I am beginning to doubt that moving to Greece was a good idea. Sure, the eastern Mediterranean was one of the first cradles of mankind, but they also do not use toilet seats. It worries me sometimes.
I had applied to the University of the Aegean, one of several choices among graduate schools that I felt would be an adventure to attend, but it turns out that my application was lost somewhere between New York and Athens. It also turns out that I was wait-listed from every other university that I had applied to (for an astounding total of 2 rejections). Apparently graduate schools in Greece are wary about admitting students who are not Greek. Something about my "uncultured" New Jersey ancestry. Or perhaps it was the incident when customs had claimed that I was wanted for espionage. But that is another story.
It was by sheer genius that I was accepted anyway.
To this day I do not know what happened, but apparently someone had received my application erroneously and sent it along to the right people. Only, in this case, the right people were the wrong people. You see, somehow the American embassy received my application and had it forwarded to the University. This still does not make sense to me, I'm just repeating what I found out years later. The problem with all this mail rerouting is that the application arrived 2 weeks after classes had begun. So it was raining one Monday morning around 3:00 a.m. when I received a phone call informing me that I still owed money for tuition and that I would be expelled from the University if they did not receive my check in the next week.
I was surprised to find out that I was accepted without anyone telling me. They also accepted me before my application had arrived. This immediately struck me as odd, but I shrugged it off after observing similar phenomena in the movie Spaceballs and realizing that it hurts too much to think about it.
No shit, so there I was at the University of the Aegean on the Isle of Lesbos, surrounded by lesbians while I worked towards the U.S. equivalent of a master's degree. I should note that the lesbians were not all female and many of them were not homosexual, so this was not nearly as exciting as it could have been. After two years of bashing my brains out trying to understand Greek and get my thesis on Generic Architecture for Information Availability written, it finally came time to profess my research and defend my reason for living.
That is when it all happened. You see, the toilets at the University of the Aegean don't have toilet seats. I have no idea if this is some weird Greek thing or what, but it was really disgusting. To this day I am in constant praise of the nice modern bathroom facilities used in the U.S. The problem with the Greek bathroom arrangement is very difficult to discuss, but I will say that it is a very bad idea to change into a suit while you are in a bathroom on the Isle of Lesbos, especially one so medieval as to be in the basement of the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Ermoupolis. The Cultural Center was acquired by the University for its historic and architectural value and to "preserve our natural heritage." I swear that the bathrooms have not been renovated in over 200 years.
Having your pants fall into a hole in the ground, along with your wallet and all your money, is not a fun experience. I cannot recommend it.
So here I am, with no pants, about 30 minutes away from my final defense, which took months of planning and scheduling. This was a crisis of great magnitude. In fact, I clearly remember thinking to myself, "Self, this is a crisis of great magnitude."
So I did what any self-respecting computer science nerd soon to be giving a dissertation would do: I arrived at the hall early, and simply hid behind the podium. It was glorious! I cannot begin to describe the pure joy involved when you are speaking about obscure algorithms and case studies, on one of the most stressful days of your life, and in your underwear. It was absolutely liberating. The panel that had assembled was clueless! They had no idea that the distinguished young man testifying to his painfully detailed research efforts was, in fact, not wearing any pants. I was excited, I was scared, but most of all, I was experiencing freedom. It was as if all the horrors of academia were melting away all at once in an elaborate display of ridiculous miracles on my final day as a student. When the panel left the room, no one had suspected a thing. It was if I got away with murder.
My dissertation passed with flying colors and I ended up receiving my degree. Weirdly enough, when my degree was finally awarded to me, I also received letters from two members of the panel that reviewed my dissertation. I knew the men pretty well, as they both helped me get settled into the department after moving to Greece, but apparently they knew me well too. In both letters the gentlemen thanked me for my research efforts and congratulated me for being the first student to ever give a serious dissertation while wearing Batman underwear.
Apparently they had seen me running on my way to the dissertation hall. I hear that it caused quite a stir.