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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Karen Graduates

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/20/2024
Posted: 5/9/2008
Page Views: 11889
Topics: #KarenHopeCilwa
Karen is rewarded for her hard work.

It's May, so we have another graduation! This time it's my daughter, Karen, who got her bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Arizona State University this morning. Despite the fact that sitting in a sports stadium for three hours listening to unpronounceable names being, against all odds, pronounced as a thousand purple-robed graduates gavotte from chair to educator to educator and back to chair was considered too severe a torture for even Condoleezza Rice to order for Guantanamo Bay prisoners, it was a wonderful experience to be there for my little girl as she takes that magical step from childhood to employability.

Convocation started at 8 AM, and Karen was supposed to be there at 7 AM. I intended to be there at 7 as well, to ensure getting a decent parking space. I intended to take this seriously, and I wore slacks instead of jeans, and my "good" shoes. Those are the shoes that cripple me for a week every time I wear them, so I rarely wear them. (I should have known when I bought them; the box was labeled "From The Marquis de Sade Collection".)

Unfortunately, I did not make my intentions clear to the people I was driving. Karen went with her mother, so they were certain to be on time. And Michael was ready to go even before I was. But…well, anyway, we got there about 7:20, and the place was already mobbed. I did kind of luck out parking the car, as I was in a lot with signs on all the spaces, "Leave Payment in Box 53". But there was no box 53, or any other box for that matter. There were also almost no cars parked there. So maybe I shouldn't have been there but, whatever.

I had to stand in a line to get in that was longer than for a new Star Wars movie, wrapped most of the way around the building. There were many doors, but they were locked. I kept thinking, "Why would I hire someone from a university that can't even manage a crowd to its own convocation in its own stadium?"

Eventually I got in and quickly found Michael and his sister, Surya, who were in the "handicapped" section, where they had saved a seat for me. Surya was there with her walker, which is what qualified us. Our friends, Barbara and Peter, who read the names at the convocations (they are linguists, which is apparently what it takes) had made reservations for the three of us. The rest of the family were at the highest seats, to make the grandchildren happy.

The interior of the Sun Devils stadium is enormous.

Sun Devils' Stadium decked out for Convocation.

Then the graduates began their entrance march. An exquisite chamber group played the inevitable "Pomp and Circumstance". They were very good, but as the minutes rolled by and graduates filled section after section of the auditorium, I began to wish they'd jazz it up a bit. Unfortunately, they never did. Similarly to "I'm Henry The Eighth I Am", the forty-second verse was same as the first.

Keeping us awake were the cap decorations. This is, apparently, a new "tradition". Some of the students decorated the tops of their mortarboards. A few were simple, glitter-enhanced rectangles or happy faces. There were several "OBAMA!" caps (interestingly, I saw none for Clinton or McCain.) And one read, in large letters, "HIRE ME!" You have to admire that student's initiative.

The Valedicorian was funny and politically savvy.

The young lady who was valedictorian gave probably the best valedictorian address I've ever heard. She began by explaining that her dad advised her to select one single word, and to base her entire speech on that word. She tried a number of different words (and even the phrase "cheese pizza") but, as she put it, the experience was a string of failures that reminded her of nothing so much as "George W. Bush's presidential journey." At this unexpected bit of political humor, the stadium exploded with laughter, applause, and whistles, above a very small and quickly drowned out chorus of boos.

Jenny and Cailey visit from the nosebleed seats.

It was at that point that Barbara and Peter began reading out names. They went on and on, literally, such that our friends required relief readers to spell them now and then.

I haven't had a chance to mention this, but my oldest daughter Dorothy Elizabeth and her fiancé Frank and their little girl, Cailey, flew all the way out here for Karen's graduation. As the reading of the names, like Celine Dion's heart went on and on, other daughter Jenny and Cailey came down to visit us. That was a nice break, and I even considered going up to visit the rest of the family; but I hadn't brought any oxygen or altitude sickness medication, so I refrained.

Then we had the Walker Incident. This was not Surya's fault. We were in, you'll recall, the "handicapped section." Now, there are a couple of things you should note:

  1. This is the Sun Devil's Stadium, not a rented conference room at a Holiday Inn. It has been used on a regular basis for housing enormous crowds for years now; and surely Surya was not the first person in a walker to ever make use of its facilities.

  2. A "handicapped section" implies, not only easy access for handicapped persons, but also accommodation of the equipment handicapped people often need: wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen tanks, and so on.

But this "handicapped section" looked exactly like every other seating section in the stadium. The seats were so narrow that if I closed my eyes I could have imagined I was flying on United (except that the seat in front of me didn't recline into my lap). Surya took the aisle seat on the uppermost row of the section, which at least allowed her easy access to the seat. She rolled her walker as close to her seat as she could get it; and the aisle was generously wide.

About halfway through the proceedings (which means you could have watched Ben-Hur on your cell phone if you wanted) a woman in a guard's uniform came up to Surya and told her she couldn't have her walker in the aisle, as it was a fire hazard. Surya tried to explain that there was no other place to put her walker. The woman countered by demanding that Surya hold the walker in front of her. Now, that was a fire hazard, as if there had been an emergency, the rest of the row would have been blocked by the walker. It was blocking no one in the aisle.

Karen, a graduate.

I am amazed that no one has sued Sun Devils' Stadium long ago for its inadequate support of handicapped visitors. I am also amazed that no one had sued that guard for being an ignorant waste of skin. Perhaps it's because she made sure her name badge was unreadable while she interacted with us.

Finally, the magic moment came. I did take a picture, but of course Karen was too far away to make out. (However, for $30 we can buy a DVD of the entire three hours of entering, naming, and gavotting, including all 187 verses of "Pomp and Circumstance." Just the thing to bring out at parties!)

But the best picture of Karen was obtained outside, when she had a chance to receive her flowers from us and demonstrate her pleasure at having reached this point.

Lunch or even a late breakfast would have been nice; but alas, I had to get back to work. So we spent a few minutes taking pictures of various combinations of relatives; and then going for the car (which, to my relief, was still where I had left it and unticketed), and making a run for another day of gainful employment.

In which, hopefully, Karen will soon be joining me!