What I’ve Learned at W.S.U.


Vicki Noll

I’m a student on the lifetime learner plan at WSU, Wedlock State University, which has the largest student body of any learning institution in the world.  The lifetime learning plan is what most of us are on, which means we’re committed to the course of study without a chance for graduation.  Personally, I never intended to graduate, although I did, at one time, believe that I would, at the very minimum, get smarter.  I was hoping for wisdom, but twenty-seven years of study has convinced me that wisdom is like the elusive Atlas Moth; by the time you spot it, its time has passed.

I muddle through my studies asking, “What is this SUPPOSED to mean?”; “What is THAT supposed to mean?” or, “What do you MEAN by that?”.  And of course since there’s no professor and only on Study Buddy, I usually get the same answers over and over again, “I DON’T know”, “I don’t KNOW”, or “I don’t know”.

Actually I’m not the only one at WSU without hopes of graduating.  The graduation rate is non-existent; no one’s yet figured out the degree requirements.  The dropout rate is rising; many are disillusioned.  They think they’re supposed to get something from attending: a certificate of completion, a plaque to hang on their wall, a mention in Who’s Who at WSU.

The freshman student, known in our fine institution as a Newlywed, thinks there will be some such honor; that somewhere along the line, frequently, someone will pat them on the back for a job well done, offer them words of gratitude, or, as they get farther along in their educational career, hang on their every word in awe and admiration.  And early on, the Newlywed is rewarded with these things, which keeps them coming to class every day.  Oh, those were the days when no matter what I did, my study buddy thought I was perfect.

My first class in the Culinary Arts resulted in three almost-disasters forever known at the “Bread Dough Rising in the Clothes Dryer” incident, the “Marinated Chicken Catching Fire and Ruining the New Grill” incident, and the “Unwatched Ground Beef Catching Fire to the Kitchen Cabinets” incident.  Actually, I thought that using the clothes dryer to encourage reluctant dough to rise was ingenious.  Who could have predicted the havoc it would cause when it plugged up those little air holes?

Marinating chicken in cheap wine until actually turns pink and then walking away while it drips over an open flame may seem asinine now, but hindsight is always 20-20.  The lesson that endeared my Study Buddy to me forever was the third, though not final Almost Disaster, after which he actually ate the charred burgers pretending that baking soda is always used as a seasoning and that the incident was a well-timed incentive to remodel the kitchen.

All of us at WSU are a little Learning Disabled.  My Study Buddy can’t grasp that the laws of the universe apply to him—think Superman with more band-aids and less cape.  There was the time he refused to wear safety glasses and was rewarded with a Tiny Tin Trophy—in his eyeball.

Once he gave new meaning to the term Shin Splints when he refused to wear long pants while splitting logs and was impaled by flying wood chips.

And while all the manufacturers put guards on their saws for some reason, my study buddy knows that they’re just a plot to frustrate the left-handed home improvement guru, almost becoming a one-handed home improvement guru.

These are team-building exercises that can only happen at WSU.  After all, if they happened during the orientation, who in their right mind would sign up?

And then, just when we’ve adjusted to Dorm Living, we hit Senioritis, the phase when we are driven to distraction by all those habits previously considered ‘cute’.  It’s not our fault; it’s a flaw in the curriculum that we’re hit with kids and poverty; middle age and boredom; exhaustion and PTA commitments all at once.  It’s too late to quit; we’ve almost got this think licked, don’t we?

That’s the cheese that keeps us navigating the maze, the thought that just around the corner is THE ANSWER.  Besides, if we aren’t any wiser, we are a little quieter.  If we aren’t any closer to graduation, we are at least hoping for a vacation.  If we aren’t any lovelier, we are more loved.  And quite honestly, that’s all that really matters anyway.

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