Thursday, April 14, 2011


I actually picked up the phone when it rang tonight. Why? Why would I make that mistake? I got my comeuppance, because on the other line was someone from my undergraduate alma mater Oberlin College, who was calling to "update their files," which is what they always say before putting the squeeze on you. The next time I ask for a raise, I'm going to tell my boss that I'm merely interested in updating my files, and when he looks puzzled, I'll ask if he has any questions about recent developments on campus.

In a way, my alma mater IS just updating their files, with the most important piece of information to update being my Visa number.

Then as long as I was in the Oberlin groove, I picked up the alumni magazine and glanced at the alumni notes. I see that one of my fellow students has started a winery and is bottling product under their own label, which is of course -- of course! -- called PWR Wines, for the People's Wine Revolution. That pretty much says all you need to know about my alma mater right there. Oberlin could save a lot of money by condensing the 50-page, full color alumni magazine down to that one paragraph and putting it on a postcard, which would be mailed out to alumni who would read about the People's Wine Revolution nod their head, and say yep, that's where I went to college, all right. And then they would update their Visa card files.

The last time I was on campus was for my 10-year college reunion. I was excited to be back on campus, to visit with old friends, and to show the college to David and Stella. There were a lot of people that I half-recognized but didn't actually know. I had the same feeling at the reunion that I did when I was attending Oberlin: 90% of the people there were much smarter, more talented, and cooler than me. The remaining 10% lacked all social skills and were just plain weird.

In case you were wondering, Oberlin College is in northern Ohio. I'm sometimes surprised at how few people have heard of it. That may change once the People's Wine Revolution gets off the ground.

I went to graduate school at University of Wisconsin, which doesn't call me nearly as often as Oberlin does. This might be in part because the last time UW called they asked for a donation of $250 and I almost choked on what I was eating, which by the way was not caviar, contrary to UW's impression of my financial status.

My high school has mercifully refrained from asking for contributions. I went to a public high school, so I would imagine they don't typically solicit donations, but the temptation must be hard to resist. I tremble when I think of all the great blackmail material my high school could use to levy a substantial "donation" from me. In particular I am thinking that if my high school threatened to circulate a photograph of my bangs circa 1990 around my workplace, I could probably see my way to contributing several hundred dollars to the principal's retirement fund. And to show my gratitude for not releasing embarrassing pictures, I would even throw in a little extra something: a whole case of the People's Wine Revolution.

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