10:19 a.m. Went to the
University of Missouri Bookstore to see if the students there are
ripped off as much as their Princeton counterparts. Surprisingly,
Princeton students pay less for textbooks. The lower costs are somewhat
offset, though, by the fact that when Princeton students enter the
U-Store stairwell, they are greeted by large posters of a wraithlike
Joyce Carol Oates and a leering Paul Muldoon.
You can practically read their thoughts. Joyce Carol Oates: "Get
a U-Store card, kids, so you can buy my books and charge them to
your parents." Paul Muldoon: "Get a U-Store card and
buy my books. Oh, and don't forget to pick up a dozen Olives'
chocolate chip cookies on the way out."
While perusing the textbook selection, I ran into Jason, an elementary
school classmate. In fifth grade, Jason defeated me in a bid for
student council president, in spite of strategically arranged appearances
by Swiftfoot, my pet rabbit.
"Jason! I can't believe it's you! What happened
to your hair?"
"Kate! I didn't recognize you with that bicycle helmet
on. Do you always wear it indoors?"
"What are you doing here? Last I heard, you were going to
high school in Tennessee."
"I was. Now I'm at Amherst, but my parents have moved
back to Columbia, so I'm working here for the summer. Uh
oh, there's my manager. Quick! Pretend I'm helping
you with books."
"Uh, okay. Umm, I'm looking for the books for Physics
"We don't have a Physics 219. You must mean Physics
"That's right. Physics 224. So, how's Amherst?"
"It's great. I think I'm going to major in
English. How's Yale?"
"You said that on purpose."
"No, really, I though you were going to Yale. Anyway, I looked
Princeton. It's a good school. How do you like it?"
"It's great. I love it. The best place on earth, if
you subtract the country-club mentality."
"That's the impression that I got, too. Even the southern
kids say that Princeton is southern."
1:00 p.m. Arabic lesson with Duaa, a friend from junior high school.
Worked through lesson involving the past tense. John lost his passport
at the beach, and enlisted the help of his Saudi friend, Kemal.
John and Kemal went to the police station, where they reported the
missing passport to an officer. The officer beat John and led him
"You got those words wrong, Kate. The officer helped John
and led him to the embassy."
"Oh. I told you, I'm no good with vocabulary."
"That's okay. You'll know these words by the
time classes start. By the way, when do your classes start?"
"Uh, September 13 or 14, I forget which."
"Wow. That's late. So when do you get out?"
"Sometime toward the end of May."
"Hey, that's when we get out, too. But I guess that
means you have a short break in December."
"Not really. It's about five weeks."
"Really? What about Thanksgiving?" (in desperation)
"We only get one day off."
Yeah, I'm a liar. Princeton students get as much time off
at Thanksgiving, as University of Missouri students do. But just
try explaining that you pay almost $35,000 a year in order to attend
a university that offers the fewest number of teaching days in the
country. At Princeton, classes are taught only 120 days; the University
of Chicago, in comparison, has 165 teaching days.
6:37 p.m. Dinner with Mrs. Moore, my high school Latin teacher,
and Ryan, a high school classmate now attending Harvard. I was chewing
a grilled cheese sandwich when the question came up.
"Are there any famous kids at Princeton?" Mrs. Moore
"Well," I said. "Not really. I mean, I think
some quasi-famous kids may be there. You know, the kind you read
about in Vanity Fair. The ones whose senior proms were held at the
"There are some famous kids at Harvard," Ryan interjected.
"Natalie Portman, from the recent Star Wars movie. Jonathan
Taylor Thomas, from Home Improvement. And Alan Keyes's son."
"Alan Keyes's son?" I said. "No one even
remembers who Alan Keyes is, much less his son. That's minor
Of course, I'm just jealous. The greatest disappointment
of my freshman year came when I discovered that Prince Hamzah of
Jordan, who I had thought was enrolled at Princeton, was actually
attending Britain's Sandhurst Military Academy. This misapprehension
was brought about largely by my mother, who, after having read an
article in the New York Times Magazine about the Jordanian royal
family, asked about Prince Hamzah every time I called home.
"I haven't seen him, Mom. I don't even know
what he looks like. But classes are going well."
"It said in the article that Queen Noor is a Princeton graduate.
I'm sure Prince Hamzah is there, too."
"I don't think so, Mom. I looked his name up on the
Princeton website, and I didn't find anything."
"Well, obviously not. They would have changed his name for
Sadly, Prince Hamzah is not a Princeton Tiger. He passed up access
to a 24-hour convenience store, not to mention the best education
that money can buy, in order to be awakened at 6:00 every morning
by a bugle. I mean, come on. A man may look good in uniform, but
he also looks good in a "Yale Sucks" T-shirt and synthetic
tiger tail. But I'm convinced that if we play our cards right,
we can still get Prince Harry.