very semester I receive a letter from the Student Aid Commission. They're the ones who decide who is awarded financial aid in college and who isn't. Pompous, money-grubbing whores. And every semester this letter of theirs says: Cal Grant A - Disqualified; Cal Grant B - Disqualified; Cal Grant C - Disqualified. Disqualified? I know I'm disqualified, every year I'm disqualified for copious amounts of financial aid, apparently. Do you have to rub it in my gaping financial wounds every goddamn semester? Can't you at least tell me why I'm disqualified?

So, being the seeker of truth that I am, I call up the Student Aid Commission, seeking truth. After wading through an hour of automated menus, I finally get to talk to a 'real person'. Some chick named Debby.

"I'm calling about my Cal Grant," I tell her.

"Yes," she responds professionally, "you're disqualified."

"But I haven't even given you my name, yet," I whine.

"Trust me. You're disqualified."

"Well, I know that much," I explain, "I got your letter. I get your letter every semester... in triplicate. I want to know why."

"Why what?" I think I can hear her filing her nails disinterestedly.

"Why am I disqualified?"

"Oh, it says here that you are disqualified because you are ineligible." She didn't check. She's making this shit up.

"You still don't even know who I am."

She let's out a huge sigh, like customer service isn't her job and this is a terrible drain on her day. "Fine, if it makes you feel better: What is your name?"

I tell her.

"Yes, you're diqualified," she says in an I-told-you-so tone.

"I know that! I'm disqualified because I'm ineligible. But why am I ineligible?" Weber was wrong about beauracracy. It's not efficient at all.

"Please hold," she replies.

So I sit there, listening to annoyingly soothing elevator music. I don't want to be soothed but I am. It's like that slimy thing Kahn puts in Chekov's ear in Star Trek: The Wraith of Kahn, controlling my mind, clouding my thoughts. The music drones on and on, and then some guy comes on, singing a little ditty. He sounds like I'm sure Michael Bolton would sound if I'd ever heard one of his assclown anthems. "We have all the money," the voice croons, "and you have none. How's it feel? How's it feel to be des-ti-tute, fat ass?"

I try to ignore it. I'm not fat. And I begin to think. Why am I doing this? I pay a buttload of money to come to school. It isn't even my money. It's mostly loans. If I ever graduate, I'm going to end up owing enough loans to buy a $20,000 car or a $20,000 plasma television, or two $10,000 stereo systems.

I wouldn't mind so much if I actually felt like I got something out of this whole college edumacation ordeal. All I've gained so far is a pension for binge drinking, a score or so pounds and a growing insecurity about what the future may hold. There is no job waiting for me. No white house with white picket fence in textbook suburbia. Nothing. On graduating I get tossed in the blender with every other poor sap who bought into the whole higher education american myth. All that separates us from 'them' is a little piece of paper, a bachelor's in psychology and economics, an assurance that I have been exposed to a body of facts most of which will be forgotten once finals are through. Anything I remember will undoubtedly be outdated by the time I graduate. I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up. Not a psychologist. Not an economist. So why am I doing all this? Can't they give us a little coupon for "A Lifetime of Happiness" with our diplomas?

"Here you go," the dean would say, as I stand before him triumphantly in cap and gown and the pretty red pumps I bought just for the occasion. "Here's your diploma, and here's a voucher for a nice life." Is that really too much to ask? Ok, well, I guess it is. What about a gift certificate for MacDonald's or something then? I'd settle for that.

Finally the music ceases its taunting and Debby returns: "Moron... I mean sir?"

"I'm not fat," I tell her.

"What?" She's puzzled... or retarded... or both.

"The song, it called me fat. I'm not fat," I explain. "I'm quite slender, actually, and well-muscled."

She sighs again. "Please hold, I'll connect you to complaints."

Michael Bolton returns: "Fatty fatty fat fuck, fatty fatty fuck," he sings. "Fat man, fat man, what makes you so fat? You're so fat and I am not, fatty fatty fat fuck..."

I hang up the phone. I don't have to take this abuse. I've had enough. I don't need their goddamn money. Fighting back tears, I utter reassuringly: "I'm not fat."




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