Sunday, January 22, 2012

College Daze: Getting Ready for Real

It’s a recurring criticism of college life and academia that they don’t represent “real life.” It’s true. They don’t. The mental ballet of the Socratic method of question and answer, the delicate give and take of knowledge given and received, and the glittering fire of minds forever changed are rarely experienced outside the college classroom . . . at . . . oh say, Target.

College is a rare and civilized moment in life, but it is not “real life.” It is a utopian fantasy of what we might wish life could be, might be, if only we didn’t have to get into a sub-compact with bad catalytic converters, pull onto I-4, and commute—anywhere, ever.

However, in defense of the academic experience, I am prepared to discuss in depth what I believe is a little known course of study in “real life” preparation available on your college campus. It’s called Parking Lot, A “Real Life” Prep Course—110.

Parking Lot, A “Real Life” Prep Course is a comprehensive course of study designed to prepare a student for every major “real life” scenario. It’s all out there, in the parking lot—injustice, competition, inequities between socio-economic classes, and of course, hit and run crime. The parking lot at your college campus is a Petri dish of “real life,” and before a student cracks the first classroom door they are out there in the parking lot exploring, experimenting, navigating—getting tickets.

“Real life” is full of bloody, medieval competition—also hemlock.

Competition, defined by the big red dictionary on my desk, is a “striving or vying with another or others for profit, prize, position, or the necessities of life; rivalry.”

The necessities of life include: oxygen, water, ketchup, mustard and a decent parking space within a two-mile radius of Orlando Hall.

Therefore, vying for a parking space is like a daily pop quiz in “real life.”

Out there in the parking lot, cars circle like a swirling flock of vultures waiting for the subtle signs of a retreating vehicle—the glint of a taillight, the subtle shift of a bumper, the erupting blare of thumping music from someone’s trunk, and it’s game on. Seven drivers converge on a single empty space—striving, vying—flipping each other off.

There’s less profanity in a Tarentino film. I can think of few other courses of study that prepare today’s college student for the “real life” Machiavellian maneuvering of the corporate boardroom or the gossipy cesspool of the water cooler than the competition for an exceptional parking space at Rollins College. It’s a student’s best way to get ready for “real.”       

Linda (Put Your Blinker On) Zern


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