Varsity blues by Trevor Plumbly
On our annual visit to Auckland University’s Visual Science Faculty, five of us ‘blindies’ do a Q&A panel session with students as part of low vision day. I love these days; I can’t see the faces, but the energy in the theatre is contagious. However, the warm fuzzies cool down after a couple of days and I get whimsical.
As a lad I never had a serious education; the income from a paper round was deemed more important to the family than a structured mind. So, ill-equipped and a little resentful, I left school and home at 15, which meant for the next few years my life centred around reality rather than enlightenment. Now I can look back with total glee at the torture I avoided. The ‘I used to’s’ always struck me as a sad part of elderly conversation, so, to avoid that, I’ve decided to do the ‘what if’s’.
‘What if’ took me to academia, but cynicism, as ever blighted the dream:
“There’s a wonderful family named Stein.
There’s Gert, there’s Epp and there’s Ein.
Gert’s poems are bunk, Epp’s sculptures are junk
And no-one can understand Ein.”
Armed with that crude logic, I would have rejected Literature, Art and Science; leaving Law, Commerce, Medicine or Philosophy. Obviously a bit of weeding out would have been needed: I would have rejected Philosophy as being too bloody vague; Commerce wouldn’t do, shuffling money around till you get lots of it is a miserable occupation and the only people that actually like rich people are the rich.
As for Medicine, I don’t have a grudge against doctors, but not many folk feel comfortable in their company. GPs are fairly harmless when it comes to the minor stuff, like a few Panadol and a blood test form, but when things get sticky you’re on your way to hospital. Hospital doctors look their best in TV soap operas: exchanging meaningful glances with anything nubile while the monitor flatlines. But in real life it’s Jekyll and Hyde all over again, one quietly reassuring and the other, armed to the back teeth and prepped-up to cut chunks out of you without even the courtesy of a maniacal chuckle. There’s Dentistry I suppose: there’s a few dollars in it, but it’s just not me, all those needles and drills give me the creeps and poking around inside other people’s mouths seems too much like facial proctology.
Despite the gloss applied by John Grisham and co, the law is a tortuous affair that attracts the devious. With that in mind, I might have been rather good at it. I would have needed to specialise: the bread and butter road is family law; it’s the least venomous if you ignore the fee scale. But I would have been lured by criminal law, the Caesar’s Palace of the profession, with mundane stuff like drunk driving and shoplifting dealt with at poker machine level while the high rollers come in with assault and murder. These guys are pin-stripe pit bulls and, like the casino, they never lose. It’s all money up front and quiet reassurance, nobody tells the punter he hasn’t got a hope in hell. The end result doesn’t matter, the fee’s still there.
The whimsy faded with the last of the Glenmorangie. But honestly folks, life was a lot simpler for a lad back then. You didn’t have to search for sexual identity; it found you, often behind the bike sheds. So who needed drugs? There were fags instead of ‘P’; ecstasy was something you got groping in the back row of the cinema. If you fell by the wayside, counselling was given by a cane wielding thug in seconds, rather than weekly instalments. Schooling had start and finishing points and not much in between, but I scraped through it relatively unscathed. Thanks to cyberspace, today’s kids face far more intellectual and emotional pressure than I ever did and if they want my advice: bugger the ‘ology, hang around the bike sheds and get yourself a paper round.