Voyageur Storytelling: A Leacock Sesquicentennial Portfoliopus
Voyageur Storytelling Lunar Loon

A Stephen Leacock Sesquicentennial in 2019


A Contribution to

the Project of Voyageur Storytelling

in Northern Bruce Pennsula, Ontario

My Academic Career

by Sheldon Bookman

Published here, with permission, April 18, 2018

My Academic Career

When I go into a university I get rattled. The secretaries rattle me; the clerks rattle me; the sight of application forms rattles me; everything rattles me.

The moment I cross the threshold of a university and attempt to enrol in a course there, I become an irresponsible idiot.

I knew this beforehand, but my IQ score had risen and I felt that the university was the only place to develop it.

So I shambled in and looked timidly round at the clerks in the registrar’s department. I had an idea that a person about enroll must needs consult the registrar or the dean.

I went up to a wicket marked "secretariat." The secretary was a tall, cool devil. The very sight of her rattled me. My voice was sepulchral.

"Can I see the registrar?" I said, and added solemnly, "alone." I don't know why I said "alone."

"Certainly," said the secretary, and fetched him.

The registrar was a grave, calm person. I held my IQ results clutched in a crumpled ball in my pocket.

"Are you the registrar?" I said. God knows I didn't doubt it.

"Yes," he said.

"Can I see you," I asked, "alone?" I didn't want to say "alone" again, but without it the thing seemed self-evident.

The registrar looked at me in some alarm. He felt that I had an awful secret to reveal.

"Come in here," he said, and led the way to a private office. He shut the door.

"We are safe from interruption here," he said; "sit down."

We both sat down and looked at each other. I found no voice to speak.

"You are one of the postdoctorals from Bytown University, I presume," he said.

He had gathered from my mysterious manner that I was a Ph.D. graduate. I knew what he was thinking, and it made me worse.

"No, not from Bytown University," I said, seeming to imply that I came from another rival institution.

"To tell the truth," I went on, as if I had been prompted to lie about it, "I am not a postdoctoral at all. I have come to enroll and to take all my courses on this campus."

The manager looked relieved but still serious; he concluded now that I was a son of a member of the Board of Governors or a potential donor.

"Quite a commitment, I suppose," he said.

"Fairly large," I whispered. "I propose to audit one course now and one every term including the spring and summer."

The registrar got up and opened the door. He called to the administrative assistant.

"Ms. Montgomery," he said unkindly loud, "this gentleman is going to audit courses; he will take one this Fall and one every subsequent term. He will put down payment promptly. Good morning."

I rose.

A big iron door stood open at the side of the room.

"Good morning," I said, and stepped into the safe.

"Come out," said the registrar coldly, and showed me the other way.

I went up to the administrative assistant’s wicket and poked the ball of IQ results at her with a quick convulsive movement as if I were doing a conjuring trick.

My face was ghastly pale.

"Here," I said, "enroll me" The tone of the words seemed to mean, "Let us do this painful thing while the fit is on us."

She took the document and gave it to another clerk.

He made me write course numbers on a slip and sign my name in a book. I no longer knew what I was doing. The registrar’s department swam before my eyes.

"Am I enrolled?" I asked in a hollow, vibrating voice.

"You are," said the clerk.

"Then I want to withdraw."

My idea was to withdraw from one course until I was sure of the course contents. Someone gave me another form through a wicket and someone else began telling me how to fill it out. The people in the secretariat had the impression that I was an invalid genius. I wrote something on the form and thrust it in at the clerk. He looked at it.

"What! are you withdrawing from all the courses?" he asked in surprise. Then I realized that I had checked off all three courses. I had a feeling that it was impossible to explain the thing. All the clerks had stopped writing to look at me.

Reckless with misery, I made a plunge.

"Yes, the whole thing."

"You are withdrawing from all the courses?"

"Every one of them."

"Are you not going to enroll any more?" said the clerk, astonished.


An idiot hope struck me that they might think something had insulted me while I was filling out the form and that I had changed my mind. I made a wretched attempt to look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.

The clerk prepared to stamp the form.

"How will you take the form?" he said.


"How will you take it?"

"Oh"--I caught his meaning and answered without even trying to think--"in triplicate."

He gave me the thick attached forms.

"And the student society forms?" he asked dryly.

"In triplicate too," I said.

He gave it all to me and I rushed out.

As the big door swung behind me I caught the echo of a roar of laughter that went up to the ceiling of the hall. Since then I enroll no more. I keep my IQ results in my credenza and my study notes in an empty beer carton in the bottom shelf of the kitchen cupboard.

© 2018 Sheldon Bookman

Sheldon Bookman is a semi-retired teacher who considers Mariposa one of the cities of literary refuge of Canada.  Only Stephen Leacock's masterful humour kept him from giving up on university training.  In his spare time, he joins with others in reclaiming heritage property, especially the abandoned churches of the nation's capital that are bereft of worshippers and fervent prayer. He believes that laughter should ring a mari usque ad mare!

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