Back at the Alma Mater—Bancroft High, Rust Belt University, whatever you prefer. I have not yet been seized, so presumably I'm still allowed on campus. Or else I haven't been spotted yet. I'm supposed to sit in on a fiction-writing class as an Elder Statesman, which will be fun unless someone lets on to the kids just how little fiction I've written. But it's pleasant and gratifying to linger here and wander through my old time-wasting haunts and drink tea and savor the fact that the place no longer has any power over me. Nobody within miles of me is allowed to impose any deadlines on me or require me to get up in the morning! Even when I was having fun here, I was always at least a third of the way to terrified at all times. There was a good chance, at any given moment, that there was something that I should be doing but wasn't.
Also wonderful is something I'd always loved but forgotten all about—our Student Union has the only ATM in the known world that actually asks you to "Input Desired Amount in Multiples of $1." Yes, one dollar. It looks like a programming error, but it's totally for real and legit. And it shows such concern for and understanding of the customer base, on the part of the financial institution responsible. Let me be the first to say that as an undergraduate, it often matters a great deal that you are able to withdraw, say, seventeen dollars instead of twenty. Sometimes twenty is too much. Sometimes ten is. I never actually tried to withdraw a dollar, but I hope that this machine would allow it.
What isn't pleasant is the fact that I no longer can get on the Rust Belt Wireless Network! I don't have an account; as far as this institution's Information Technology is concerned, I don't exist! For somebody like me, this is awful, like losing a limb. Like coming home at night and finding the locks changed. Let me be the first to make the public call for an official Alumnae Login. But anyway, this means that I won't post this till later.
Also, I was dismayed to find that the burger place in the student union that I remembered with guilty fondness was gone--replaced by some salad joint. Called "Croutons." Seriously, Croutons! Now, a lesser satirist would make some hackneyed decade-old point about health-obsessed Americans, as if I couldn't get plenty of other bad food within forty feet of Croutons. But I'll merely point out that you don't win friends with salad.
I hope I'm allowed to address the student body this evening. I have a speech ready.
Kids! Stay in school! I know you think that studying isn't "rad," or "dope." But getting mixed up with drugs and gangs isn't "cool" at all. By the time I was your age, I'd killed six guys. [Pause. Lift shirt, exposing surgical scar from 1978. Wait for gasps to die down.] ...And I'd come within inches of dying myself. But then I learned about a guy, a really Powerful guy, who doesn't care if you're "cool" or not. He's always there for you, and if you need somebody to turn to, well, he's your man.
His name...is Prince. And he is funky. Now do your homework!
Or I could just "scare them straight" about their study habits. I'm a cautionary tale!