When the email arrives inviting you to Graduation 2013, you debate whether or not to attend. You ask yourself if it will mean anything. You ask yourself if you’ll know anyone. You deferred your dissertation – many of your classmates have already graduated, others can’t make it.
Your husband says you should go. He says you may regret not attending. He says he wants to celebrate with you. So you send back an email. “Yes,” you say. “I’ll go. Please send me the forms.”
You wait for the forms but they don’t arrive. After a week, you send another email which goes unanswered, so you leave a voicemail message. You wait. And wait.
The deadline to submit the forms is fast approaching. You leave another voice mail; you send another email. This email is a bit tetchy; it references your previous emails and voice mails. To your surprise, a reply pings straight back. It says there is no record of any emails from you. It says you must have sent them to the wrong address. You can almost hear the unspoken ’if you sent them at all.’
Those emails are still in your sent folder.You forward one to the same address you’ve just heard from, the same address you’ve used every single time. “Look,” you say. “I did ask for the forms. Look!”
A few minutes later a reply pings back, apologizing for the confusion and attaching the forms. If you send the forms back straight away, it says, we will send you the tickets in September. You fill in the forms and send them back. You file the incident under WTF, glad to have resolved it before you head off on holiday.
September comes and the days slip by. Your children are back at school and you are busy. Now it’s the last week of September and still there are no tickets. You phone and someone picks up the phone. You have a live one. You ask if the graduation tickets have been mailed out yet.
“Yes,” she says. “Yes, they were sent out two weeks ago.”
“I didn’t get mine,” you say.
“What’s your name?” she says. You tell her.
“We have you down as not coming,” she says.
You are starting to think she has a point. You are starting to think that ‘not coming’ is the way to go. Still, you fight on. You take the woman through the debacle and she apologizes. Profusely. She says she will send you the tickets right away.
AND SHE DOES.
Two weeks later, your husband drops you at the Guildhall so you can collect your cap and gown. Graduates are admitted before spectators, so you arrange to meet after the ceremony. You walk towards the Cathedral in your gown. The town is full of fellow graduates, their black gowns billowing. Maybe you’re glad you came. Maybe.
At the Cathedral, you present your ticket.
You think about all that silly nonsense you went through to get the damn thing. It doesn’t matter now, you think. You’re feeling magnanimous.
The nice man with the clipboard smiles and asks for your name. You’re smiling now, too. He runs his finger down the alphabetical list. He asks you to repeat your name and both of you, together now, scan the list. Your name is not there.
“Wait,” he says. “Wait here.”
You watch him walk briskly up to a woman sitting at a table. He points at his clipboard and then at you. The woman beckons you forward and asks for your name. You tell her.
“Oh,” she says. “We had you down as not coming.”
You sigh. “I don’t believe this.” But that is all you say. There is no fight left in you.
“Don’t worry,” she says. She tells you she’ll fix it, she’ll find you a seat. “Wait,” she says. “Wait here.”
Later, when it’s all over, when your name has been called,* when you’ve walked up the aisle and shaken the Chancellor’s hand, the comedy of errors will end. There will be only one thing left for you to do:
(*out of sequence, confusing the girl ahead of you, and requiring that your name be called again at the correct time)