Monday marked my return to the lackadaisical university schedule I call the Graduate or Die Plan. Over the next 50 years, one of those two things will happen to me, and there likely will come a time when I stop caring which it is.
Having a real job can be a real nuisance when you're attempting to become educated. Oh, to be like those lucky students interviewed for our recent articles on tuition hikes at Southeast Missouri State University. "My parents are paying for this," many of them have said, "so it really doesn't affect me."
Or I could attend school on scholarships and student loans and work at Starbucks to earn spending money.
Trust me. You're not going home and racking your brain over whether you put enough caramel topping on that Frappuccino. Plus there's the employee discount.
Seriously, I love my job. And I love the idea of being a college student -- up until the time I actually arrive on campus and begin feeling my age.
Take the "campus trial paks" distributed at the book checkout. (Spelling them "paks" apparently makes them younger and hipper.)
They're actually small, brightly colored cardboard boxes with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jackie Chan -- at least he's older than I -- on the outside, promoting the movie "Tuxedo."
The contents of the boxes marked "for her" are: three kinds of over-the-counter medication, a short tube of deodorant, three sanitary napkins bearing the helpful scientific fact "50 percent of college women aren't getting the protection they need," a keychain, body wash, a laundry aid, two pieces of chewy candy and ads for cell phones, contact lenses and credit cards.
I sneaked a peek at the "for him" pak, which was minus the feminine hygiene products and plus a package of Combos pretzel snacks.
What's that about? The college woman doesn't like crunchy snacks? Just give us body wash, deodorant and some laundry aids, and we are ready for another year of school! There's no need to eat!
I'm taking a night course in the business department this year. The time of day and the subject somehow made me believe the classroom would be packed with nontraditional students, all rushing from their jobs to the university, hoping to somehow improve themselves.
That's not the case. There are about 50 people in the class, and I'm easily the oldest by about 10 years -- maybe even a couple years older than the professor.
I got there 15 minutes early on the first day and staked out one of two chairs at a long table. Slowly, every seat in the room filled up except the one next to me.
It was as though my classmates feared the old would rub off on them.
Finally, a skinny kid in flip-flops -- talk about a fashion that should not have come back -- appeared in the doorway. He stood next to my table and looked frantically around the room for a seat, any seat, except the one right in front of him.
Finding none, he dramatically yanked the chair an additional three feet away from me and collapsed into it. Poor thing. His bad luck of sitting next to me probably will ruin his chances of dating this year -- at least, that's what he'll blame it on.
Later that night, at the Student Recreation Center, I inquired about the Christmas holiday schedule.
"Are you faculty?" a confused desk clerk asked.
That really zapped the fun out of watching college boys play basketball and buying a bottled water with my student ID.
So, for yet another semester, I am reminded that you're only young once.
But I can buy liquor for the rest of my life. So there.
Heidi Hall is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.