Tickling the Ivies
So tonight, I was supposed to attend an event called Dinner With Interesting People at the University of Pennsylvania. And guess what? I was going to be the interesting person!
I would have been speaking to students at Ware College House about possible careers in math education. For those of you who are interested in this subject, the Guide to Career Education is a great tool for finding courses and training programs when pursuing a math-related career. Of course, my talk was going to include more than a few jokes, including this one:
3 miles of medical tubing at the University
of Pennsylvania hospital = 1 I.V. League
Though my talk would surely have kept the audience at the edge of its seat, sadly, it had to be cancelled. That bummed me out. While the talk wouldn’t have earned me an honorary doctorate, I had planned to acquire a University of Pennsylvania sweatshirt while on campus. Which reminds me of a story.
In Possible Side Effects, writer Augusten Burroughs tells about a confrontation he had with a Harvard grad. Wearing a Harvard t‑shirt, he stepped into the elevator in his apartment building, and a woman stepped into the elevator with him. He wrote:
“Did you go to Harvard?” some bitch I’d never seen before in the elevator of my building asked. Something in her tone almost made it sound like, “You didn’t go to Harvard.” That tiniest note of accusation put me on the defensive. But I also loathed the idea of speaking to her just because of her smug haircut.
“Uh, no,” I admitted. “I just…” and let the sentence die in my mouth, hoping I wouldn’t have to explain why.
“Just what?” she said, now crossing her arms across her chest. She was smiling, but it was clearly a hostile smile.
“Well, I just like college t‑shirts,” I said. And I smiled, too. But I did so in a way that I hoped make me look friendly and not terribly intelligent. Thus, harmless.
“Don’t you think that’s a little deceptive?” she asked.
“Deceptive?” I said.
“Like telling someone you’re a doctor or a police officer when you’re nothing of the kind.”
Like many people in New York City, she was bossy and had a raging sense of entitlement. “Well,” I said, darker now. “I don’t think it’s any more deceptive than wearing four‑inch come‑f**k‑me pumps when one has no intention of ever f**king anybody.” I smirked and looked down at her pumps, then at her pinched, tight little spinster mouth.
That shut her up, and she walked out of the elevator. I could feel the heat of resentment wafting off her flesh.
And I felt guilty. Because the truth is, not only did I not go to Harvard, I didn’t even go to high school.
Truth is, if people saw me in a Penn sweatshirt and assumed that I was a Penn grad, I’d probably have felt a little guilty, too. “No,” I’d have to explain. “I’m actually a graduate of Penn State. We may not be as smart, but we’ve got a much better football team.” So maybe it’s for the best that the talk was cancelled…