January 3, 2015

Jane Mugwump

Creepy Research Library

Obscenely Expensive Private College

Run Down and Decaying City, USA

Dear Jane:

Recently I saw an article about you in the Mugwump College magazine, and it brought back a host of wonderful memories. How inspiring it is to read that you are still serving the university and its students! I doubt if you would remember me, but I was one of the student workers in the Mugwump Hall Business Library from 1981 to 1985. Working for highly accomplished professionals like you and Marcus Dickbreath and Georgiana Cooze was a welcome break from my many demanding courses in English literature.

As I look at my life today, it's not always easy to appreciate the benefits of my Mugwump education. I work at a small public library in a run-down, ugly little city in upstate New York, not far from Albany. Most of the library patrons I deal with are low-income people who only need to decide which DVD to rent for the night. Few are serious scholars looking for insight into the great classics of English and American literature that I studied so diligently at Mugwump. Still, it is an honor for me, as a Mugwump graduate, to work part time for $9.75 an hour. I fully appreciate the doors my Mugwump degree has opened for me.

Of course, I was an English major, and the English novel that meant the most to me in those years was Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. You may recall that Tom's quest for the pure and chaste Sophia Western is nearly derailed by his lustful affair with the cruel and seductive Lady Bellaston, an older woman who pursues Tom with predatory hunger. Now I have a confession to make, Jane. Reading Tom Jones I very often pictured Lady Bellaston as a modern woman like you, possessing all of your regal hauteur and voluptuous beauty, while picturing myself as young Tom Jones. Even though my BA in English Literature didn't help me to find a job, or prepare me for any of life's basic challenges, I did enjoy Tom Jones!

But there's a serious point I want to make here. When I stand behind the counter in my dreary little public library, I often picture myself standing behind the counter at the Reserve Desk thirty years ago. And as I stand there, smelling the unwashed bodies of the semiliterate proles who come in each night to rent IRON MAN III, I feel great bitterness about my time at Mugwump. And yet I only have myself to blame. Whenever I looked at you in those days, all I ever thought was "there's Lady Bellaston," or "Jane Mugwump is as sexy as Lady Bellaston!" Never once did I look at you and think, "That could be me in ten years," or "I bet Jane Mugwump could help me find a job after college!"

I worked at the Mugwump Business Library for four years, and it never occurred to me to ask why I was really there. I thought I was just there to make some extra pocket money, or to save the university the expense of hiring a non-student and paying them a living wage. It never occurred to me until very recently that my job was really an opportunity to observe ruthless, aloof, successful adults and learn from them. I never would have imagined patterning myself after you, or Marcus, or Georgiana. I thought of you as beings from another universe entirely. I never saw any of you as potential mentors, and if I had, I wouldn't have had any idea how to approach you for help. I didn't really understand that I needed help, because I didn't understand how short my college years really were, or how hard it is to get ahead in life. Now I do understand those things, but it's too late to make any difference. All I can do is stand behind the counter in my rundown public library, and wish there were some way other people could learn from my mistakes!


Lance Nadler

Mugwump '85