(note: originally posted to my MySpace account)
For those of you who don't know, I have spent a lot of time and money in college. I'm behind the eight ball on student loans to the tune of 70 grand. I did manage to get two pieces of paper out of the deal, however (a B.S. in "bs", and a M.S. in ICS, in case you were wondering).
When I was in high school, I didn't think I wanted to go to college. I was a sophomore then, and I thought somehow I was going to find my way out of obscurity with my own special blend of awkwardness and social ignorance. I guess I figured I'd be some kind of guitar-wielding, cancer-curing, Statue of David-like, millionaire-about-town; without a great deal of training of course (after all, Pauley Shore could land a paycheck!).
Oddly, it wasn't the realization that being extraordinary means actually offering something extraordinary that made me change my mind on college. I didn't have an Epiphany at a frat party when I was a junior in high school (although, I wish I had, she was hot!). It wasn't even some sort of "Scared Straight" situation at the county jail (I was nary the troublemaker at that stage that I have become).
Post script: did you notice the cool use of the word "nary" in the previous sentence. Yeah. You're rockin' "nary", baby. I know you are.
Anyway, the thing that caused the "one-eighty" on academia and all the such was McDonald's. Yeah. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra-Value meal ("Super-Sized", of course because I was young and I could double that order three times a day and still not top a buck fifty soaking wet!)
You see, back in the day they had ridiculous cash registers at the Sturgis Michigan Mickey D's. Instead of having a normal keypad like you would have on a calculator or a cell phone…(which are actually not the same as a calculator has the one at the bottom row of three keys and the cell phone has it at the top of the keyboard. ….Go ahead, go check. I'll wait….Ok, you ready to continue? OK)….
These cash registers had the numbers in a row, from top to bottom, on the right side of the device. The rest of the keyboard must have had some sort of "U-571", ultra-super-secret code on it. The McDonald's operatives were well trained in this code. So I placed my order. …I did. …Trust me. And the total for the order came to something like $4.95 (I SAID, "back in the day"!!!). I handed the polyester-clad, 20-something cashier a twenty. I could tell that his rudimentary grasp of fundamental math had kicked in; as a slow motion replay of the moment in my mind has him slowly scratching his temple before his eyes gain saucer-like diameter and a smile broadens his face in a moment of absolute clarity. He knew it. He owned it. "A ten, a five, and the 'nick'. I don't need to punch that in. As long as I give the right amount of change and punch it in as cash, the drawer will balance at the end of my reign. I could simply dink that cash button and run my finger aggressively down the numbers on the right hand side of this keyboard, give this strikingly-handsome young man his well-deserved change and continue on with my existence until finally the alcohol and hookers take their ultimate toll, exacting their vengeance and claiming my final breath."
He did just that…..the part about hitting cash and draggin' his hand down the right side of the keyboard…but pretty much that was it. I think. Just the keyboard.
Swiped it again. "THHHHHHRRRRRPP!!"
Dirty-pissed. Swipes again. "T…THHHHHHRRRPPPPP!!!"
Presses individual keys like he's trying to fashion a horse-shoe out of almost molten iron, knowing that had he done this in the first place he could have had that change in my hand about a month ago.
The drawer popped out as if attacking this ex-jock's groin. He quickly shuffled through the cash and handed me my change with an exacerbated, defeated look on his face.
"Go to college, kid."
Wise words, you sage old spirit. Wise words.
I followed that advice. I followed the fuck out of it.