On my first morning in America, I emerged into the Midwestern daylight and was immediately engulfed by the International Congress on Medieval Studies, like a German sunbather in a tsunami, swept up in a roiling mass of 5,000 screechingly insecure academics.
I fought past the pudgy historical reÃ«nactors, and pushed my way through the crowd into the main hall, until I was swimming with the current to the coffee urn in the cafeteria, where I found nothing but diluted tar-water and non-dairy creamer. I gratefully choked it down accompanied by a hemorrhoid-pillow-sized sugar doughnut. I would have preferred my customary breakfast of FrÃ¼stÃ¼ck Weisse and bran flakes, but when in the wild among savage peoples one must quickly adapt or die.
As I returned for a second cup of “coffee”, I noticed a curious and stilted social dance. Everyone, myself included, was wearing a personalized badge which named the institution to which the wearer belonged, and predictably, the academics were using this information to quickly sort each other into a heirarchy of supposed merit. God help the poor community college scholar.
At the urn I was accosted by a lank-haired, rat-faced, middle-aged female. Her badge identified her as belonging to a third tier state university in North Dakota. She stood directly between me and the coffee.
“Institute fur Europayshe…” she leaned forward, adjusting her glasses.
“EuropÃ¤ische Spielwissenschaft und Freizeitforschung,” I corrected, “and good morning to you. I am Herr Professor Doktor Boethius von Korncrake. And you, madam, are in the way.”
“I’m Sally.” she answered, heedless of my needs.
She extended her hand.
I took it and gently pulled her to one side and poured myself a second cup of coffee.
“I apologize,” I lied, “I’m terrible if I don’t have my morning coffee.”
She laughed. I fled.
Tomorrow, dear readers, I shall continue this story.