REDEMPTION! 37 Years Later!.. August 29th 2019


Yes this is a detour from my travelogues but when inspiration hits, you know I have to write about it. So if you don’t have time or interest, scroll by because this will take some time to read…

This morning something crazy happened to us for the first time ever on trip anywhere! Tommy and I were in groggyland having barely woken up. Just starting to get aware of the morning, still in our fabulous sleeping attire which we have worn since our birth.. And then it happens… This ultra loud screeching sound which we thought we accidentally triggered something crazy with the coffee machine. Then we are hearing loudspeakers in the hallway speaking in French of course, and we figure out the fire alarms for the hotel are going off. We have to evacuate at this very inopportune moment. More on this later… But now back to 37 years ago…

High School 1982, summer between Junior and Senior years. That summer, I took a road trip with one of my good friends, Roger, up the coast in his car to visit colleges. Kinda crazy that our parents let two high school juniors just go on our own, but hey, I guess we were a bit the responsible type. Anyway, off we went and visited a gaggle of Universities. While we were up in the Bay Area we went to Menlo Park and I fell in love with Stanford. I knew from that moment, that is where I was destined to go. We must have visited 8 or 9 different schools and yet I was undeterred, it was going to be Stanford. When I was up there, they told me “don’t worry about money”. If you get into Stanford, we find a way to make sure you can attend. So with that confidence, I tried to ease my parents apprehension about my big decision and said it will all work out. (They really didn’t believe the money part and felt I was in for a big disappointment). Parents… geez, funny how they can figure things out if not exactly how they thought it would play out.

Ok now fast forward to later in the school year, and everyone is applying to all these colleges and universities. I literally just apply to 1 school, Stanford. (Later, on a bet with my brother which is a whole different story, I applied to Texas A&M, but never realty considered going as I hadn’t heard about it prior to a 60 mins story). Alas I digress…

Anyway, at school, you know how it is, everyone asks everyone where they are going. I’m not only wearing my Stanford sweatshirt almost every day of the week, but of course I proudly announce to each and every soul, yes I plan to attend Stanford in the fall of ‘83. After-all, I’m a shoe-in. My grade point average has me top 4 in the class, I’m Senior Class President, have 4 years of student government, I am a Varsity letter athlete for 4 years, I belong to multiple clubs, I have the best recommendation letters from my teachers, I have passed a full year of AP Exams… Oh yeah, and I’m a full blooded brown skin first generation immigrant. I mean how do you spell Stanford Lock… K.E.N. P.E.C.U.S… that’s how!!

I apply and for the most part everything seems simple. They have some essay style questions they ask you, which after conferring with my mom, I was reinforced that I had made the best decisions about how I approached those questions. Application sent (with of course my dashing new Senior Class Picture) and then I was off to make my plans and wait for that acceptance so I can start deciding what I would take with me for my dorm room. (Note, Anna and Manny Pecus were still encouraging me to apply to San Diego State “just in case”), which I did, but then messed up somehow.. again I digress because that was another story.

Ok I cant remember the exact moment, but it happened sometime in Spring of 1983. I get my acceptance letter from Stanford, race home, open it up and read…

thank you for applying but no thanks. You aren’t good enough for Stanford..

Alright, that is not exactly what it said, but that is exactly what I took from it. I was beyond devasted and couldn’t fathom how it was possible that the ultimate kiss ass, smart, obedient, follow the rules guy, could get such a slap in the face. But there it was, I WAS REJECTED.

Two kids from my class were accepted. Both had blond hair and blue eyes, good friends of mine, one had lower grades and a few extra curriculars, one had the same grades and only 1 extra curricular, but they were both blond and had family that attended Stanford. So my first inclination was I needed to be blond. Ok I got past that one pretty fast. But we were really good friends so I discussed with my friend who got in, what he might have done differently on his application that got him in. We compared answers and we really only differed on ONE answer. I’ve been carrying that one mistaken answer with me for 37 years. UNTIL this morning that is.

The question was and I’m para-phrasing “If your house was burning, and you could only save one or two things, what would you save”. My friend said he answered that he would go grab as many of his records from his record collection that he had been amassing. I also think he said he’d save his cat or something. But I can’t be sure on that one. My answer (which I consulted with my mom), was that if I was in a fire, I would take my wallet which has my ID, SSN card and my bank card as I had worked since 6th grade and had saved my money for college. Then what I’d grab would be my birth certificate and naturalization papers which my mom had shown me where they were. I felt as an naturalized citizen, I would always want that information because I really didn’t have anything else I felt couldn’t be easily replaced. For 37 years, I have blamed that pragmatic answer on why I didn’t get in. I should have said something much cooler and exciting because obviously Stanford wanted only cool kids. Anyway, things worked out pretty well, as I discovered a whole new world with Texas A&M which turned out to be everything I had wanted from Stanford with the student life, and then doubled it even more due to the Traditions that are only with Aggieland. So it truly was someone above taking care of me when I received that rejection letter. BUT no matter how perfect something works out, sometimes you just can’t help but question your decisions.

Back to this morning and the hotel fire alarm. So picture it, Tommy and I are seriously frazzled and we are this side of panicked (by the way, it turned out to be a false alarm but not before we were already lined up in the streets with the other guests). We are racing around the room in the dark, looking for clothes. Yes, we refused to wear what we wore last night, so we had to get new clothes. Fumbling for the flipflops and then the decision happens. What else to take… Without hesitating, I open the safe and grab our passports, both our wallets, sunglasses, reading glasses, and both our phones. We race into the hallway and intermittent doors have been shut which makes the experience all the more dramatic. Then while people are getting on the elevator (dumbasses, haven’t you ever done a fire drill), we scoot down the 5 flights of stairs to the lobby and outside to finally have the alarms go silent etc.

It’s only later in the shower I suddenly realize. I’m 55 years old and since the time I was 18, my values have not changed, and all these years later, I DID ANSWER that stupid question correctly. This morning without blinking I grab the equivalent of everything I said I would grab 37 years ago on that answer. Stanford was wrong and they didn’t understand the value consciousness of an immigrant..and Texas A&M won! Sometimes it just doesn’t matter when it comes, but when Redemption does come along, it sure does feel good.

It’s been a good day on the French Riviera. Good Night!

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