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“Meredith Adventure Number 2” • March 31, 2006

Welcome to graduate school!!

During my senior year in college, I applied to graduate school at a very prestigious university on the West Coast and for a position at their joint university/federal research facility, (both of which will remain nameless!) So I send off the transcripts, send the recommendation letters, take the requisite exams, etc, and wonder of wonders — I’m accepted!!  I didn’t have to send a picture so they had no warning of my blond tresses!  (That’s probably WHY I was accepted!)

Anyway — I was also working on a research project in undergrad and we were fighting some tough deadlines, so I ended up with exactly ONE DAY to fly to the West Coast and get everything done, and then be back for a meeting the next day with the money people sponsoring my undergraduate research.

So I caught a red eye special and arrived there at dawn, got my rental car, got a map, got a phone book, got one of those apartment listings book, and began frantically looking for a place to live near campus.  I had no time to be picky, so I took the third one I hurriedly looked over.  Then I was frenetically calling to get all the utilities set up, arrange for furniture and appliances and for them to be delivered when I was scheduled to move in, and all the other stuff that usually takes a week or more!

By noon, I’m on campus meeting the graduate committee, advisors, professors, bosses, colleagues, etc. — a complete whirlwind of new names and faces!

You need to understand that when I was planning this trip I really agonized over some “first impression” type decisions.  Remember that Digital was “created in my image” and I’m going to be meeting some of the top scientific folks in the world, (I said it was a prestigious operation — complete with more than a handful of Nobel Laureates!) So — how do I dress for this? Guys wouldn’t have given this a second thought — but it’s a lot different for girls — particularly if you’re a good looking blond.  Do I try to look as nerdy as possible so they’ll maybe think I’ve got a least a few brains cells? Do I try to look very feminine and just a tiny bit sexy and hope that stirring up the male hormones a bit might help me out? Or WHAT?

So — I ended up with a very nice, (and way too expensive,) very business looking and very modest navy dress that I spent another small fortune getting to fit just right.  I added some low heels and hose, subdued business style daytime makeup, and figured that was about the best compromise I was going to get.  They were just going to have to accept that I was young, blond, and pretty.

As I met everyone, I could sense their immediate shock at seeing the face behind the name — at least from the ones that saw my face — there were a few that never got that high — GUYS!  They were all very nice, very polite, and everyone of them did a very nice and oh so polite little “third degree grilling” to see if this “blond person” could REALLY be the girl behind the transcripts, recommendations, etc.  Trust me — it was a VERY tense, very long, very exhausting, very nail biting sort of afternoon — particularly because I was working so hard at being Miss Congeniality and trying not to seem the least bit nervous!

When I finally got to the registrar’s office at the end of the day to formally complete my enrollment, my clothes, my hair, my makeup, and my mental state were all starting to look and feel a little frazzled.

The lady in the registrar’s office was very nice, very polite, and very no-nonsense from years of dealing with students.  When I walked in the door, she immediately made her assessment about me from her first glance — and it wasn’t very flattering — (airhead would have been more complementary!) And then things went quickly downhill from there.

“Your name?”

“Meredith Elaine Wilson.” (So far so good!)

“And your address, Miss Wilson?”

Frantic digging through my purse, “Uh — I just got the apartment this morning — and it’s over on — near uh — and — uh — Ahh!  I live at 1234 Elm Street, Apartment 1234.” (All names and numbers changed to protect the guilty!)

“And your phone number?”

More frantic digging through my purse, “Uh — I just got it today, too — and I wrote it down somewhere — and — uh — mmm — uh — my cell phone is completely dead — may I possibly use your phone for a moment?”

“If you must.”

“Hello, directory assistance, could you please give me the phone number of a new listing for Meredith Elaine Wilson at 1234 Elm Street.  Thank you.”

“My phone number is 555-1234.”

“Which college are you registering in, Miss Wilson?”

“Uh — well — I’m actually going to be doing a combined graduate program in electrical engineering and computer science.  But I don’t know which college administers it, so I don’t know whether I should be registering in the College of Engineering or in Arts and Sciences or exactly what I’m supposed to do — and the program guidebook didn’t specify which college was in charge — and I meant to ask someone — but I forgot because it was so hectic this afternoon meeting everyone and —”

“You don’t ‘know’ which college you’re registering in? Who is your graduate advisor?”

“Uh — well — again I’ve actually got two because of the dual program and I don’t know which I ‘officially’ belong to and I guess is could be either Dr. Smith in Engineering or Dr. Jones in Arts and Science although I understand that I’ll have a combined graduate committee and —”

“Never mind — I’ve found your records alphabetically — hmmm — you seem to be one of Dr. Smith’s ‘charges’ over in the College of Engineering.  And let’s see — we received your tuition and fee payment — but there is still an outstanding balance of $120 that is still owed.”

“OK, let me write you a check.” And even more frantic digging through my purse, “Uh — uh — oh, gosh — I think I must have left my checkbook at the apartment office when I wrote the deposit and first month’s rent check.  Do you take credit cards?”

“No, Miss Wilson — and we must have your check to complete the registration.  It’s due today.”

Frantically looking at my watch, “I think I’ve got time to get over to the apartment office and back — I hope they’re still open — and have my checkbook.  I’ll be right back!!” So I literally ran out the door — in my heels — and to the parking lot to my rental car — and raced to the apartment office — and got my checkbook — and raced back to campus — and parked the car — and ran toward the administration building — and wedged my left heel in a grate in the sidewalk — and busted off the heel — and fell face down — and ruined my hose — and ripped the hem out of my dress — and skinned my knees — and my palms — and scattered my purse!

SO — with about 30 seconds to spare, I hobbled in stocking feet (try running in one heel sometime!) into the office with my hair looking like I had combed it with a weed eater, my hose laddered, my knees oozing blood, my palms dripping it, the front of my navy dress half white from the dust and dirt on the sidewalk, and tears just waiting to pour down to finish the destruction of my makeup!!!

Back at the lady’s desk, she looked up at my approach and downgraded her opinion even more, (I wouldn’t have thought that was possible,) as I shakily wrote three checks before I managed to finally get one right!

BUT — with my blood smudged check firmly in her hand, the ordeal was finally over and I was officially in grad school!

On the way out, the lady said with her most sincere sarcasm, “Welcome to Our University, Miss Wilson.  I’m sure you’re going to do ‘very well’ in our graduate engineering school.”

I managed to get out the door before Niagara broke loose, then stumbled my way somehow to the car, and finished a much deserved and long overdue boo-hoo just sitting in the parking lot for a few minutes.

I was cutting it close getting back to the airport and kept looking for a store to quickly grab some shoes but the traffic was awful and I was really worried about making the plane.  So I get to the airport, drop off the car, race to the terminal in my stocking feet, ditch the remains of the hose in the restroom trash can, and spend 30 seconds in the gift shop buying a first aid kit and a pair of pink shower thongs (that was all they had and I guess I was lucky to get them!)

But I made my flight (just barely) and once seated and belted in, I squeezed some antiseptic on my knees and hands and slapped on a couple of bandages.  After we took off, the flight attendant came around with the drink cart.  I asked for a Diet Coke and she handed it to me — and then she stopped and took a really good long slow look at me from head to toe.  She shook her head in disbelief, reached back to the cart, picked up another plastic cup of ice and two mini-bottles of scotch, set them on my tray, and whispered, “They’re on the house, Honey!”

PS — I can’t speak from personal knowledge about all their aircraft, but Continental Airlines has a least one resident Angel flying for them!!



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