Reading was a part of growing up for me. This included weekly trips to the library where my mom would pick out books to read to us and when we got older, we would pick out books for us to read on our own. Some where around age eleven, much to my mom’s chagrin, I decided to read my way through the entire science fiction section, starting from the letter A. The limit on checking out books was 6 and I would always take the maximum home. Over the next few years I made a big dent in the alphabet.
When the Star Trek TV series first came out, I just had to see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t come on until 9 p.m., which was past my bedtime. In the summers though, for re-runs, I was allowed to stay up late to watch it. After two seasons it was gone from TV, but not out of my memory.
Right out of high school I joined the Navy. My family didn’t have the money to just send me to college and being neither superb jock nor academic genius, colleges were not beating a path to my door with scholarships. I chose the Navy over the branches of the service for some very compelling reasons; some friends of mine were joining, my Dad was on a destroyer during the Korean war and most importantly sailors got to wear those cool bell-bottomed uniforms. Or just maybe, it was because of all the nautical type references in Star Trek.
My plan was after seeing the world, I would get out of the Navy and go to college using the GI Bill. Not because I had a specific career path in mind that required a degree, but because I wanted to be able to put one of those college stickers that read “So-and-so University” in the back window of my car.
True to my dream, after getting out of the service I started my higher education at a local community college. My intentions were to start there and work my way up to a real university. In the first semester, I took Drafting 101, a requirement for anyone working towards an engineering degree. The thought being, I guess, is that if you could create an engineering drawing, you could understand one.
After only a couple of weeks of this course I realized that I had found out what I wanted to be when I grew up, a draftsman not an engineer. I graduated in two years with an Associates Degree in Engineering Graphics Technology. Delgado Community College just didn’t have the same impact as Clemson or Georgia Tech, so I never bought the window sticker.
Even before I got my Miata, while waiting those 108 days, I decided to buy my first accessory, the college sticker. Now I couldn’t just go buy one that said, say, Penn State or Notre Dame, never having attended either place, not even through a correspondence course. There was just one school’s sticker that my conscience would let me place on my car. An institute of higher learning that was to be built in San Francisco a couple of centuries down the road. The place that all future starship officers, James T. Kirk included, would attend, Starfleet Academy.
Being one of the first few Miatas in Aiken meant a lot more attention than I had bargained for. Sidelong glances at stoplights, stares from people at the next gas pump, downright eerie. Folks were always asking what kind of car was it, how much was it, how fast will it go, what kind gas mileage did it get, etc. I usually took it all in stride. One Sunday I had to go to the store for something, whatever. This was a chilly day, so the top was up, after parking the car and starting towards Food Lion, a young man comes running up to me all excited and asks, “Where did you get it!?!” I told him that I got it at Rader in Augusta. When I started to explain about the deposit and the three month wait, he got a real puzzled look on his face. That’s when he said, “No, not the car, the Starfleet Academy sticker.”