Yesterday, many of us read the article in the Yale Daily News about Brian Tippy ’02 (“Tippy ’02 sent to drug classes,” 1/28), the Yalie who went to the police with a bag of heroin he had just bought, asked them to “test the purity” of his purchase and was promptly arrested. When questioned, Tippy claimed he was just doing his part to fight the war on drugs. Boy, we all had a good laugh over our Froot Loops reading that one.
After all, what kind of bonehead does something like that?
A Yale bonehead, that’s what kind.
Yalies have no common sense. We write brilliant essays on classical allusion in Ulysses, sing world-class operettas and speak eloquently and unpretentiously at Yale Political Union debates.
But when it comes to real life, we can be real morons.
How many times a day do you see the person in front of you in the hot food line slide his tray too fast and send his glass of Sprite crashing to the floor? How many times have you been accosted by an a cappella person outside Commons who believes that waving tickets for a 5-hour-long jam in your face will make you suddenly want to attend? I don’t care how high these people’s SAT scores were — they still seem to have a hard time with the laws of physics and human nature.
Yalies routinely publish books and win Rhodes Scholarships. But we also waltz across Elm Street regardless of the rickety Yale Transit Service bus careering towards us. We still walk into Group IVs “for non-science majors” honestly believing they will prove to be course credits well-spent.
And this is just the tip of the white, powdery, euphoria-inducing iceberg.
Any one of us could have easily been in Tippy’s position. Just imagine it — you’re strolling across campus, minding your own business, perhaps adjusting your suspenders or bow tie every once in a while. Suddenly a gentleman in a ski mask jumps out of the bushes and offers you a bag of white powder.
You worry that if you don’t buy it, the next innocent European grad student who walks along might fall prey. “Look –over there is an over-priced crepes caf*. And across the street is a Bohemian-looking man peddling flowers,” he would exclaim to the grad student. “This isn’t New Haven — this is really the Netherlands!”
So you take the baggie, hand him a wad of cash and he scuttles off.
Then it occurs to you that this might not be real heroin. You think, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions just because the guy was wearing a ski-mask and kept glancing over his shoulder. Maybe “Smack” is actually a brand of baking soda. You strain to remember the pictures in your eighth grade D.A.R.E. workbook, but you can’t be sure.
You immediately go to the police so they can commend you for buying heroin on behalf of the common good and test the baggie in their Heroin-o-meter. Perhaps Mayor DeStefano will present you with a Citizenship Award.
All right, maybe Tippy’s behavior was a little misguided and unreasonable. When we laugh at him, however, we laugh at ourselves.
Tippy was probably just too busy thinking about an upcoming paper on the role of the Sublime in Wagner’s Ring Cycle to realize that his purchase of heroin looked more like a felony than an act of civic responsibility. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
Actually, I have no idea what he was thinking, nor will I pretend to. I’m sure his motives for asking the police to test his narcotics were well-reasoned and sensible. Nevertheless, his story reminded me of the classic Yale student’s crime — letting our heads get too lost in our liberal arts educations to think adequately about real life.
I, for one, spend most of my mental energy on matters irrelevant to getting along in the real world. It’s more fun to think about Russian verb conjugations and Virginia Woolf than traffic signals, bank statements, or the laws on drug possession, for that matter.
After all, this is our reward for getting into Yale, right? We get to spend four years studying the most esoteric subjects imaginable and still graduate with a giant blue bulldog-shaped stamp on our foreheads that reads, “Yale grad. Smart, creative, hard-working. Hire immediately.” We’re allowed to be a little foolish once in a while.
Most of the time, when balding uncles at family gatherings wag their fingers and warn me about my “ivory tower,” I brush it off. Whenever I turn on CNN to hear smug SmartMoney Magazine editors caution that I have no real life skills worth anything in today’s job market, I roll my eyes and change the channel.
The intellectual atmosphere at Yale is rare and exciting. It doesn’t matter that students here don’t always display rational judgment in everyday minutia.
So what if we waste money buying dried crickets from the exotic-packaged-food rack at Gourmet Heaven or hold open a residential college gate for someone who’s still half a block away? So what if we occasionally bumble our way into trouble with the cops? Lack of common sense is a fair price to pay for “learning how to think.”
But unfortunately for Tippy, I don’t know if that argument will hold up in court.
Molly Worthen is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her columns appear on alternate Mondays.