Before I settled into more studious behavior at Boston University, I led a sort of half-life. Half in my old folkie dissipated style of living, half in the mode of trotting off to classes, writing papers, and taking exams. This was at another university in Boston known for its coop and night schools. After deciding that pre-med was not for me, I drifted into Political Science. Soon I was going out after classes with my fellow students and the instructor. We had some great times. He was an off-and-on grad student known for dressing in a rumpled tweed jacket. He was wending his way towards his doctorate. He had very mixed feelings about the Phud and didn’t seem sure that it was worthwhile. One night he told us this tale:
It’s the 21st century. Harry is sitting around on Sunday with his wife Edna, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday Times. Edna is looking at an ad for a new business called the Brain Shop. The Brain Shop’s specialty is add on’s promising to increase your mental abilities. Edna turns to Harry and suggests that he might want To look into seeing what they have. Harry never went further than high school and always wanted a better education, but a lack of time off from work prevented it.
Monday afternoon, Harry walked into the Brain Shop.
“Good afternoon sir, what can I do for you?”
Harry – ” Well, I’d like to see what you have. I don’t have time for school, but I’d like to be able to do more.”
Salesman – ” Let me show you around, and then I’ll be glad to answer all your questions.” The salesman led Harry over to the first case and explained, ” here we have the Associate’s degree brain. Many people find that it’s all they need to give them the little extra zip they want. It costs seven thousand dollars; it’s our stealthie deal of the day! Next to it is the Bachelor’s degree brain at twenty-one thousand. It’s probably our favorite product – an additional five thousand gets you the Bachelor of Science upgrade. In the next case are our Masters’s degree brains. Those start at fifty thousand. The Masters of Science tops out at sixty grand, but various specialist upgrades are available.”
Harry mulled over which was best for his needs and budget but then asked – ” But what is your absolute top of the line?” The salesman, paused sucked in his breath, and then led Harry over to a glass-enclosed room which he ceremoniously opened. Ushering Harry in, he paused dramatically behind a large case covered in a dark velvet drape. Dramatically sweeping the drape aside, he proclaimed: ” here, sir is the Ph.D. brain; our top of the line!” Harry looked at it, decided that it looked no better than the others he’d seen, and asked – ” what does it go for?” The salesman smiled and replied- two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
Harry was stunned; he croaked out, “what! You gotta be kidding me.” The salesman looked offended, straightened up, and then said – “Sir. Do you have any idea how many Ph.D. heads we have to look into before we find a Brain?!”
Over the semester, I heard this story told with relish a few times. Soon I moved on to Boston University and did not see the instructor for several years.
We met again at an American Anthropology Association meeting. In the intervening years, he had completed his dissertation and could now be referred to as a Doctor. Over dinner and, drinks I mentioned the story. He smiled at me and denied ever having told such an idiotic tale. He took it as a sort of slight that I’d even suggest it!
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi!