Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ye Olde Ping Pong Tale: The Grand Finale

Okay, where were we? Yes ... the Ph.d. ....

Well, recall that son goes off to Harvard for the Ph.d., on his way surely to an academic career ... I mean, where else do you put some one like this? And the amazing streak of straight A's is still alive? Did I tell you these people were from California? Well, they are. At any rate ...

Son wraps up the first year of the program (3-year program, I understand) and, well, he did it again -- straight A's. Dad, not surprised at this point, calls and says, "Well, son, what will it be? 200,000 ping pong balls? Ha! Ha!" Son: "No, Dad." For a second, Dad's spirits lifted and he could suddenly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Son: "Dad, actually, I would like a quarter of a million ping pong balls. 250,000." Dad: "Oh."

Well, the son blazed through his second year, but struggled mightily with advanced anthropological studies of Texas rednecks (just too broad of a subject area for meaningful study) and still managed to bring the ol' academic ship to a perfect landing: straight A's ... again. Dad, both perplexed and proud, called the son to say, "Son, congratulations. I really don't know what to say. But, I would really appreciate the opportunity to buy you something better/different than ping pong balls, if you don't mind." Son: "Dad, I don't mind." Dad: "Really?!" Son: "Dad, I don't mind, but what I really want is 500,000 ping pong balls." Dad: (Sound of gasping for air.)

I know this may not surprise you, but it surprised a lot of folks in the small northern California hamlet where these good people are from ... yes, the lad did it. He made it all the way. He finished his thesis: A. All of his grades: A. He had done it. From K through Ph.d. and not even a solitary B. Remarkable.

Dad wanted to use the occasion to reflect a bit and also to get to the bottom of this mystery. I mean, he was proud. His boy was a tad eccentric, but he was brilliant. That was something to be proud of. Still, the mystery of the ping pong balls haunted him. So, Dad just decided on the direct approach. Plus, he thought it might shake his son into telling the truth -- why ... I mean, why all these years? So, Dad called up the son in Cambridge: "Son, I know you have always asked for ping pong balls when you've gotten straight A's, and this year ... well, I won't be surprised. So, what'll it be?" Son: "Dad, you're right. I have. I have been working toward a goal. And I have reached it, and things will become clear shortly for you and many others. Dad, I would like 1 Million ping pong balls." Dad fainted and was out for some time, perhaps an hour. He awoke, though, and put the phone back on the receiver. He called his son back. When the son answered, Dad said, "Son, I think I just dreamed that you asked me for 1 Million ping pong balls." Son: "Dad, you were not dreaming." Dad: "Oh, my. Oh, my gosh. ... Well, listen, will you at least tell me why, why all these ping pong balls ... all these years?" Son: "I will, Dad. I am actually excited about it. I will fly out there tomorrow to tell you in person. You won't believe it."

Well, the son's plane landed in San Francisco the next day and he rented a car and headed to Dad's house. Dad waited anxiously for his son's arrival. He was starting to make sense of the whole ordeal. Knowing why would put and end to the angst. Ah, sweet closure. Just then, he heard the sound of screeching tires, a loud crash, and the sound of flying glass. It didn't sound good. He ran outside, and there was a wreck at the intersection just a block from his Sauslito cottage. Oh, no!! It was his son. Rushing to the scene, the Dad found the son. Thank God he was still alive. It was bad, but he was still alive. Dad: "Son, are you okay?!!" Son: "Dad, I don't think so. I don't think I am going to make it. Man, the car came ..." Dad: "Son, be quiet. You'll be okay. We'll get help. All that matters is that I'm here and you're okay. ... Just sit there. And while we're waiting ... let's talk. I mean, just one thing. You gotta tell me: Why did you want all of those ping pong balls all these years?" Son: "Dad. That's why I came here to tell you. I wanted to ... I mean, I want to tell you that I wanted them ... because ... I .... aahhhhhhhh .... oh I wanted them because I was ........ ahhhhhhhhhhhh." And with that, sadly the son died.

The End.