I Could Get a Ph.D. But Couldn’t Find Restroom
Lorna focuses on what she can control, or thinks she can control…
One AA hangover that stuck with me was the Serenity Prayer. Alcoholics didn’t invent it, but they chanted it like they did.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
It asks a lot; but God, I heard, was known for fulfilling impressive requests.
Refusing Reluctant to invoke “God,” I just sent out a general SOS. “Please grant me …” Then I made my “Help!” list, which was colossal formidable long. I started with something time-sensitive.
The clock was ticking on my dissertation. I moved “home” after my proposal was approved, giving me four years to complete my data analysis, write up my results, get my final draft committee-approved, and defend my work to the committee and experts in the subject. Without email/texting, I did this via
Pony Express snail-mail and expensive phone calls while I was working full-time as a researcher/college instructor, caring for Alex, dealing with the “Broken House,” being a good wife, and keeping up with personal hygiene.
The final chapter was the hardest one. Synthesizing all prior knowledge on my research topic in light of my findings and proffering insightful directions for meaningful future research isn’t as easy as it sounds. My dissertation presented a complex statistical model predicting whether or not a person drinks alcohol. Always pick a research topic in which you have a deep personal
problem interest. I wrote this chapter at home, in 15-minute intervals, with constant interruptions by Alex and Chuck, each who needed me for various urgent matters: story-reading, tool-finding, telephone-answering, beverage-service…
I wrote it and my committee approved it. In April 1991 I went down to Washington, D.C. to defend my dissertation. Maybe it was adrenaline, nerves, or PTSD, but I don’t remember much about the defense. I hardly slept the night before, which worried me because I wanted to Gene Kelly dance through the questions these experts/scholars tossed at me, none of which I knew in advance. There were about 15 people sitting around a huge table with my manuscript in front of them and I think the “dance” lasted about
6 days 2 hours. The Chair of my committee escorted me out of the room while they all deliberated. He came back out in about 2 hours 20 minutes. His exact words were, “Congratulations, Dr. [my last name then]. Is there anyone you would like to call?”
Chuck was waiting at his sister’s home in nearby Virginia. I called him. Then I cried.
My mom, younger sister and Chuck all came with me for graduation in May. The professor for whom I TA-ed and was willing to fight for me when Dr. C pulled his power-play came to the stage to congratulate me personally. Dr. C wasn’t there.
On our way back home early the next day, we all needed a bathroom break desperately. I learned four valuable lessons that morning:
- timing is everything,
- I can’t control time,
- I had amazing bladder control, and
- having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you better than anyone else, especially when bathrooms are involved.
Chuck pulled into a McDonald’s at the same time a tour-bus did. The senior citizens off-loaded quicker than Olympic sprinters. We never had a chance–at least we females didn’t. Chuck was able to use the men’s room because there were only 3 older men; the rest of the bus was filled with older women and more layers of clothing than in a Lane Bryant warehouse.
The 3 of us stood, legs crossed, among the happily chit-chatting women of varying hair colors in a cue that wound its way to the sidewalk. They seemed in no particular hurry, nor could they be with all the support hose, girdles, and assorted granny-panties they had to undo and redo just to do their business.
I started laughing, which is never a good idea with bladder walls stretched to the translucence and strength of wet tissue paper. Then Mom and my sister got a serious case of uncontrollable giggles. Just as one of us composed ourselves, we’d look at the ridiculously long line of old women who sprinted ahead of us, and we’d erupt in another round of incontinence-threatening laughter.
Chuck found another restaurant a few blocks away. We rushed the place, only to find the one uni-sex restroom was occupied.
A n hour A minute later, out came a 300 pound trucker who did serious business in that toilet. It mattered not. One by one, using the “age before beauty” rule, we held our noses and relieved ourselves.
Any new-Ph.D.-delusions-of-grandeur, however slight, evaporated. I was humbled by speedy old ladies and a trucker who seriously needed to evaluate his eating habits. Education is great; but for a low-cost way to learn about equality and so much more, wait your turn for a public restroom.
Speaking of delusions of grandeur, this leads us to how Lorna delivered some justice to the
evil arrogant Dr. C.
~ by Lorna's Voice on October 4, 2011.