If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, but you’ll have to fight your way past a bunch of former Harvard, Yale, Columbia, or NYU students to get there. Sure, said graduates may be easy to take in a street fight, but their superior understanding of the law will mean a stiff civil suit, so yours will be an amoral victory at best. My days are spent in a miasma of Ivy Leaguers and graduates from non-ivy prestige schools—the sort of people who could probably explain how I just misused “miasma.” They all have better jobs than me; but, to be fair, I’m a professional unemployed person.
Last year, a former Washington Post reporter named Jay Matthews wrote a book called Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best for You. My college placed second on his “Most Overlooked” list. Although I enjoy any book that puts the word “Schmarvard” right there in the title, being the second most overlooked school in America is the world’s second most backhanded compliment (the first being, “Sex with you met my expectations”). Overlooked is the sort of adjective reserved for sentences like “You know what Harrison Ford movie has been kinda overlooked? The Devil’s Own.” What’s worse, my alma mater didn’t even make the top of the list. We’re number two. Apparently, we’re the Hollywood Homicide of colleges.
My college actually has a bit of a philosophical reason for being overlooked. Due to its Quaker affiliation, it places strong emphasis on doing good work without seeking recognition. However, I’ve discovered, as a chronic job-hunter, that when you’re sitting in an interview and you begin to explain the philosophical and religious reasons why your interviewer has never heard of your school, you’ve lost the battle. I usually stick to letting them know that I can type 60 words per minute. (Another tip: the “skills” section of your resume should not be sexually explicit.)
Certainly, graduates from name colleges deserve success. They worked hard (or at the very least, paid a large sum of money) and showed a presciently realistic understanding of the world by choosing a university whose name everyone recognizes. Were I a high school guidance counselor, I’d cancel my subscription to “Selecting the School That’s Right for You,” and begin handing out the “It’s Only Student Loan Debt If They Haven’t Heard of You” pamphlets. Also, I’d quit my job.
Since my feeling of entitlement rivals that of any Yale alum, I decided to pretend to be a Yalie for a day, to see how an Ivy League degree might have changed my life. This is my journal:
I have decided that the sort of person who went to Yale is the sort of person who gets up at six in the morning. Also, probably they jog. Since I spent the previous evening at Chevy’s, drinking margaritas to celebrate my decision to keep this journal, I push my fiancée out of bed with the instructions to go jogging and to describe the experience to me upon her return. I sleep the sleep of the well-educated.
Am trying to decide what a Yalie eats for breakfast. Granola suddenly seems too politically charged, and a bagel too ethnic. Being from Yale is hard. I decide to take a nap.
Refreshed, I begin my day. Pushing aside my purple flip-flops and unlaundered jeans, I reach to the back of the closet for my pin-striped suit, and I dress to the nines. Showing the foresight that only a top-class education can buy, I look out the window, note that it’s raining outside, and grab an umbrella.
I encounter my downstairs neighbor on the front stoop. Have a brief conversation:
Me: Hello, did you know I went to Yale?
DN: I doubt that.
Me: Oh yes. I remember my days on the punting team fondly…
DN: You didn’t go to Yale. Your umbrella says “Earlham College.”
Me: Ah. Can you excuse me? One moment.
I return upstairs to exchange my umbrella for one I have spray-painted with the word “Yale”.
Me: As I was saying, I’m a Yale man, myself…
DN: Can I go? I’m really late for work.
Lunchtime already! I’ve decided that a man who chooses only the finest in colleges would settle for nothing less than the finest in fine dining. So I’ve booked a lunchtime reservation at Aureole. Starting with the ostera caviar, I move rapidly to the lobster cerviche salad, and finish with a triple chocolate mousse. Everything is extraordinary—so much so that I retire to the restroom to disgorge, then order everything over again. (Note: The food was slightly less revelatory the second time. Perhaps the chef was tired?)
I leave the waitress a generous tip, then skip out on the bill. Although today I may be a Yale grad, I’m no richer than yesterday.
A gentleman in a waiter’s uniform attempts to accost me as I round the corner. He is not dissuaded by my cries of “I have no money, ruffian!” nor, “I have important friends in Skull and Bones!” I beat him to death with my umbrella.
I am a bit shaken by the day’s homicidal turn, but I remember the words of John Merriman: “Yale is more than going to classes. Yale is staggering on in the best fashion possible.” In that spirit, I stagger into the gutter and pass out.
I awake several hours later, to find that I am late for my job interview (which I had scheduled with one of the city’s top law firms, upon receiving my imaginary diploma). As I stumble into their restroom I realize that I’ve left the murder weapon lying in the street. “Stupid! Stupid!” I mutter to myself, as I splash cold water in my face in an attempt to quell the memory of the man’s desperate death cries. “Pull yourself together! You can do this. You can do this, McCoy.” I stare at my reflection in the mirror, but I cannot recognize the wild-eyed specter that looks back at me. I smash my face into the glass. Blood drips down my face and onto the floor, pooling next to my diamond-studded spats.
“Hi, nice to meet you!” I say to Julie, the pleasant woman who will be interviewing me. “As you can see by my resume, I went to Yale!”
Interview did not go well. Apparently many legal phrases are in Latin. My two years of high school French helped not one bit. As a last ditch effort, I attempted to give her the Phi Beta Kappa handshake as we said our goodbyes. She misinterpreted the gesture as a come-on and asked whether the “special skills” listed on my resume were accurate. After some heated innuendo, we come to a physical agreement. Afterwards, I feel dirty.
I choke down some Saltines.
I am awakened from a restless sleep by a knock on the door. I open it to find two serious-looking men, who identify themselves as homicide detectives. They wish to question me in conjunction with waiter’s death. Pulling the murder weapon from an evidence bag, they ask, “Is this your umbrella?” “No, it couldn’t be mine,” I say. “I didn’t go to Yale. See?” I present them with my real diploma. Their brows un-furrow. “Oh. Okay, sir. Sorry to have bothered you.” I can see their eyes fill with pity, as they realize they’ve never heard of my school. I hope they don’t notice my sweat-soaked shirt. “Quite all right, officer,” I say, with forced good cheer.
I weep for all mankind.
So, is the Ivy League right for you? Ask yourself these questions:
- Can you afford it?
- Do you enjoy a challenge?
- Do you want a good job?
- Does human life mean little to you?
- Do you crack easily under interrogation?
- Which sentence best describes you: “I am well liked by my friends.”
or “I am well liked by my cronies?”
- Is death just the gateway to a better life?
And what of me? To be honest, when I ask myself, “Was it worth it—the day I spent lying about having gone to Yale?” I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, my hands will always be stained by the blood of the innocent, I have whored myself for personal gain, and I have descended into a miasma (?) of pain and deceit from which I may never claw my way out.
On the other hand, it got me out of the apartment, which is something.