Deadlines And Crosswords

Final Column Spring '02

Deadlines. The very word brings shivers to any student's very core. Usually, they're permanent checkpoints set in stone with heavy penalties. Here in college, though, we learn a lot of tangible, real-life lessons, and one of those lessons is deadlines can be altered. Every deadline is plastic, except for death. But the way modern science is going these days, who knows? Science. Seriously, guys. Look into this.

My roommate taught me this lesson earlier in the year. As long as you have a good enough excuse to email your professor, you can pretty much get away with missing any kind of deadline they try to throw at you. Of course, the one caveat here is that each successive story has to get better and better — at least until the semester's over and you can start the racket again with a new professor. "I got caught up in a film shoot" turns into "I got stuck in an elevator," which must progress to "I got stuck in an elevator, where I discovered and demolished an international drug cartel/car theft ring."

You can use these kinds of excuses for just about any situation in which you might be a bit late. From a family function you really don't want to go to to an extra class lecture to some kind of intricate, immediately necessary life-saving surgery. I've missed about 10 deadlines on this column you're reading right now, and no one's the wiser. Well, except now, but that's because I just told you.

And now that you're all in the know, you may be asking yourself why I'm still rattling on about it. Well, all final columns have to have some kind of metaphor about graduation or growing up or something, so now, without further ado, I present to you the Pantomime Horse's Final Column Metaphor About Graduation:

There is one deadline even science can't save us from. You guessed it: graduation. We all enter into a contract when we come here that in four, or three, or, in some cases, five years, we'll walk down some aisle under a sweltering summer sun, get a little piece of paper and retire back to our rooms to celebrate before we get kicked out by the Office of Residence Life Attack Squadron. But then what?

For all our lives in college, our time has been fairly rigidly structured. We knew where we had to go and when we had to be there. Occasionally, we were even on time. But once we leave the wonderful world of American academia, there's nothing. It's like when you finish a maze in a magazine and your pen trails out of the maze's exit and into the great blank whiteness beyond. Where your writing utensil travels afterward is up to you. Spin around in circles, bleed some ink through the paper or just move up to the crossword puzzle if you want.

I know I don't have to cross this bridge yet, but I have a couple good friends who will be graduating this year, and that's constantly reminding me that I'm getting closer to the end of that maze, or the deadline, whichever metaphor you feel like working with. Either way, I've got another year of school left, a whole lot of new excuses to come up with and a couple more crossword puzzles to finish.