Letongaloosa Community Junior College, where I work, has two departments: the Department of Technology, et. al., and the Department of et. al., et. al. Years ago Dr. Ima Farseer, dean of the college, asked me to help two professors submit a grant proposal.
They were both smart and competent but one was a punctilious neat freak and the other was incredibly lackadaisical. Working on their own, they had completed 99 percent of the grant proposal. They needed to meet face to face to work out the one percent and sign the proposal.
But they couldn’t. The neat freak freaked out at the thought of approaching his colleague’s trashy office, and the lackadaisical professor broke out in hives when the dean suggested he meet at the neat freak’s office. Neither could abide meeting in a neutral setting.
I solved the problem (and got much needed summer salary as a reward) by fitting the two with virtual reality goggles. Each thought he was meeting in his own office, when in fact they were both sitting in mine. They completed remaining details, signed the grant proposal, and LCJC got its percentage of the grant funds for overhead expenses—which made Dean Farseer very happy.
Fast forward a dozen years. Dean Ima is poised for retirement. She wants to spend her golden years in someplace more exotic than Letongaloosa (who could imagine such a place?). Problem: how to check out interesting retirement venues on the salary LCJC pays her. Solution: apply for a grant. Problem: how does she make the grant proposal sound realistic when Dean Ima has never traveled beyond the state borders. Solution: hire a grant writer who has extensive overseas experience.
My phone rang. It was Dean Ima.
“Would you like to make some money?” she asked.
“What do you know about Tahiti?”
“Quite a bit actually,” I said. I did a quick Google search. Instantly my computer screen came up with “15 facts about Tahiti.”
“Tahiti is made up of 118 islands and atolls spread out over five archipelagos. The whole archipelago spans 4,000,000 square km, which is the equivalent to the size of Europe,” I read aloud from the information on my screen.
“Can you figure out a tie with Letongaloosa that would make it logical for me to do research in Tahiti?”
“I’ll try,” I said.
A couple of days later (to make it look like work) I called Dean Ima back.
“What did you find?” she asked.
“Marlon Brando once owned an island in Tahiti, and the Letongaloosa Daily Ledger-Clarion-Telegram always published favorable reviews of Marlon Brando’s movies.”
“That’s close enough,” said Dean Ima. “Get busy and write a grant proposal.”
Getting research grants isn’t as easy as it used to be. We submitted Letongaloosa-Tahiti grant proposals to dozens of institutions but came up dry. Those institutions even ignored the Marlon Brando connection.
Reluctantly, I phoned Dean Ima. “No one will give us a grant.”
“I’ve got to get to Tahiti, “she said.
I got an idea for another funding source.”
“Get on it.”
Some readers will recall “One if by Land.” It’s a story about Ribby Von Simeon,
the son of Letongaloosa-born movie star Sipa Margarita and billionaire
Balderdash Von Simeon. Sipa was too busy being a movie star and Balderdash
was too busy being Balderdash to bother with Ribby, so he was raised by his
grandparents in Letongaloosa. When Ribby inherited the Margarita-Balderdash
fortune he memorialized the only quality time he had spent with his mother—an ocean voyage.
Ribby purchased the ocean liner they had sailed on when it was about to be
chopped up for scrap. Ribby had the ocean liner dismantled and shipped piece by
piece and reconstructed on a hill outside Letongaloosa.
Ribby Von Balderdash was interested when I explained Dean Ima’s Letongaloosa-
Tahiti Project, and he was sold when I mentioned that Marlon Brando owned
an island down there. Ribby offered to pay for Dean Ima Farseer’s initial trip to
the South Seas. It was love at first sight. Dean Ima took immediate retirement, cashed in her accrued retirement, closed her substantial savings account, and never
came back to Letongaloosa. Dean Ima did send Ribby a picture of her with one of
Marlon Brando’s great grandchildren. Ribby treasured the photo.