For the second time in a week I find myself sitting in the lobby of a community college. The walls are again lined with other students and prospective students waiting to see advisers and financial aid officers. I don’t actually need to talk to anyone, but the school requires it.

The last time I walked in, I was handed a number and told to take a seat. The number was 99. After waiting for two hours, they had just called number 78. I had to leave.

Since then, the school has lost my application for admission and then blamed me for physically handing it to someone at the school rather than applying online. (Paper is apparently not just passé, it is irrelevant.)

Now here I am again, waiting to be seen at 9am. The number on my card this time is a 14.

A girl approaches the lady handing out numbers and asks how she can find out whether the financial aid application that she was responsible enough to fill out much earlier in the year has been processed yet, since classes start in 5 days and she’s heard nothing about it. She’s told that there is no possible way to determine whether the aid will be available without waiting an hour or more in this line. The information is not available online, and the people in the office are not taking phone calls. (How could they, with all the numbers to work through?)

Bored and having forgotten to bring a book, I look around the lobby absentmindedly. On every wall is a poster with the photograph of a student and a fictional story about why the school was perfect for them. The first sentence of the poster directly across from me reads:

“After being home schooled, it was important for me to attend a college where I wasn’t just a number.”

I look down at my number 14 as the girl requesting information on her financial aid storms off.

Fat fucking chance.


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