cons of their investments. Now, not only did I have a job, but a few friends as well.
I wouldn’t say it was sheer LUCK which enabled me to reach the second round. Even though my opponent made more unforced errors than McDonalds has commercials, I WAS pretty high on adrenaline. For instance, we were already three games into the match before I realized the warmups were over. And then some of my service returns had this knack for hitting the tape and rolling over on his side like a prophetic yo-yo too. Toward the end there’d be sparks spurting up all over the forecourt as he tried to scoop the dead balls back. The topper, though, was when I miss-hit match point into a lob which caught the back of the baseline and placed my luckless opponent within slapping radius of our resigning chair umpire.
Back in the locker room afterward, I was accosted by several autograph seekers of the racket manufacturing ilk. They wanted to know why I’d changed playing hands in mid-career, and if this meant I’d be changing rackets too. Muttering something under my breath about a new go-for-broke strategy, I managed to con several commentators into spouting one-liners about my revolutionary style eventually “doing to Laver what McEnroe’s serve-and-volley later did to Borg.” This was particularly satisfying in that before then I wouldn’t have been able to get a passing shot past a ball machine.
Here was poetic justice at last, I reasoned. Too bad the outcome of my second round established the record as being the only love match in history when I was ousted by the 98th seed–a defrocked ex-priest who nonetheless kneeled in supplication before serving four consecutive aces. I think it was at the 6–0, 5–0 point that I also began to suspect that my opponent had the psychological edge, much like Freud had over Skinner. When the linesmen and ballgirls began heckling me, I was sure of it. Regretfully, there’d been little time for me to brush up on the paperback I’d found in my locker room, INTERMEDIATE TENNIS: RELIEF FOR THE FRUSTRATED BEGINNER. Now I’d either have to fill out an application as night shift relief at the nearest Di-Quickie Mart, or try entering the Papua New Guinea Open, hoping I’d get into the finals because no one else knew how to get there. Since I had no money for plane fare, I decided on the former.
It wasn’t long before I began to realize that although being a jack-of-all-trades has its perks (one can always brag about being a ‘master-of-none’), I was somehow missing out on obtaining fulfilling employment and its subsequent burnout, and that if only I’d majored in Banking or Computers, I wouldn’t be sitting around evenings contemplating the BIG QUESTIONS with Pan Pizza on my breath, but I’d be talking private condos in Big Sur, and maybe going on monthly junkets to the Cayman Islands to launder my petty cash.
To make this protracted story shorter, I eventually began attending spy school, and before long I was feeling much better about my future. That is, until several dishwashers told me about another course at the school titled Poetic Devices And Their Application In Government And Industry. The course instructor was Dr. Percy Snodgrass, former curriculum director at my Alma Mater.