Issue #189 – “Degree of Difficulty 2011” – June 27th, 2011

-Congratulations, Class of 2011, you’ve just received your college degrees! After four years of virtually worry-free existence, you are now being thrust into the unforgiving reality of adulthood. Some students are understandably apprehensive about leaving campus behind, and in my annual message to the nation’s graduates I’d like to address those concerns. You’ve been told that the job market is terrible, the economy is in the toilet, and your degree isn’t worth the parchment it’s printed on. Let me assure you that all of those things are, well…true. But it was also true in 2001 when I graduated. So I’m here to prepare you for what lies ahead: frustration, disappointment, and bills addressed to you instead of your parents. Enjoy your degree of difficulty.

-One thing that college definitely did not prepare me for is just how dumb the general population is. You ever reference a relatively well-known historical figure or event in conversation and you can just tell from their glassy-eyed demeanor that the other person has no fucking clue what you’re talking about it? I could have used a freshman seminar on how to resist punching those people in the face.

-The latest trends suggest that going to college is no longer even worth the investment. One argument is that since so many people go to college these days versus fifty years ago, the value of higher education has been diluted. But that doesn’t take into account the common knowledge one gains during the college experience itself. For instance, if you and I are attending a sporting event, and we both went to college, it is assumed we’ll start drinking at least three to five hours beforehand. You can’t put a price tag on that.

-The irony about today’s shitty job market is that you can be fired or laid off at any moment, yet are still expected to give notice if you choose to leave on your own. I have a buddy who gave a month’s notice when he quit his job as a waiter because he didn’t want to burn any bridges. I didn’t even know there was a protocol in place for waiters in LA to give notice. I just assumed you don’t show up one day and your slot is filled by an identical replacement.

-I had my ten-year college reunion last month and got together with some of my buddies to play beer pong. (If you recall from way back in Ruminations #13, my fraternity plays pong with paddles, as opposed to throwing the ball, which we call Beirut.) Competition was heated at times, but it was a total blast, especially considering many of my friends are now doctors, lawyers, and captains of industry. It made me believe that many of the world’s conflicts could be solved with beer pong. Imagine if both sides simply stopped, chugged a beer, chugged another beer, and then repeated until they forgot what they were arguing about in the first place.

-For this year’s newly minted graduates, like those before them, the feeling of nostalgia will be overwhelming. The first thing I wanted to do upon leaving college…was go back to college. But as each homecoming weekend and reunion passes, that desire slowly diminishes. I had a great time at my reunion, but by the second day I was ready to go home. You may think college is the best life is ever gonna get. Fortunately, that’s not the case. The real world is harsh, annoying, and full of morons. But it’s also a blast in ways that college can never replicate. So, Class of 2011, welcome to the party and drink up. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-Why can’t the plugs for all of my electronics just have surge protectors built right in?

-One of the problems with ordering my groceries online is that I occasionally misjudge the size of items. A few years ago I accidentally bought a twelve-ounce bottle of hot sauce. That’s fucking huge. I’m still working my way through it. It’s become an obsession to put hot sauce on everything. This was definitely not worth the $3.99.

-I wish people would stop saying, “Oh my God, you look like you’re right out of Mad Men!” any time a guy wears a suit.

-My buddy got pissed at me because I sent him like ten texts in a row, but he has a super old phone so each text showed up one at a time and cost him like a nickel. I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault. I didn’t realize my messages were being sent into the past.

-I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but while on tour this spring I developed a taste for mocha frappuccinos. Which is unfortunate because I enjoyed life a lot more before I was regularly using the phrase “venti mocha frappuccino.”

-My car has a little button that lets me change from regular mode to “sport” mode when I’m on the open road. I have no idea what that means and am terrified of hitting any button that close to the gearshift for fear that it will somehow destroy the engine and/or make the sound my garbage disposal makes when I turn it on without realizing there’s a bottle cap in the drain.

-My new TV obsession is Game of Thrones but it’s definitely more difficult to follow than my last one, which was LOST. At least the characters in LOST had normal names. The main people were Jack, John, and Kate. In Thrones everyone has an intricate back story, looks the same, and has a frustratingly similar name. One dude is a bastard child and he’s just called “the bastard” – but he’s also the nicest guy. That shit is confusing.

-Recently I drove a rental car for the first time in a few years. I got onto the highway, hit the gas, and maxed out at 27 mph. Panicking, I called the rental company and figured out that I had the car in “M” instead of Drive. M!? What the fuck is M!? When did cars get so unnecessarily complicated?

-And, finally, when I was back at Penn for my reunion, I got the chance to just stroll around and see what had changed on campus. There are tons of new buildings and dozens of acres of new land. I felt surprisingly jealous of the current students, with their fancy gyms and futuristic classrooms. Then I realized – that’s why college is so expensive. Maybe if we stopped spoiling college kids, costs would come down, and more money could be put toward, say, engineering scholarships. I mean, who knows? Today’s freshman could be tomorrow’s built-in-surge-protector inventor. Fuck me.