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Farrell Winter

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Arlene's College Graduation
By Farrell Winter
Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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This is an account of our daughter graduating from college.

Arlene’s College Graduation

By Farrell Winter

© 2006




Sandy’s daughter Arlene graduated from college in May of this year.  Sandy and I traveled two to six hours (depending on who drove) to Cal State University, Chico, to attend. 




I asked Arlene where the health food store was.  I had an idea, and inquired about the intersection to confirm it.  “Oh, I don’t know.  It’s by the gas station, near the fast food place.”  My second time in Chico, the first time over a year ago.  I mentioned the intersection again.  “By the gas station, near the fast food place.  Don’t you know where that is?”  Don’t care either, just tell me the intersection and I’ll find it (with my trusty Chamber of Commerce map).  “I don’t know the address.”  Neither do I, and wasn’t asking for it.  Just the intersection, ma’am.  You live here, I don’t.  Well, this Laurel & Hardy routine went on for a while, Arlene practically screaming gas station and fast food at me, I finally ceasing to beg for the intersection.  In desperation then, with a look that would wither away the state (if only), at my utter stupidity, she said, “I’ll just drive there.  You follow me.”  So we did.  I was right about the intersection. 


The Day Of


Arlene said the graduation starts at 9:00, be there by 8:30 to get good seats.  We left at 8:00 and got there at 8:10 (streets crowded with graduate families and friends).  Signs all over the street on which Arlene told us to park:  “We’ll tow your car and kill everyone on your block if you dare park here.”  Can you start with the guy who lets his dog  ****1  on our lawn, and then we’ll move it?  “Unless you have a sticker.”  Street one-way and choked with vehicles, except back towards town where there were many empty spaces.  Sandy finally pulled into one. 


“Check and see if the other cars have stickers.”  I open the car door to do that and Sandy decides to find a better place.  My feet out the door, shoe rubber melting from the friction of the pavement.  Can you wait please, dear?  “Check the stickers, check the stickers.”  I finally got out safely and began checking.  Here’s a car with a sticker.  And another.  This one too.  And this.  Looks like all of them have stickers.  “Stop.  Stop telling me that.  I don’t care anymore.  I’m parking.”  What if they tow your car away?  “It doesn’t say they’ll tow your car.  I’ll just get a ticket.  I don’t care if I get a ticket.  I don’t care anymore.  I don’t care about anything.” 


I did some cogitation on the situation.  The local state university lets you park free on weekends.  So does the local junior college.  Looking at the signs more closely:  “Except Saturday and Sunday.”  Park here and let’s go. 


“Where do we go now?”  I don’t know, let’s find some seats.  Once inside and past the restrooms, Sandy has to pee.  I’ll wait here.  ±±±±2  It seemed like hours before she got back.  “There was a line.”  I scoped out some seats in the bleachers, but bleachers aren’t good enough for my wonderful Sandy.  “Look.  Plenty of seats in there.”  It says elderly and disabled only.  “Well, you’re elderly.”  Thank you, dear.  “Well, I want to see Arlene graduate.  [To security]  Can we go in here?  My daughter’s graduating.”  Brilliant, Sandy.  He probably thought we drove four hours up here just to find that health food store.  “Elderly and disabled only, ma'am, just as the sign says.” 


“Well, we’re elderly.  My husband is.”  I love you too. 


“Elderly as in mobility-impaired.”  Beginning to get a little edgy now. 


“Oh.”  But rules and regulations do not a determined Sandy daunt, not to mention regard for the elderly and disabled.  You could almost see the light bulb.  “He [meaning the elderly husband] has a bad back.  He’s disabled.”  Sotto voce to me, “Start limping.”  By now the security guard has become Arlene, but resigned instead of screaming about gas stations. 


Exasperated, in a tone that said I don’t need this  ****1  for $60 an hour, he said, “Just go, lady, go.”  Loud enough for him to hear, I said I’m not going to pretend to limp.  What about the people who are really disabled?  Or really elderly?


“Not so loud, he’ll hear you.  It’s Arlene’s graduation.”  We found some seats in the second row.  I was almost settled in when Sandy drug me to my feet.  “Look.  Better seats.”  In the first row.  Here we go, one row and four seats closer to the stage.  Not many empty seats left now.  Canned music playing.  9:15.  Sandy’s cell phone rings.  Who’s that?  “Duke and Sonia.”  Respectively, Arlene’s father and aunt.  Where are they?  “Just leaving the hotel now.”  It’s graduation day, and every hotel room from here to the Oregon border is booked.  Sonia’s hotel is just this side of Ashland.  “Quick, go back there [to the second row] and save two seats for them.”  I saved the seats until 10:45, when we figured they just wouldn’t show up.  Can’t find parking, can’t find seats, can’t find….  Sandy’s cell phone rings. 


“We’re here, save two seats for us.”  Too late now.  Then we found out that the business majors are on the West side of the field, and we’re in the elderly & disabled section on the East side.  Then we found out that Duke & Sonia were on the West side.  And they found seats.  And they could see Arlene.  Sandy fumed. 


When the business majors were called up to get their degrees, Sandy got up to walk over to the stage.  Where are you going, dear?  “She’s my daughter and it’s her graduation and I’m gonna see her!” 


I sat there musing on how great the sound system was, with the skinny towers on stage looking not all that substantial, yet putting out the watts.  It was clear, not too loud, and no distortion.  Then something happened.  Those sweet mikes cut out, and the now-audible 60 Hz buzz3  became disturbing.  It sounded now as if they punched in the low-pass filter3  and the two presenters were presenting with their backs to the mikes.  It was all air and rumble.  But wait, that was the good news.  Now the mikes cut out completely.  Dead silence.  Guests and grads began getting out of their seats and walking around.  Pretend they’re Paul McCartney4 , I said, and get some working mikes on stage.  Nothing.  All right, I said, give me $1000 and I’ll fix the sound.  The guy next to me, eating popcorn constantly supplied by his 2-year-old daughter/granddaughter/niece, laughed.  All right, I said, I’ll do it for $500.  It didn’t seem like an AC3  problem because of the earlier loss of sound quality.  Still….  OK, check the AC. 


People are walking away, leaving.  Get two spare mikes and two mike cables, check them at the board3,  run the working ones up to the stage.  I saw a techie running from the stage, frantically yelling into his cell phone.  Then the techies at the board woke up and put on the canned pre-show music.  Something works.  Five seconds later, the presenters were back, as clear as they were when they began presenting.  And the music continued.  Fade it out,  ****1,   but it continued, and the presenters had to shout over it.  What is wrong with these people?  Only the memory of how awful it was to have bozos come up to me at the board with idiotic, irrelevant suggestions kept me from going up there and saying, “Yo, kill the music.” 


Well, the music finally ended.  Not faded out.  The piece was over (Pomp & Circumstance?  No, Be Kind to Our Web-footed Friends or whatever the title is) with a final crash of cymbals, full volume to the last.  On with the show!  And not a word from anyone about our little glitch.  This must happen a lot.  And then, the names of the final graduates having been called and their degrees received, graduation was over.


Sandy came back and said, “C’mon.”  Where are we going?  She pulled me to my feet.  “To see Arlene.”  But you can’t go through there, Sandy, it’s roped off.  “I see people walking there.  C’mon.”  Apparently the people walking there were supposed to be there, had a right to be there, unlike the intrepid mom and her reluctant husband.  You know, the disabled one.  She wasn’t asking me to limp now.  We had to walk all the way around the South bleachers.  Suddenly she started running.  What are you doing?  “C’mon, we have to hurry.”  Why?  “Don’t you see them putting up a barrier?  We can’t get through if they put up a barrier.”  Don’t you think that means we aren’t supposed to go through?  Her response was to pull me faster.  I had to jump over the thick yellow rope and fend off the security guard grabbing for me as Sandy raced ever faster to the West bleachers.  Plenty of seats now.  “You wait here.”  Where are you going?  “To see Arlene.”  You can’t do that, Sandy, it’s for graduates only.  But she was already off, waving to Arlene with one hand and talking to her on the cell phone in the other, wading through a sea of caps and gowns. 


I blacked out then (I guess), and when I came to Sandy and I were at one of the exits on the East side, she talking to Arlene on her cell phone.  Where is she?  (Into the phone) “Where are you?”  Well?  “She says she doesn’t know.”  So how are we supposed to find her?  Ask her where she is.  “She wants to know where we are.”  I looked at the sign behind us.  We’re at Exit 8.  (Into the phone) “Arlene, Exit 8.  Where are you?”  Where is she?  “She doesn’t know, somewhere across from us.”  I looked straight ahead; saw a sign saying Exit 7.  Tell her to turn around and see if there’s a sign that says Exit 7.  “Yes, she sees it.  Let’s go.”  Drag the elderly disabled man across the field, behind the board.  I resisted the temptation to go up to the board and say, “You guys suck, you know that?”  Here we are with Arlene now, she suffering from too much alcohol (or booze, as the local Daily Liar never says.  Never.) and too little sleep.  Poor girl can’t even turn around to see which exit she’s by.


Arlene spied Steve and Wax Paper (respectively her brother and rapper boyfriend) and Steve’s friend Jason.  We go over there and learn that Duke and Sonia already left.  Our final plans made (to meet at Arlene’s party this afternoon), we left too. 









On the way back to Sandy’s car, she laments that we haven’t bought Arlene any gifts.  Only this afternoon’s party.  And a car.  So what’s it gonna be, mom, the slightly wilted flowers for $25, or the really wilted flowers for $15?  Sandy, newly frugal, decides on full-wilt boogie.  All right, honey, let’s go.  “Oh, wait, I have to get Arlene a gift.”  What’s wrong with the wilted flowers?  “They aren’t wilted.  I have to get her something else.”  Take back the car.  “Oh, don’t be silly.”  Next vendor.  So what’s it gonna be, mom, the microscopic stuffed animal for $10 or the jumbo microscopic stuffed animal for $15?  Newly frugal Sandy (commenting now on our lack of gasoline money for the trip back home) splurged this time.  With a final – for now – “Here.  Hold this,” we go back to the car.  I’m carrying gifts in one hand, graduation program and water bottle in the next hand, and Sandy pulling me by the next hand.  “Wow, I sure spent a lot of money.”  And such meaningful purchases. 




1.             In the event of those 21 and younger viewing or hearing this, “foul language” has been replaced by four asterisks. 


2.             Two sentences omitted here and replaced by four “chairs,” in the event of those 21 and younger viewing or hearing this “adult humor.”  It’s unfortunate, because it was sorta funny (in an adult humor kind of way), and it gave me a chance to mention that George W. Bush is not the president.  He cheated his way into the White House.  Twice.  Oooops, mentioned it anyway.  J


3.             Technical stuff


                A.            60 Hz buzz.  “Hz” is pronounced “Hertz” as in Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist.  It’s a measure of frequency and means cycles per second.  “60 Hz” is the frequency at which electricity operates.  If it’s plugged in, it’s operating at 60 Hz. 


                B.            Low-pass filter.  Frequency equalization that filters out all frequencies above a certain range.  Another way to say this is that the filter allows low frequencies – those below the range – to pass.  


                C.            AC.  Stands for “alternating current.”  Tech-talk for everything from power cords to electrical outlets and whatever might be related to these. 


                D.            The board.  The mixing board, or audio console.  The thing that controls the sound. 


4.             I heard this story at a sound company for which I once worked.  I never actually worked with Paul McCartney.  He was singing at an awards program, and his mike went dead.  Instead of going thru the procedure outlined here, for some reason the sound company gave him another mike, but they didn’t know which one was dead.  So Paul McCartney was singing on international TV while holding two mikes in his hand.  Is this sad or what? 

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