Missing the Ramp to the Information Highway

One of my favorite stories about being a frustrated college student is James Thurber’s “University Days.” Thurber, the student, must take a required biological science course in order to graduate. Unfortunately, he’s never able to see anything through a microscope. The professor makes every possible adjustment to the scope, still Thurber only sees “a nebulous milky substance.” Finally, after more adjustments, Thurber sees something and begins drawing it on a sheet of paper. The professor looks at the drawing and screams: “You’ve fixed the lens so it reflects. You’ve drawn your eye!”

I understood Thurber’s frustration when I tried to enroll in a golf class at Monterey Peninsula College. Several weeks ago I wrote about my goal to return the United States Open Golf Championship to this country — to end the event’s dominance by foreign players. Golf lessons are the first step in accomplishing my goal. I should be holding the winner’s trophy next year when the tournament is played in San Francisco.

Fifty years ago I stood in a line longer than the length of a football field to register for classes. Now registering is done online. I am not a computer expert, but I am keyboard literate. As an illustration, a recent email informed me that I am part of a class action suit. I needed to fill out an electronic form that guarantees my getting a share of the 2.5million dollar settlement — which could be as much as $10. The lawyers are getting slightly more than that — about $1.5million, in fact. It took me about 30 seconds to complete the form and submit it electronically. It took me a week to register on-line at MPC. Several days after registering, I called to inquire about purchasing a parking permit. I was told I didn’t need one because I wasn’t registered for any classes.

“But,” I protested, “I have a class number and a student ID number.”

“You are still not registered. I suggest you go to the Admissions Office.”

I did. Once there I was directed to a bank of computers in the lobby. I tried to explain that computers were the problem since somehow I had missed the ramp to the information highway. But I was holding up the line so I went home and started all over again. This time I got to a page that insisted it be printed out. It screamed that unless I printed it I would not be registered. I held in my hand a paper indicating in bright red letters that I had completed my registration. Finally!

The next week I went to school for my first class. The instructor read the names of those students who were officially registered. My name was not among them. I showed her my student ID number along with the class number. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t on the list. She gave me a “Class Add-On” form and sent me to the Admissions Office where I circled the parking lot for 20 minutes before finding a space. Fortunately, shopping at Trader Joe’s has made me an expert at circling parking lots looking for a space.

At the building entrance there was a line as long as a football field. It was comforting to see that nothing had changed in 50 years.

Jerry Gervase is a columnist for The Herald. He can be reached at info@jerrygervase.com.


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