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Woops

CABBAGES & KINGS

By Burton F. Jablin

ARMAND LINKMULLER' 84 trooped into Memorial Hall the morning of registration, walked up to the table marked "G-M" and asked for his package.

"What was the name again?" the woman handing out the packets asked.

"Linkmuller. Armand Linkmuller."

"That's an unusual name, isn't it? Let's see. Linemiller. Lingmallen. Linkalook. Here it is. Linkmul--" The woman fainted in mid-word, dropping the packet.

As Armand watched in bewilderment, two workers tried to revive their fallen colleague while a third noticed the cause of the commotion--Armand's registration envelop. She looked down at the package, up at Armand, down at the packet again and started shaking. "The purple dot--it's him!" she screamed.

Armand snatched his registration package and saw that she was right: a small purple dot adorned the top of the envelope next to his name.

"Just stay right there," a registration worker yelled at Armand, while other workers tried to evacuate the hall. He reached under the table and pressed an alarm button. All around the "G-M" table red lights flashed, sirens blared, and registration workers sprayed disinfectant. Within seconds, two men in white uniforms sandwiched Armand.

"What's going on?" the confused freshman asked.

"We're taking you away."

"Why?"

"Because you're it."

"I'm what?"

The man looked down at Armand and frowned. "The Mistake."

AS THE MEN carried him off, Armand thought back to the first Sunday of Freshman week, when an administrator had told the members of his class gathered in front of Mem Church that, as hard as they tried to avoid it, the admissions office made one mistake every year. Armand had laughed with everyone else, but privately he wondered if there weren't some truth in what the administrator said.

From the moment he arrived in Cambridge, things had not gone well for Armand. A letter sent to his home informed him that his room for the year was University Hall 5. Armand reported there and greeted the receptionist.

"Well, I'm here."

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"I'm Armand, your roommate. What's your name?"

"Miss Fickett, Dean Rosovsky's receptionist," she replied.

"Oh, great, it's a triple," Armand exclaimed. "I'm sure we'll all get along swell. "Well, I guess I'd better go unpack."

Before the receptionist could protest, Armand had entered the dean's office. No one was there. "He must be at lunch," Armand thought.

Nothing the lack of a clothes closet and bureaus, Armand piled his belongings on top of Rosovsky's desk, shoving the papers and books strewn across it onto the floor. As he was replacing the tomes on Rosovsky's bookshelf, the dean walked in.

"Hey, roomie," Armand bubbled, extending his hand. "I'm Armand Linkmuller. How's it going?"

Ignoring Armand's proffered hand, the dean removed his pipe from his mouth.

"Are you sure you belong here, young man?" asked Rosovsky.

"Well, I don't know," said Armand, looking at the pipe. "I did request a non-smoker. But I'm sure we'll get along. The place is roomy enough. Just one question: where do we sleep?"

"We don't."

"Huh?"

"To be more precise," Rosovsky continued, "you don't--not here, anyway. I can if I want, of course, because I'm the dean and this is my office."

"Now, Dean, let's not get carried away. I mean if we're going to be roomies, we're going to have to share."

"We are not going to be roommates," groused Rosovsky, "and my name is not 'Dean,' young man. Now I think it's about time that you leave."

"Where should I go?"

Rosovsky picked up his phone and called the University police. For the next two days, Armand stayed in Stillman Infirmary, where he was assigned two mental health counselors, who removed his tonsils by mistake. Finally the housing office arranged to provide him a private room in Currier House.

AND ARMAND'S TROUBLES Freshman Week did not stop with housing. Before coming to Harvard, Armand had resolved to be a vegetarian. So the first time he went to the Union for dinner he asked for Polynesian meatless balls. His had meat in them. Armand also had a good time at the Freshman Mixer.

The memory of these unique experiences passed through Armand's mind as the two men in white uniforms carried him off. After what seemed like hours they finally dumped him in a room with padded floor and walls. Later a man in a suit entered the cell and introduced himself.

"Hello, Mr. Linkmuller, I'm a high-level administrator. I'm very sorry, but there has been a mistake. We were mistaken in calling you the Mistake. The company that prints the red dots we use on registration envelopes mistakenly sent us a batch of purple ones instead. Somehow a mistake was made and one of those purple ones--which we use to signify the Mistake--was placed on your packet instead of a red one."

"What does that mean?" asked Armand.

"All it means is that you have to pay your term bill right now," the administrator smiled. Armand was confused. "I already did. I gave a huge check to a man sitting out in front of Memorial Hall who said he was collecting term bill payments."

"Why did you do that?" the administrator gasped.

"Because he told me that if I believed him he'd give me a great deal on a bridge over the Charles."

The administrator stared. He then turned to an aide and asked, "can we recheck the color of that dot?"

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