Things to do with a degree

John has had his degree in English Literature for three years. He has waited patiently for it to do something for him but he is becoming more impatient by the day. Yesterday, all it did was act as a place mat while he ate Kraft Dinner and watched Jeopardy.

By dinner time this day, it had done even less and was currently resting on the floor in his bedroom, making it difficult to get to his computer without trampling the expensive piece of well-decorated gold leaf paper.

“Why don’t you get a job?” he asked it under his breath as he took the long route around it before sitting in his office chair. But as usual, it said nothing and continued to look up at him from.

“We used to do things together,” he told his degree with longing in his voice. “We’d go for walks, we’d take the bus to job interviews, and we’d prepare resumes. Now people don’t even know we’re together. Where did we go wrong?”

Then looking directly at his degree, “Where did I go wrong? Why is my degree so useless?”

“LOOK AT ME!” he yelled at it. “Nick was telling me today that his diploma got him a job. A DIPLOMA! You should be ashamed of yourself. I spent close to $20,000 on you and spent four years making sure you were mine. He spent $8,000 and it only took him two years to get his.”

“Do you want to say anything to me?” he asked it. And it moved. It moved all the way to the door, before John closed the window and stifled the movement altogether. “You can’t leave me,” he said casually to. “You’re all mine, even if I decide to get a more helpful diploma. You know I’m looking at them online right now.”

But john knew he didn’t want a diploma, and he didn’t want an improved version of his degree. He was just using the diploma talk as a motivator. He certainly had heard plenty of stories about people doing things with their diplomas but even some of his friends had put their degrees to work, albeit a long time after they met one another. So he knew there were effective degrees somewhere in the world, maybe even an English Literature one.

“It’s too early to give up on you yet,” he told his degree apologetically. “I’ll make more of an effort to get the most out of you. It’s my responsibility as much as yours to make sure we live a comfortable life.”

The two spent the next couple of days getting reacquainted with each other — something John felt was long overdue, and something he took full responsibility for. They read some of the degrees favourite authors — Shelley, Wordsworth, Byron, and John started recalling how much he hated working for his degree.

“I get it,” he said to the degree. “You don’t want to work any harder for me than I did for you. That is valid, but you’ve got no other student to go to. I can find other degrees, I can find a diploma. You, you have nothing. I can so easily lock you up behind a sheet of glass and hang you. So if that’s what you want, you continue to be as stubborn as you’ve been. Otherwise, find a use.”

Having unsuccessfully tried the friendly method getting chummy with his degree, John decided to give it some space this time around. He would watch it for a week and see what it decided to do. After a week he was determined to move on if no progress had been made.

The week started off slowly with the degree spending the first couple of days browsing the Internet for pornography and fantasy sports and the next couple reading Stephen King books by the pool.

But just when john was getting ready to apply for a diploma, he saw an ad in the paper that called for a degree in English Literature:

Person wanted for students eager to learn the English language. No teaching experience necessary but degree in English Literature an asset. Come on down to the School of Simple learning for a chat and maybe a job.

He rushed off to find his degree that oddly enough was in the tie section of the closet.

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” he asked it nervously.

“This is our big chance,” it said.

“You know it is buddy,” John said before giving it a high five. “You want me to do anything for you? I can iron your edges or put you in your favourite plastic sheath if you want?”

“John, this is my turn to help you out. You just put on what I’ve picked out for you and let me do the rest.”

John was giddy with excitement and dressed in the grey pinstripe suit that his degree had chosen. He was actually quite impressed with the colour selection and for the first time in his life felt comfortable that he and his degree were the same.

They arrived at the school that afternoon with smiles on their faces. John knocked confidently on the door and was greeted by an older woman whose smile was equally wide.

“We’re here for the English job,” he told her confidently. “We feel we are the perfect candidate for these eager students.”

“We?” she said to John. “I see nobody with you.”

“Aha,” he said pulling his degree out of his leather bag. “This…is my degree.”

The degree looked more glorious than it ever had before. It was covered in very clear, very shiny plastic with a beautiful black backing. His name was as shiny as it had ever been and the name of his program as Latin as an Old Catholic prayer book.

“That is beautiful,” the old woman said to him. “You must be very proud of it. I know I would be.”

“You know what ma’am,” John said to her near tears. “We’ve had our good times and our bad, but right now, I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

“Well good then. If you don’t mind, I’ll just take a look at that and if it checks out the job is yours.”

John tentatively passed over what only days ago he was willing to throw out. He watched the old woman turn it over and over in her hands inspecting every square inch of it — paying extra attention to the concentration. Finally she looked up to John.

“We’ll this seems to match up just fine,” she told him. “If you want it, the hob is yours.”

“Wow,” said John. “Just like that? Well I’ll definitely take it. What exactly is the job anyway?”

“It’s the school janitor. Ours just quit and we needed someone as soon as possible. The bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in a few days. In fact, you can start right now. We pay $10 an hour.”

Still grateful but now somewhat confused, John was eager to know why his degree had been an asset in this job hunt.

“I’m just curious about the English Literature degree in the job posting. Why was that in there?” he asked.

“All of our janitors have had English Literature degrees,” she said flatly. “It has been our best guarantee that they wouldn’t have another job, nor would they have any real offers outside our own.”

“Fair enough,” said John, packing his degree back into his leather bag. “When did you say I could get started?”

The End

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