I wrote about my first date with Gluten-Free Mama the other morning, and how we discussed Bell Springs Road and all it entailed. I wrote about us chatting on about the Giants, where we worked and about San Jose State, where I was going to school full-time, enrolled in a masters program in English.
Having come out of the US Army with a fervent need to be “educated,” I had not only completed my degree in Humanities, in 1979, I had done so with an unblemished 4.0 grade point average. I saw no reason why that should change, just because I was doing post-graduate work.
Without doubt the most rigorous class I ever took, at any level, was Methods and Materials of Literary Research, taught by the head of the English Department, a crusty, diminutive man in stature, who spoke softly but carried a lot of weight.
He was brusk without being gruff; he was all-business, with the ability to infuse just a hint of jocularity into the environment; finally, he was demanding without ever seeming so. The work level was the greatest I have ever been assigned, and I spent several hours every day that semester, slaving away at this class, but I also thrived.
I filled out hundreds of index cards, I completed every assignment religiously and I aced every test, so I was dumbfounded to find that I had earned a B+ for the class. I had just received my grades in the mail, a day or two before I took GF Mama out for the first time.
So, of course, during our evening together, I spelled out for her my frustration at the grade I had received, for no other reason than to make with the palaver.
To my shock, she hit me up with, “Why don’t you go talk to him about your grade? Maybe he just made a mistake.”
“Dr. Hagar make a mistake? The only time he ever made a mistake, was the time he thought he made a mistake. But you think I ought to go talk to him?” It was truly a novel idea.
She looked at me as though I were a PE Major. “Yes. You should go talk to him and see if it was just a clerical error. If all of your grades have been A’s for the work you have done, then there has to be a mistake.”
I followed up on what GF Mama had suggested, by going by his office the next day to make an appointment to discuss the questionable grade. To my surprise, he invited me in to talk about it right then, his office being devoid of other students at the moment.
There was no question that he knew who I was, my ponytailed hair and fiery red beard possibly jogging his memory. When I showed him the transcript with the objectionable B+, he reached for his grade book, saying at the same time, “Well, this should be easy to resolve; let me take a look. Hmmm, O’Neill. Hmmm.”
Whereas I might have thought that there would have to be some sort of process needed to sort through it all, it took him all of thirty seconds to say, “Plainly there is some sort of clerical error here, because your work has been A quality. I will make the necessary change and inform the university accordingly. My apologies,” he said sincerely, extending his hand.
Just like that.
Never in the history of the universe had I thought anything was going to change, and yet it had, without any hullabaloo. I had only gone because of GF Mama’s certainty that there was a mistake.
When I informed Gluten-Free Mama of the change in my grade, I was glowing. She, on the other hand, did not seem surprised.
“Well, it made sense. Now, aren’t you glad you listened to me?”
I’ve been listening to her ever since.