It has been said, and eloquently, (by Nick Naylor) that almost everything done in the world – good or bad – was done to pay a mortgage. (also known, in the novel Nick lives in, as “The Yuppie Nuremberg Defense” – “I vas only paying ze mortgage!”)
But I think the real question is: how many of the world’s actions originate trying just to pay for school?
As I sat here this afternoon, beginning what promises to be an exciting college spring break of vegging out and reading teenage chick-lit which happens to be beneath me, I stumbled across an often overlooked all-star cast movie entitled “Not as a Stranger”.
I was initially excited – My God, I thought, this movie stars Robert Mitchum, Olivia de Havilland, and Frank Sinatra, not to mention the random walk-ons given to Lee Marvin, Harry Morgan, and Lon Chaney, Jr. Why on earth have I not SEEN this before? I wondered. I was soon to find out.
Olivia de Havilland, one of the most beautiful women of all time – who wouldn’t I kill to have skin like that – hair dyed to an almost noxious peroxide blond, starkly contrasting her big brown eyes. And it gets worse: she appallingly butchers a Swedish accent, she seems to be trying her best to pull off an Ingrid Bergman impression, but just winds up sounding like this guy. The first time she speaks in the movie, I thought the accent was some sort of plot device, that maybe she was faking it to get Robert Mitchum to leave her alone, or something. But no.
Anyway, the basic plot of the movie is Robert Mitchum becoming a doctor, developing a God complex, debating about having scruples, etc. He marries Olivia in all her Swedish-ness, much to my surprise, but here comes the interesting part:
He’s about to get kicked out of med school because he can’t pay for classes. He is quite destitute. I worried about him, how was he going to manage? Wait tables? Become a grease monkey? Sell his body? (I mean, of course, his organs. )
However, when Olivia invites him over to her house for a good ol’ fashioned smorgasbord (yes, she actually called it a smorgasbord, and they did eat fish) he hears that she has three or four thou tucked away, and perks up considerably. He marries her not long after.
What some people will do to pay for higher education. My boyfriend’s parents put themselves through college working as lab techs, he works at Publix, I know students who work at Domino’s, the Department of Education, at restaurants, as mechanics, all kinds of jobs. I, myself, work – never has one done so much for so many for so very little. Some of the most devious methods to pay for college can be read about in this excellent tome. But I guess marrying money works too. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that.
We all have to make some compromises to attain our ultimate goals – in this case Getting An Education Which Is The Most Important Thing That We Will Ever Do Because Without A Degree We Are Worth Next To Nothing Both In The Job Market And The Existential Sense, Or So We’ve Been Told, Probably By Our Fathers.
I was reminded of that yet again this evening as I picked up the most recent Kitchen Sink Magazine and read a short piece by Amy Reed, who seems to be an intelligent young woman forced into menial minimum-wage situations, despite both her noble attempt to garner a first rate-education and the unfortunate fact that you get all kinds of dirty websites when you google her name in conjunction with “kitchen sink”. I think this latter is odd, but I shall move on.
Amy relates with chillingly vivid detail the nightmare of waitressing – or cashiering – to support yourself and your education fetish. She also relates, however, her singular moment of (fantastical) triumph:
“One of them finally speaks. He pulls a hundred-dollar bill out of his wallet and slowly pushes it towards me. He leans on the counter and, after noticing my breasts, says smugly, ‘I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you can tell me the scientific name for the green sea urchin.’ His friend laughs. I look the doctoral candidate straight in the eye and calmly tell him, ‘Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis.’ His mouth drops. His friend’s mouth drops. I grab the bill out of his hand. The restaurant starts cheering. Each and every one of the housewives and independently wealthy patrons has a sudden epiphany: Their waitresses are all probably smarter than they are. They empty their wallets frantically, rushing to redeem years of bad tipping. Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, bitch.”
Ah, yes. We all have to pay the mortgage or the student loan. But sometimes, what we do to accomplish that can become – if only for a moment or two – worth it.
Even if we’re married to a preposterously blonde Swede who vaugely resembles this actress we once adored. At least we’re doctors now, and won’t be home much.