On Friday morning, following the night of the big university commencement, I went to convocation – which included just half of the students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences rather than the entire ASU student body. For this one, everybody gets to walk across the stage and get their name read, so it’s worth going to. Problem was, we had to be there and ready by 7am, after being up late the night before. Ugh. More play-by-play impressions follow the picture.
The crowds are amassing while we are trying to find a place to park. I tell my parents to drop me off and park in the structure next to the arena. Little do I know what consequences that innocuous choice will have.
Graduates have to line up outside by last name to get their photo identifier / name pronunciation card. For some reason the line “R-S” is backed up 30 people deep compared to most other lines with three or less waiting. This could go either way – people with R-S last names might be inherently smarter and thus more likely to graduate, or they could just be inept at performing simple activities like picking up notecards.
Eventually the girl managing the P-Q line (which is deserted) steals the R box to break up the line (and to have something to do). Things move faster.
Now we’re supposed to make a single file line behind our department’s banner. The room allotted makes it physically impossible for English department graduates to go single file. We end up making a sort of milling mob, which is more creative and organic anyway.
I see people I know, which is already an improvement upon commencement. My fellow creative writing cohort Anita teams up with me in line so we each have someone to talk to during our ordeal.
The whole “lining up outside” idea is looking worse and worse, particularly for those of us in direct sunlight wearing dark polyester gowns and hats. 30 minutes pass, then 60, then 90. I picture some archaeologist years from now excavating a dig site and finding hundreds of skeletal remains in maroon academic regalia.
Finally we move. Determined volunteers chivy us along and make us funnel into a form more closely resembling a single file line. This is important because about six of these lines will be walking down the road to the arena in concert, and if one poor soul gets lost an entire department might not graduate.
I suggest to Anita that we should hold onto the tassel of the person in front of us, like baby elephants with their mother’s tail.
As we enter the arena, we are funneled through metal gates eerily reminiscent of a stockyard. I revise us from elephants to cattle in my head. Highly educated cattle.
One of the global studies graduates tries to sneak into the English line, which is moving the fastest, then realizes that she would have to spend four years studying a different major before that could work. She returns to her stalled line.
Turns out the English line zooms along because we get to sit in the chairs on the floor of the arena. Our group is going to walk earlier than most of the other departments. Take that, psychology students!
The next five minutes are spent texting back and forth with my parents, trying to locate them in the stands. The fact that they’re almost directly behind me makes this difficult, but eventually I find them.
The speaker for this event knows what he’s doing, and is even funny, in that older-generation-trying-to-appeal-to-the-younger kind of way.
His analogies might be a little unsuitable for Arizona graduates. He talks about walking on thin ice. Then he asks how many people have ever seen ice. I mentally facepalm.
We’re moving! We’re moving!
My picture is taken three times during my walk. I hope that one of them turns out okay. That’s all I really need.
I hear my dad all the way from the stands when my name is read. Thanks, Dad.
English students sit and prepare to wait out all of the rest of the graduates. It’s going to be a while.
One of the psychology students has managed to affix what looks like the upper hemisphere of a brain to the top of her mortarboard. I grudgingly acknowledge that psychology students do have some skills, after all.
Hurrah! Done again! This time plus a nifty diploma cover! We’re blinded by different color spotlights as the graduates file out.
We repeat the whole lost-lambs-with-cell-phones scene as we file out of the arena. Baaaa.
Oh yeah, that parking lot thing? Utter disaster. We’re on the third floor and it takes an hour and many mini freak-outs before we exit. I’m surprised we got out alive, in a war zone with angry, frustrated people with large vehicles all attempting to back out at once.
But we make it…still in once piece! And double-graduated to boot!