Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Down The Highway

Yesterday, we officially began our attempt to oversee and evaluate every major and significant college and university in the United States and England. By the time we are through, Fodors will have nothing on us and our ability to evaluate, to find and recount schools from Chicago to the East Coast and the United Kingdom.

If you want to know any significant fact, like how many cafeterias there are, how late the library is open, book and shelf counts, etc., we are the ones to ask.

The students at the first school we visited, all seemed exceptionally bright (young Mark Zuckerberg’s) full of ideas and thoughts to change the world. They are participants in this new, high tech world.

As they were bouncing around the campus, leaping from steps, exposing great ideas in mid air, I was exhausted from just having walked from the lower campus to the upper campus. It’s time to move aside and relinquish this brave new world to them. Thank God someone still has enormous enthusiasm and optimism for the future. I on the other hand am looking longingly over my shoulder to the Edwardian England of Downtown Abbey.

I must admit I consider myself a man ideas and letters, and education is very important to me. I do not care about the basketball or football teams. I don’t care how well the lacrosse team is fairing. I do care about learning, teaching ideas, and knowledge. College, the greatest four years of your life, is about emotional and intellectual growth, and although I joke endlessly with my daughter, I am a very proud father.

So while traveling to Boston yesterday I was reminded of my total humiliation with my second and last college trip with my father some 47 years ago. In the early spring of 1965 my father decided that I should go to Harvard. Never-mind that no one in our family had ever attended there, and it was extremely questionable whether I had the grades or the ability to attend. He was very determined that it most probably was the right school for me. To this day, I never knew where he got this notion, definitely not from me.

He made an appointment for an interview, and I was informed that he and I would drive up to Boston together in his Rolls Royce. Maybe he knew something that I didn’t. I knew he wasn’t rich enough to give a building, or endow a chair, or outfit the whole school in uniforms, but without any delay or equivocation, off we went that fine spring day to Cambridge.

All went well until we were just outside of Cambridge on the Massachusetts turnpike, when I heard a large noise followed by a large thud. We had a flat tire. Of course, I proposed calling AAA to come and change the tire, but that would have made us considerably late for our meeting and my father would have none of it.

He had purchased some months prior, a magical mystery can of instant foam, and he was sure that this would do the trick. Out of some secret compartment in the deep recesses of the trunk of the car, my father produced this innocuous-looking can that was filled with information on the label. I told my father as a good, dutiful son, to read the directions before proceeding, just as it said in bright orange letters on the front of the can.

But oh no! My father grabbed the can from me and said, “Don’t tell me how to use this, I know what to do!” His patience and anger reaching crescendo levels.

He immediately placed the tube from the can into the nozzle on the tire and released a button, which released a copious amount of rubberized white foam, not in the tire where it belonged, but all over me.

I was covered with this white, rubberized goo that smelt like a garage. He was somehow able to get enough into the tire to get us back on the road to Cambridge.

A half hour later I was meeting with the admissions director at Harvard, with white rubber all over my new suit. I could think of nothing else.

When asked pertinent questions of the day by the director, I probably was unable to open my mouth as the congealed rubber paste had now fortified into an immovable white mask. This was truly a day to remember.

Needless to say I never applied to Harvard.