May 25, 2010

The girl, the gown, and the guys

Filed under: MiscellAnnia — Ann @ 3:45 pm

Fairly quivering with excitement and anticipation, I drove up to Sonoma State University this morning to pick up the cap and gown which I’d ordered last month. When I arrived at the bookstore, however, there were glitches: first, the curmudgeonly 60-ish clerk at the customer service counter couldn’t find my order at all; then, when he did find it, I was amazed to discover it was encased in a plastic wrapper and no bigger than a shirt package. I had expected the gown to be elegantly suspended from a hanger, protected by a garment bag. (Later, after I got home, I found out that the “gown” was so haphazardly packaged because it’s a polyester/recycled-soda-bottle blend, and you could probably wad the whole thing up and stuff it in a Band-Aid can and it would emerge unwrinkled.)

When he handed me my order, I asked, “Is everything here? Gown, cap, and tassels?” He said he hadn’t checked, and started half-heartedly poking through the packages. Taking inventory, I asked politely, “What about my cords? They had told me I would get cords based on my academic status, and I think I’m graduating with honors.” I was amazed he hadn’t mentioned them as part of my regalia packet — he would have let me leave the store without them.

And, in a scene out of the “Twilight Zone,” he said dismissively, “Well, you’d need to show me ID.” I had just shown him my driver’s license when I’d given him my credit card, but I said patiently, “I have my driver’s license…or did you want my Social Security number?” He said, as if this closed the matter, “I was thinking more along the lines of a valid student ID card.” He started to turn away, done with me. I was genuinely baffled — why wasn’t he going to give me my cords?

Neal said, not kindly, “Excuse me. Excuse me. She needs her cords.” Crankypants then pointed us to the other counter and said we’d have to go over there. Shaking my head in amazement at the strangeness of that encounter, I picked up my bags and moved them to the other check-out station, this one staffed by a young, alert, engaged bespectacled guy in his 20s. When I told him I needed my cords, please, he declined my offer of an ID and asked my name and major, which I provided.

He pulled out a big book, and then his eyes got really wide as he noted the three “section” signs [ยงยงยง] adjacent to my name. “Ooooh!” he enthused, “Look at you — summa cum laude ! Gold on gold!” Genuinely impressed (either that, or a gifted drama student), he produced two golden cords and handed them to me with reverence and a giant smile. I could have hugged him but that would have caused talk, so I just beamed “I love you and we shall marry someday” vibes at him as I gathered my things and left.

Two men, two moments, two very different memories. I’m so glad the Universe saved the best for last.

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