Instead, I turned to Will, the grad student who had suggested the project, and told him that he was in charge. “I’ll admit, this wasn’t my idea when I started tapping into our Jungian consciousness,” I admitted at the lab meeting. “While I’m not thrilled about the commercialization, the insights could help us see our culture through the eyes of a truly unbiased outsider.” Plus, our lab could use its share of the profits, but I kept that to myself.
“Yeah, exactly. That’s totally what I was thinking,” replied Will, who had been daydreaming about how he was going to spend his five-figure advance. “We were going to recruit a couple undergrads to serve as the vessels, pay them for their time.”
I briefly considered this. “Make it course credit instead,” I specified.
For the next couple weeks, there wasn’t any mention of the project, and it quickly slipped my mind. A month later, however, I found a very troubled Will sitting in my office, holding a stack of papers and wearing a disheartened frown.
“I don’t think I can publish most of this,” he complained, as I settled into the chair behind my desk. He passed over a sheaf of observations for me to peruse.
I read a line off the top sheet. “Why must we not get wet? Do we not immerse ourselves in falling rain each morning?”
“That’s their observations on rain,” Will explained.
I flipped to the next page. “This is not food!” I read. “Where is the blood? Where is the marrow? Where is the fire, for us to gather around and share in wisdom?”
“One of the students visited a grocery store,” Will elaborated, sinking lower in his chair. “They also didn’t see the point behind cars, Instagram, or Twitter.” He rubbed one hand through his hair.
“Is there anything they liked?”
The question elicited a groan. “Yeah – push-up bras,” he moaned. “And once they tasted KFC, they were hooked.”
I flipped through the next few sheets of observations. “These are horrible,” I observed.
Will nodded. “Yeah, I can’t publish any of it. But I already spent my advance!” he cried. “Professor, what do I do?”
Leaning back in my chair, I closed my eyes, dropping the papers on my desk and rubbing my eyelids with my palms. I did my best to recall everything I could about popular culture and gossip magazines. “What about dating?” I finally asked.
At first, Will said nothing, but then his eyes suddenly lit up. After an effusive burst of thanks, he went running out of my office.
He was absent from the weekly lab meetings for the next month or so. Just as I was about to write him off, assuming he had dropped out, he showed up, out of breath but bragging about his newest idea. “It’s the ultimate source of dating advice!” he proclaimed. “Oprah meets Jerry Springer!”
He went on about his newest entertainment pitch, but I just shrugged my shoulders. Despite however it capitalized on our lowbrow culture, if it brought in funds, it was fine with me.