The real world

BY TAYLOR DASHER

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Having now done “flyout week,” I see why it’s not called “vacation week.” I spent half the week in one city, half of it in another, and all of it tired and confused. But I can’t complain because I got to play grown-up for a week (even if I did play the part poorly). I didn’t fully shed my student identity – not unless wearing a backpack with a suit is a new fashion trend in corporate America – but I did get a look into adulthood. This life-long student learned the ways of the “real world,” which is not to be confused with the MTV show bearing the same name and only the loosest link to actual reality.

I learned that adults, the populace of the real world, have things called offices. They’re like dorm rooms, only nicer and without beds (unless it’s a New York law firm). Adults have posters in their rooms too. They call them “art” because they’re framed and have no celebrities or scantily clad models in them. I observed that everyone in the real world works in very tall buildings with window offices, unless they’re paralegals or secretaries. Real world people also don’t go to class or school; they go to “work,” which is a four-letter word if I’ve ever heard one.

Adults rarely have homework. At some firms this is true only because one has to actually stop work and go home in order to call anything homework. Adults also talk about their practice all the time. They practice the law over two thousand hours a year in order to perform well in important games such as “hide and seek the single relevant document in a truckload of meaningless papers” with opposing counsel.

They have majors as well, only they’re referred to as “practice areas.” You are expected to pick a practice area early and once you acquire enough credit hours, good grades, and scratch-and-sniff stickers on your papers, you graduate to partner. Due to a high dropout rate, few people make partner. “Partner” is a misleading distinction since partners do the same stuff they did before graduation only with “more responsibility,” which is mysteriously considered to be a good thing. On the plus side, partners also have more of that money stuff that looks to be by far the best part of adulthood.

Overall, the educational opportunities of flyout week were top-notch and exactly the sort I would expect from fine institutions of higher learning such as Harvard Law School, American Airlines, and Hilton Hotels. I gained exposure to many trappings of the real world, from work to lodging. I discovered that grown-ups always stay in nice hotels and either secretly have five heads or travel with a very, very tight-knit entourage, judging from the number of pillows that littered a single hotel bed. I also found traveling adults to be raging alcoholics considering the size of hotel room mini-bars and the way they were guarded under lock and key.

I learned that people have plates just for decoration in the real world. Waiters at two different restaurants whisked the plates away before anyone ordered. It was sort of like when your mother realizes the dinner guests are no-shows and whisks away the fine china before you do something boorish and ridiculous like putting food on your plate. People also always eat consecutive dinners in the real world, which they call firsts and seconds. In real world menus, it’s very important to identify each ingredient by its geographic origin on the menu and put it on a plate with another strange item from a different continent. Real food is apparently like a mini-United Nations for your tongue. I was personally disappointed that no dishes featured “Indiana Corn” and “Kentucky Possum.”

Like law school, however, my real world education did not come without a hefty price. To my dismay, I found that I was expected to act to like an inhabitant of the real world once I had ventured into it. People didn’t understand that I was only visiting and had not yet made the move. I was asked adult things like where I saw myself in ten years – a difficult question for someone who doesn’t even know whether he has clean underwear to wear tomorrow. I was expected to recall the names of the people who interviewed me earlier in the day when I couldn’t even remember to buy deodorant or groceries for myself. I had the distinct feeling that I was one of the Lost Boys who was really lost, having mistakenly boarded the plane departing Neverland.

The real world was a land of responsibility where people couldn’t just skip out on all engagements and spend a glorious afternoon watching smutty daytime talk shows in a bean bag chair with a bowl full of Cocoa Puffs. They had other real people depending on them and what they did or did not do had a real effect. It was scary stuff. Not Richard Simmons chugging an espresso scary, but fairly frightening nonetheless. They did this type of thing for thousands of hours a year, while acting like an adult for only a week presented real challenges for me. It was with only with profound inner turmoil that I refrained from jumping on the incredibly bouncy-looking hotel bed and stopped myself from saying, “Gee whiz, mister, I’ve never had my ears pop in an elevator before” the first time I shot up to the fiftieth floor.

I’m still uncertain about this real world thing. Whenever I catch a reflection of myself in a suit, I think that I must have ransacked my father’s closet for Halloween. But as I boarded the red-eye for Boston that was to fly straight on until morning, I began to feel more at ease. If the real world was anything like law school and the hotels and restaurants I patronized during flyout week, I figured I could handle it. Or if not, there’s always the SJD program.

Taylor Dasher refrained from jumping on the incredibly bouncy-looking hotel bed.

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