by Peter Hohman
English major and current Burger King assistant manager Jessica Chang blew what was possibly her only chance to bring up “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in casual conversation on Friday.
Chang, who wrote her thesis on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s meisterwerk, was distracted for the split-second when a fellow guest at a party mentioned “shooting an albatross” and was unable to steer the conversation back to that line when she realized what had been said.
“I think this guy was talking about golf,” said Chang. “But even so, I had a great line about ‘and you avoided the slimy things with legs? Well done!’ From there, I imagined that we would have debated the meaning of Coleridge’s epic, discussed the influence of opium on his work, and then made passionate, intellectually-fueled love. But by the time I figured out what he said, someone else told that joke about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walking into a bar. Curses!”
Although opportunities to discuss Coleridge do sometimes come up in normal conversation, they are exceedingly rare. One controversial study released in 2006 claimed that an English major over 40 is more likely to be killed in a terrorist attack than to ever get the perfect “in” for a Coleridge reference.
“It’s a tough environment, that’s for sure,” said Chang. “When I was at Penn State, I had a friend who lived in Ritner Hall and I would always introduce him as ‘the man from Pollock,’ you know, like ‘the man from Porlock?’ But nobody ever got the joke. This most recent time, I really do blame myself. If only I hadn’t been reading Thoreau that afternoon; I would have been less tired and my reaction would have been quicker.”
In light of the improbability of receiving a second chance at making an “Ancient Mariner” reference, Chang is reportedly now working on the “perfect line” that will allow her to insert a discussion about Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno into any conversation about quitting smoking.