For myself and many of my classmates, the return to Yale this spring marks the beginning of the sixth semester of our eight at this institution. And what does that mean? Yes, it’s time to switch majors. Again.
I’m on my second right now, (not including my days undeclared — a major all its own.) This spring, I’m looking to find a third. Maybe even a fourth or fifth.
Why? Just for the hell of it. Just to squeeze every last penny out of my Yale experience — or at least recoup the thousands and thousands of dollars I lose each year on my meal plan.
College is like a big gas station of education in this way. You pull in, you get what you need, maybe a little more than you need, maybe a jerky and a Coke, and you pull out and move on.
“Hey mister Professor! Fill ‘er up! My HEAD, that is! With knowledge!”
(I recommend against using this line with professors in real life.)
Before the bright college years end, I will switch majors as many times as I need to sound smart upon graduation. That’s been my master plan since arrival here — taking a deliberate smattering of classes in a deliberate smattering of subjects, in order to get just enough out of each to not sound like a total asshole if that subject ever comes up in conversation in the real world. Take apes, for example.
I took “Primate Ecology and Evolutionary Biology” in freshman year, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve peppered a friendly chat over cocktails with the fascinating non sequitur: “You know, apes don’t have tails. Monkeys have tails. That’s how you tell an ape and a monkey apart.”
Polite applause follows.
I want the sort of education that is going to allow me to ace crossword puzzles, just so I can leave the New York Times Sunday edition on my coffee table for the rest of the week for all my guests to behold. That is, if I ever have guests. Or ever have a coffee table.
There is a modern pop term for what I seek in my college education: fun facts. When I graduate, I want to be full of fun facts to last me the rest of my life — fun facts to impress my future bosses, spouses, and children. If a fact isn’t fun, I don’t learn it. It’s worthless to my eyes, even if it’s generally regarded as “very important.” For example: did you know that Pol Pot was born in 1925?
I did not. I never bothered to learn that. In fact, I’m bored just writing it.
Did YOU know that in Latin, the word “penis” means “sword,” and the word “vagina” means “sheath”?
Polite applause follows.
With all the majors already available at Yale, along with the dozens more being invented each year (such as Internet Studies or Foreign Cars), it’s going to be near impossible to decide which barrel of information I should crack open next. It must be a topic that is more than anything — entertaining.
I do always find it hilarious when stand-up comedians talk about the differences between white guys and black guys. Driving, talking, walking — it never gets old! I’m laughing just writing about it!
“Hey mister professor! Into which discipline does the study of the difference between white guys and black guys fall?”
“Oh, it’s you again, the ‘fill ‘er up’ kid! Stop driving through my office! It’s anthropology! Just leave me alone!”
Anthropology would be a fine major, wouldn’t it. The study of man — and woman. And, uh — their interaction. It’s, like, credit for going to parties. Hey, parties are fun! Yeah, that’s it! Anthropology is the SHIT!
I recommend also not saying this aloud.
There is a foreseeable problem with becoming an anthropology major, however. When I think about it, whenever I’m in a large group of people — in a crowded movie theatre for example — I almost always come away with an intense dislike of the rest of humanity — man and woman — regardless of whether the movie is good or bad. All that wet coughing and unnecessary narration by old folks, all those crying babies and loud laughter at terrible jokes — I take it personally. My short fuse for the ways of humans, I’m afraid, would make me a terrible Anthro major. I’d likely destroy whole lectures on indigenous Pacific Island tribes with sarcasm-pregnant exhalations and unfounded, inappropriate comments on well-documented custom:
“Um, yeah. So is the chief elected because he’s the stupidest guy in the tribe, or just the fattest?”
Polite escort out of the lecture hall follows.
A more appropriate major for me this winter would be Misanthropology: the study of mankind’s overall shortcomings and irritating idiosyncrasies. (With an optional concentration in condescension). Nothing’s more fun than making fun of people indiscriminately. I picture packed lectures in Misanthropology, conducted much like celebrity roasts, with an emcee instead of a tee-ay.
Talk about fun facts. I’d graduate with enough white guy/black guy jokes to last a lifetime of wine and cheese parties and job interviews.
Alas, only in my dreams would Dick Brodhead authorize such a study. And really, the only reason that I entertain such ridiculousness, is that semester after semester, major after major, flipping through the blue book becomes more and more torturous — so many courses I’ll never take, so many fun facts I’ll never learn, so many opportunities I’ll surely miss.
Semester after semester, major after major, the question remains the same: “What the hell have I even been doing here?”
Joe Shmoe is a senior in Gregory College.