May 26, 2005
I’ve been thinking for a long time about pursuing a higher degree. I earned a Bachelor’s degree, but I think I lost it when I got married. Having a Bachelor’s degree means I can put "B.A." after my name, which is a fancy way of saying I spent four years learning how to write B.S. The next degree would be a Master’s degree, which sounds cool because it makes you think you’re actually master of something, until you realize that a Master’s degree is nothing compared to the Ph.D., a degree that was invented back when punctuation was still new, a degree so revered and holy that people who have one can put letters after their name AND in front of it. People with Ph.D.’s get to call themselves ‘Doctor’, and once you call yourself Doctor you can make all kinds of idiotic statements about things you know nothing about and people will actually believe you. That’s especially true if you’re a member of Congress. But I digress. When I was in college my professors would sometimes mock other Ph.D.’s, saying things like, "Oh, he got his degree in underwater basket weaving." That offended me. Yeah, I know from my experience as a Boy Scout that basket weaving is the one merit badge you can earn in two hours and five minutes (the five minutes being the time you have to hold your basket together while the Scoutmaster approves it–after that you can remove your hands and let it turn back into a bundle of fibers and wooden circle), but have you ever tried holding your breath for that long? And my Uncle Mortimer was a professional underwater basket weaver. He worked his prune-like fingers to the bone making baskets. How dare these so-called ‘doctors’ mock him!
But I B.S. One thing that’s prevented me from getting a Ph.D. is I’m not proficient enough in any language, including English, that would actually be useful for the main requirement: reading long essays and books that no one really understands and explaining them in a way that makes them even more incomprehensible. I know about eight words of Russian, six words of Norwegian, and three words of Swahili, which makes me incapable of communicating with anybody in three languages. I spent five years learning just enough Latin to know that "ubi ignis est?" means "insane blind person", and that if I could go back in time the first thing I’d do is find Cicero and stick a tennis ball in his mouth. But I digress. One day I got the solution to all my problems delivered right to my e-mail: the promise of getting a degree without having to leave the comfort of my chair. Maybe you’ve seen these advertisements. You don’t have to go to class, but unlike college you don’t even have to enroll in a school, live in a dormitory, or worry about tests. You can get a degree from home. In fact you don’t even have to take classes or even actually learn anything. Naturally I jumped at the chance. All I had to do was pay the company enough money, fill out a questionnaire about whether I’d ever had an ingrown toenail and what my favorite flavors of ice cream were, and spend about three hours on the internet using my mouse to hit a monkey with a mallet. A month later I had my virtual degree. I could call myself a virtual doctor, and the world was my virtual oyster. So I quit my job, for which I was now ridiculously overqualified, and immediately went to a private company to apply for a job as an insanely overpaid executive. They turned me down flat. I was shocked and took a laptop computer to show them my virtual diploma. They looked at it and told me it qualified me for a virtual job at a virtual company with a virtual salary that would be virtually bupkis. I just hope I can get my old job back. Maybe I can impress them with my Swahili. At the very least I can dazzle them with my B.S.