My alma mater, [tag]St. Mary’s College of Maryland[/tag] is now offering a graduate program with MAs and PhDs in an assortment of arts and sciences. In the (true?) St. Mary’s spirit, it’s a remarkably rigorous program (on paper at least) and folks are competing rather aggressively to get in. An announcement has gone out that the college has announced that up to 50% of the graduate students admitted in the first year will be [tag]SMCM[/tag] alumni. And (naturally?) hundreds of St. Mary’s grads have applied for the graduate program — looking to do everything from local historical work to advanced CompSci work to (in my case) creative writing. Rumor has reached me that I’ll have a paritcularly tough time. In the current political climate, they’re leaning very heavily toward the hard sciences. The chemistry students, the physics nerds, the compsci geeks – – those are the folks more than likely to get the nod. I’ve got some moral support behind me – – A (for example) and the advisors from my SMP committee. But all things considered, I feel extremely lucky to have made the first cut. Over a thousand grads applied and only 100 got invited to the “second cut” seminar-slash-reception.
I get an anonymous tip that become my sleeve’s ace though: the head of the graduate committee is a young Mandy Sauers (the same Mandy that I went to high school with?) that happens to also be the daughter of one of my high school social studies teachers, Mr. Adams! (Some secret relation, perhaps?)
It would take some maneuvering but this would be the way to do it.
I arrive at the reception well dressed but feeling underdressed. (I have on a shirt/tie but no jacket. And my tie certainly underscores my sense of ironic humor.) I take my seat among the rest of the grads, positioned somewhere in the middle of some long banquet table. I’m seated among faces that should be familiar but aren’t. Everyone seems far more excited to be here than I am and I wonder if it’s the prospect and its underlying implications that excite them or just the pageantry of the whole affair? Anyone that dressed up is just here for the pageantry, I decide. There’s only a handful of professors here — a dozen tops — but I feel fortunate that among them are some familiar faces (Joanne Klein, Jeff Coleman, Andy Kozak). Administration couldn’t keep them out!
The whole thing is done up as this buffet style reception with staggered announcements, bulletins, presentations, and other assorted soliloquies by folks that carry official titles with the institution. The problem (for me) is that there’s been no way to get a clear shot at Dr. Sauers (who still looks 17, by the way). I make the first pass through the buffet line, scooping up savory appetizer type items. I try to load up on these. I have a premonition about the entree and don’t know if I want to go there. It’s likely to be not-so-good and if I become a straggler in that buffet line, that will give me the opportunity that I’m looking for. Except that after the third or fourth dull monlogue about what the grad college’s intentions are, the buffet has been reconfigured for entree-mode and is sending over aromas that are just too tempting to pass up. That and my left-side neighbor has engaged me in quiet, wry commentary that illuminates her as “not just another applicant” (a true St. Mary’s misfit!) So when the PowerPoint fades to black and we’re issued the command to fetch our entrees, I’m torn.
Breaking the conversation w/ Her now may compromise what kinship I have started to develop here.
Not heading to the buffet line may result in me not getting the decent meal that the smells promise.
Not snagging Dr. Sauers out of the crowd could turn this whole episode into a wash.
So I gesture to my new friend – – be with you in a sec, save me a space – – ha! perfect solution! – – and jam my way through the scurrying crowd to within a safe distance of Dr. Sauers. I make my quick introduction, trying not to jump immediately to my coup de grace. She seems to shrug with her blank stare. She maintains a professional detachment. She doesn’t want to compromise the situation, display any recognition or hint of preference. But there is that slight hint of acknowledgement when I mention Mr. Adams. The connection made, I excuse myself and at least get the …come find me later… before hurrying myself off to my saved place in line.
Except that the line has started to thicken and retreat into the hallway of a building that has now become a boat.