MartyDigs: The respected, esteemed professor Dr. Martin O’Connor

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I work at a very fine institution of higher education in the Philadelphia area. I cannot stress how much I love working in the college atmosphere, so much so that I am pursuing my Master’s In Higher Education so I can support and advance my career in the college world. I feel like every day is exciting, and its always invigorating to walk onto a college campus. I think it even keeps me young, although I still haven’t learned how to properly “Dougie”, can’t figure out why kids like this rapper Drake, and (for humanity’s sake) I would never dare attempt to wear skinny jeans   

I find humor and comedy in everything – it’s how I get by. When I am nervous, I crack jokes, and when things are serious, I nervously giggle. The bottom line, I never take myself too seriously and I can find a million funny things during the course of a day. Working in a college, not only am I windswept with fuzzy memories of my own college years, but I also make comical self-observations. I am also treated to funny things happening on an almost daily basis.

One thing I am amazed by is when I tell people where I work, I get this almost respected hushed awe normally reserved for employees of the CIA, NASA, the Philadelphia Phillies, and Wall Street fat cats. I worked at Comcast’s corporate headquarters for five years, and when I told people that, they didn’t respect me, they would lunge for my neck. Folks would complain about their bill to me, as if I had any power of it, and as if I was benefitting from it. “Yeah, your bills high – thanks!How else could I afford this lavish lifestyle of living in a row home and driving a 10 year old car”. When I worked for MBNA, the now defunct credit card company – people called me a soulless bloodsucker – which was fair, because that’s how I felt too. When I rented cars for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, people just laughed at me. But now, as an employee of a higher education institution, I am respected. I’m broke, but I am respected.

A very entertaining part of my job are the emails I receive from prospective students. They can be hilarious and sometimes very flattering – on many occasions I have been referred to as Professor O’Connor, or Dr. O’Connor. As if I am some silvery bearded professor, thoughtfully puffing on a pipe in a tweed sport coat, perusing stacks of dusty books and periodicals. Or in some laboratory in a crisp white lab coat, mixing smoking beakers filled with mysterious colorful chemicals, or having an enlightened discussion regarding the works of Tolstoy or Nietzsche with my esteemed colleagues.

When in reality, the only scientific experiment I’ve done in the past five years is adding Cherry Coke to a recipe for a ham glaze. And the extent of my philosophical conversations with “colleagues” is dissecting the brilliant guitar work of Edward Van Halen with my friend Chad, debating whether a saucy or crispy buffalo wing is better with my friend Pat, regurgitating classic lines from the Simpsons with my buddy Jojo, or listening to my friend John’s new rant – “is Lady Gaga supposed to be hot?”

 I would imagine that these young people think that when they call me that I am in some oak paneled room wearing a graduation cap and gown. The harsh reality is that I’m in a cubicle covered with pictures of Jack, and wearing Walmart brand khakis that are an awkward or sudden move away from ripping in the crotch region, and an ill-fitting golf shirt that I’ve had since the 90’s.

Back when I first started, I received an email from a young lady who just seemed so sweet and polite that addressed me as “dear respected Dr. O’Connor”. My buddy Burks asked – with a hint of sarcasm and disbelief in his voice, “this girl hasn’t actually met you, has she?” Apparently prospective students who I have never met hold me in higher regard that my closest friends.  

I do love working at a college though – every day, it seems that something exciting is going on. Whether it be watching frat boys do some goofy stunt through campus, taking in a lunchtime performance of a student ensemble, or the endless number of energy drink companies showing up and handing out free samples.   For me, there is always a buzz and excitement in the air.

However, there are some days when it’s brutally depressing. It normally hits me as I am trudging home, still exhausted from a poor night of sleep the night before courtesy of Jack. And I see college students playing volleyball, or longboarding down the street, or hanging out on a front porch sipping from Solo cups. Or on rainy days, when I think they can just do what I used to do on a rainy college day in the 90’s – go to my dorm, play Sega, let off some fireworks, and make some crank calls. They are free to do whatever they want, party, lounge, chill, rage, and most importantly nap. The thought of knowing that when I get home, I will be chasing Jack in circles at some playground, and have to cook dinner, wash dishes, do laundry, and get grad school work done can be a total buzz kill.  

At open houses, I have been confused as a student, parent, and professor – I guess it all comes down to how I combed, or didn’t comb, my hair that day. But I still feel a connection to college students, even though I am getting more and more out of the loop. And it’s comforting to see the similarities between my college days and now. There are still the prep school hippies (trustafarians, as I have heard them once called), kids who get to college, smoke a marijuana cigarette, and decide to wear tie dye, beat up corduroys and sandals made out of the same material as the stuff they are packing into bowls. There are still the female athletes that seem to do whatever they can to let everyone know they participate on a team, this includes constantly wearing sweatpants or mesh shorts, their high school varsity jackets, and walking with a slight hobble or limp to denote exertion from athletic competition. And the kids in slide flip flops, oh, how I despise thee. Now, I am bothered by the kids who wear tube socks with them. To me, it looks stupid, and frankly, not very comfortable.   

Things are much different now, and I think college kids have it much easier. I was in school right before cell phones became common for people other than drug dealers and Zach Morris to own. The internet was still a baby in a way, we didn’t have images in the web until senior year. And barely anybody I knew owned a computer at college. Now, every kid you see in chattering away on some laptop or monkeying around with their smartphone. They have it easy now – it’s easy to stay connected to friends, cheaper to stay connected, and can they download anything they want in the blink of an eye.  I had cumbersome and expensive CD’s, and would tape The Simpsons every night on my VCR. (Shit, DVD players weren’t out until my senior year)  Hell, there is even a fake ID website now! We had to have an older brother, or look like someone, or pay a hundred bucks to get an  ID that might work at times.

I hope college kids still appreciate the art of the prank. Sometimes, I ask they kids who help my group out if they ever pull any pranks. But of course, I ask them about cliched college pranks from the 50’s – like short sheeting a bed. They normally look at me like I am crazy. But no prank satisfied me more than they throwing or launching of a water balloon. A perfect, mostly harmless prank that was always a crowd pleaser. In a way, I wouldn’t mind getting hit with a water balloon walking across campus. For one, it would be very refreshing, and also it would be returned karma for all my past indiscretions. I’m the guy who drew male anatomy on the faces of my passed out friends, and once hit my ex roommate with a Hefty bag full of kitchen condiments. Now, I am a lame older guy in almost ripped Walmart pants and an old golf shirt.

One last thing I still can’t grasp is how hip it is (when you work for a college) to eat Indian food, or sushi, or Thai food. Seems like the more bizarre or disgusting the food looks, the trendier.  I am a pretty simple guy – all I need is chicken in nugget, wing, or finger form. Growing up, butter, vegetable oil, and salt were the exotic rubs, oils, and spices I was raised on. Sometimes, I don’t know how I weaseled my way into the higher education world since I don’t eat Indian food. Surprisingly, I wasn’t made to take some test where you have to love and crave Indian food. I guess I am just not that hip.

Other than the whole food issue, working at a college is pretty cool. And while I don’t want to rush Jack through childhood, parts of me are anxious for him to get to college. Because when he does, I am totally going to pull a Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School” and move in with him. I just have to get working on my “Triple Lindy”.

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One Response to “MartyDigs: The respected, esteemed professor Dr. Martin O’Connor”

  1. funniest article ever written. spot on. i think

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