A few days ago I found a notice in my mailbox, informing me that I had a signature-required package waiting for me at the post office. Initially I was annoyed. The mailman didn’t even try to deliver this package. If he did, he surely would have found me in my pajamas watching old episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and eating hot fudge straight out of the jar.
But then I was excited! Woohoo!
I’ve been expecting my copy of the 2009 volume of Dickens Studies Annual in the mail. I tucked the package slip into my back pocket and began planning an afternoon of gazing at my name in print. I would need to squeeze in all the ego time I could, as I have to send the one and only contributor’s copy I’ll receive to the library that granted me permission to reproduce as illustrations for my article rare images from their collections. (I would just buy myself another copy, but they’re $172. Seriously.)
So yesterday I actually showered and put the hot fudge back into the refrigerator to make my big trip to the post office. When I finally made it to the front of the line, I presented my slip and waited happily for my package.
The postal worker returned with a thin tube. Last I checked, the Annual wasn’t printed as a scroll. I was suspicious.
“What is this?” she asked. “There are a lot of these back there.”
“I have no idea.” The return address was Rice University. This school is constantly wasting money by sending me things in the mail. If this was an elaborate hoax to deliver an advertisement for football tickets, I was seriously going to go ape on someone. I would scratch someone’s eyes out. I began to long for hot fudge. Then I figured it out.
“I think this might be my master’s degree.”
“You didn’t know you were getting a master’s degree? Congratulations, I guess.”
“No, I knew I was earning my master’s degree. I just didn’t know they were sending me, you know, the document.”
This is when the young man behind me in line began audibly breathing through his nose and shuffling his feet, letting me know that his Aunt Millie? She was expecting this package of Don’t Mess With Texas tee-shirts, and this small talk was only delaying her joy and undermining her Lone Star State pride.
I tried to pry open the tube in the car, but apparently earning a master’s does not mean you’re able to actually access your degree. Even when you employ expletives and your car keys. When I got home, I spent a few awkward minutes with the indestructible mailing tube and a knife, and I emerged with this:
The document in that blurry photograph, my friends, is my master’s. Apparently, I have completed at least part of my “sober fearless pursuit of truth beauty righteousness.” Apparently, William Marsh Rice didn’t like commas or conjunctions.
This is kind of rewarding, I suppose, although it’s mostly anti-climactic. I’m not done my time at Rice, and this piece of parchment only seems to taunt me. SUCKA! You still have another year to go!
And really. I would rather have my publication.