Why I didn’t go to Stanford

I wanted to start this story by stating that I didn’t have any interest in attending Stanford University in the first place, but that can’t be true. Why else would I have been there, surrounded by fellow students in a room much too small for the number of us who showed up to… to what? Impress? Ask questions of? Suss out? the guy Stanford sent to woo us into attending his esteemed educational institution.

This particular representative wore a suffocating air of self-importance along with his beard and tweed sport coat, and I quickly determined that I had made a poor decision by attending the meeting. “It wouldn’t be fair to compare our weather to that of other universities,” he humble-bragged at one point, ”but we do get approximately 300 days of sunshine a year.” I remember wondering: does it make it better or worse that he’s aware of how ridiculous he sounds?

But I perked right up when he asked, “Does anyone know what’s next door to the Monterey Bay Aquarium?”

LogfromSeaofCortez.jpg

I had recently been inside the building next door, lovely from the outside with its ancient wooden siding, the inside packed with dusty jars and odd specimens. The man who once used this lab was nothing short of a hero in my budding-scientist eyes. I’d read John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez for California Natural History, which chronicles Steinbeck’s adventures with the larger-than-life character; the first seventy pages of the book is a moving eulogy to a man who clearly made an impression on everyone who knew him.

In other words, I knew the answer to this one.

“Ed Ricketts’ lab!” I blurted, relieved that the conversation might finally going in a direction that interested me.

I fail to remember what response Mr. Self Important was looking for. He probably didn’t expect one at all, so comfortable was he in his mansplainer’s role, though that term wouldn’t be coined for another fourteen years. But I will never forget what he proceeded to say to me, or the derisive tone with which he dismissed me, my hero, and any desire I may ever have had to associate with Stanford University:

“Ed Ricketts was a fictional character.” Continue reading “Why I didn’t go to Stanford”