Economics 101, a Novel, ch_02 -- Introducing Karel

[JMR20170204: The second draft of this chapter is here:]
(The framing story starts is here: If you haven't read that, you might want to. Otherwise, the rest of this may not make much sense.

The characterizations start here, with Bobbie:

[JMR201605181926: Can't believe I pointed to chapter eleven instead of chapter ten.]
If you don't care about characterization, you might want to jump ahead:

Continuing the flashback, so we can get to know our co-protagonists before we start doing experiments with them.

Karel turned the ignition key off and sat for a minute outside Dan's house. He needed a minute's rest.

The door of the house opened and Dan stuck his head out the door. "Hey, Karel, how the heck are you?"

"Not bad for just finishing a five hour drive. How about you? Got your stuff?"

"Yeah, I got my stuff, but come on in and say hi to the family. My little sister's dying to see you again."

Two voices chorused, almost in unison, from inside the house, "Dan!"

"Your little sister ignores me whenever I come."

Dan ducked back in and came outside, carrying a small suitcase. "Unless you give [JMR201609041828: you a her her a ] ride on your shoulders."

The door opened again behind Dan, and a fifteen year old girl came running out and slapped her big brother up side-of-the-head. Dan just dodged and grinned.

Karel climbed out of the car, glad for the excuse to unbend, and walked around and gave the girl a hug. "My you've grown, Sheliah. Wanna piggy-back ride?"

"Mom says I'm getting too old."

"Ah well. Are you gonna marry me when you turn twenty?"

"Mom says you have to find someone your own age before then."

"Darn. She's probably right about that, too, though."

"When are you gonna find someone as cool as me?"

"That's a tall order. But I'll let you know when I do."

Karel went in and said hi to the Claymount family, then he and Dan got in the car and headed out of town.

"I don't know whether I'm better friends with you or your family sometimes."

"Yeah. Too busy to keep up with each other. Sure is too bad the team waived you after your second year."

"Football can't last forever."

"Which is why I let you talk me into checking out grad school with you, right?"

And they caught each other up on personal news as they went.

Dan had promised to drive at least half of the way from his town to the university. But Karel knew he would probably fall asleep and not be able to wake up enough to drive. So he made sure they left early enough that they could get some sleep at a rest stop on the way.

We can't do that any more. Too many problems with criminal activities going on in the middle of the night. So the highway police have to wake you up and tell you to move on.

But back then it was standard operating procedure for students traveling the long distances between home and college in the US midwest, especially for male students.

A bit after nine in the morning, Karel parked the car in a school parking lot and reached over and woke Dan up.

"Hey, we're here," he said, shaking him gently by the shoulder.

They had caught five hours of sleep at a rest stop east of the mountains, but, even with that, Dan was still not feeling safe behind the wheel. So Karel had driven on in the rest of the way.

"Oh, man. Sorry I couldn't wake up."

"That's okay. You can drive on the road back."

"Has it been five years?"

"Five for you. Since I finished up my master's during the off-season while we were playing pro, it's only been three for me."

"Yeah. So, I'm going to the PE department to look at a graduate degree in sports education while you check out the anthropology department, right?"

"That's the plan."

"And you'll come down to the PE department to look at studying dance as another option, right?"

"Right. So we'll meet down there and then go get some lunch."

And that is how it was that Karel was sitting in the anthropology department offices, tired from the long drive, trying to read application form instructions, when Bobbie came in that morning. And why he wasn't there when she came back.

He did get an appointment to talk with a member of the faculty in the afternoon before he went down to the PE building.

"Hey, Karel, what's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing."

"You look like you just lost a friend."

"Just kicking myself for not trying to get a girl's phone number."

"That happens."

"Didn't even introduce myself. I only said something stupid like 'Nice day.'"

"Heh. Hey, don't sweat it. If it was meant to be, you'll get another chance."

"You should talk."

"True. Girls just don't understand us boys. Did you get an interview?"

"Got an appointment for the afternoon."

"Me, too. Are you going to come in and ask about the dance program or what?"

In the dance office, one of the professors was available to talk, but she was not encouraging.

"We just don't have the expertise to help you with teaching dance to football players, and, frankly, I think the football body would not train well in dance. Getting the turnout would be nearly impossible."

"I know it would be pioneering, but I'm willing to put in the effort."

"I really hate to be so discouraging, but I can't promise that any of the faculty here would be willing to put in the effort to help you. We're up to our necks in our own curriculum."

Karel must not have hidden his disappointment well. She continued, "Look, you have another option you're considering, right?"

"Yeah. Anthropology."

"Maybe that's going to be a stretch for you, too, but I think it will be less of a stretch."

On his way out of the office, he noticed a poster on the wall.

"What's this?"

"Oh, that's from several years back. A master's candidate from," and she named the school Karel remembered Bobbie saying she'd gotten her master's from in the morning, "came to do some workshops in modern dance here. It was very exciting. I keep the poster as a reminder."

"Roberta Whitmer."

"Do you know her?"

"Know her? Can't say that I do."

After that, they went up to the school cafeteria, showed their alumni cards, and got lunch. While they were eating, they talked about the morning.

"I can't believe she just basically turned me down flat like that."

"You've got to quit letting women walk all over you like that. On the other hand, maybe that girl you didn't really meet this morning is part of your destiny."

For some reason, Karel had not mentioned her name, nor had he mentioned her other degrees. And he refrained from mentioning the poster, as well.

"Well, let's go to our interviews."

Karel's interview was with a Professor White. When Karel gave him his CV to look at, he scanned it, muttering, "mission, football, instrumentation technician, military, engineering, semiconductors, ... . Lots of experience. I don't see a connection. Why do you suddenly want to get a PhD in Anthropology?"

"When I was a missionary in," and he named the same mission that Bobbie had named, "I thought the islanders I worked among had an intuitive understanding of the cultural basis of economics and management. At that semiconductor company, I watched managers who seemed to have no interest in things cultural tear the company apart with bad management and worse economics. I think their lack of interest in the human factor was the proximate cause of their bad management."

"I see. So, what do you intend to research?"

"I want to describe the human factors and the simplified economic models they operate under."

"Okay, that sounds like something we can work from."

[JMR201605150342 -- As I noted in introducing Bobbie, I tend to gloss over things:

Karel had to explain his groundwork for coming in from outside the major, just as Bobbie did.

Of course, he had different holes to fill. Where he would just monitor the senior-level methodology class, he would have to take the actual archeologist's introduction to medicine and physiology, and so forth.

He also committed to correspond with Professor White for further advice as he prepared to begin coursework in the fall.


When they left, later in the afternoon, they both had the necessary forms and had made the necessary contacts.

Dan drove on the way back, and they arrived at his home around midnight. Karel crashed in Dan's room for five hours before driving home in the morning.

On the way home from Dan's house, he complained a bit to God:

"Why didn't I try harder to strike up a conversation [JMR201609041834: . ? ] "
It didn't feel natural, did it?
"If I were smooth like Dan, I could have gotten her phone number, I'm sure. Why can't I be smooth like him?"
Dan said it himself, he's not particularly successful at getting married yet, either.
Karel didn't have a quick response to that. But, ultimately, he said, "Well, Father, like Dan said, if it's something that should happen for me, I'd sure like another chance to make her acquaintance."

He could have described the response he felt as a galactic "Hmmmm."

Both Dan and Karel spent a lot of the time over the next eight months preparing to go back to school.

They made another trip about two weeks after their first trip, to hand-deliver their applications, because it was a little close to the deadline.

Karel wanted to live on campus, and Dan wanted to live off campus, so after they submitted their applications, they each spent part of the day separately arranging for housing and checking out possible work opportunities.

I explained a little about what a "mission" is, at the end of Bobbie's introduction:

I forgot to mention there that a missionary's field of labor is also called a "mission" in LDS parlance.

There are two parallel organizations within the Church. One is focused on the members, and one is focused on the missionary work. 

In the latter organization, a "mission" is a physical area and the missionaries assigned to work there. At the time I write this, Japan, for instance, is divided into seven physical areas called missions, and the Philippines is divided into twenty-one. Each of these missions has around fifty to a hundred fifty missionaries working in it.

At the time Karel would have served his mission, both the Philippines and Japan were within a single mission. Later, when Bobbie would have been serving hers, they would have been separate. (Which missions they served in, I'm not saying. I'm sorry, but that would be too much irrelevant detail. [JMR201609041836: And, of course, this is something of an alternate history novel. ] )

The link to the next of the characterization chapters will be here when it's ready is here:

(The chapter index is here:

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