Heart of Darkness: Penn's Financial Aid, Part 1 of 11

As a prominent investigative journalist, it’s my responsibility to uncover truth. It simply depends on what I define “truth” as. Depending on the day, “truth” could mean a political scandal, my bedroom floor, or a fine lady’s undergarments. They vary in difficulty. I can find an adulterous politician on just about every street corner, but naked women are hard to come by. The key is to never give up. Even when just about every woman at the bar responds to your pick-up lines with a slap in the face or a glock in the kneecap, you must push on. I literally mean push on. The bar gets incredibly crowded and if you don’t keep moving you’ll be crushed. These are the kinds of tips I pick up. If only I picked up other things.

The other key is to believe in yourself. Before I was handed the responsibility of researching a possibly world-altering subject, I worked tirelessly to kidnap my competition. I still have about a baker’s dozen of professional rivals in my basement. You can’t argue with results. My articles have been so incisive that major news organizations have gone to great lengths to ignore me. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, BBC, The Daily Beast, and Perez Hilton are just some of the leaders in media-entertainment that have refused to acknowledge my phone calls. That’s the kind of influence that can’t be bought. Trust me, I know. I’ve offered them just about everything I own. It’s a shame you can’t monetize back-issues of “Horse Lover Monthly.”

I know you’re enjoying hearing about my life, but I unfortunately have a job-nay, a social duty-to attend to. That duty is UNCOVERING THE GODDAMN TRUTH. And today, truth doesn’t mean that cute Starbucks barista’s thong, but what lies underneath the thick, overflowing stomach flab that is Penn’s Financial Aid.

There are few things more corrupt then financial aid. Providing money to children to pay for their education? That sounds like a load of bullshit. As if we can trust them to use that money solely for their education. I once spent four years undercover at a local community college, obtaining dual degrees in “Media Journalism” and “Interpretive Robe Wearing” as part of a massive investigation into the inner workings of a frat house. I successfully infiltrated a frat, but unfortunately don’t remember a single night I spent in that house. I was never able to retain cognitive functionality past three cups of car polish. I spent my entire junior year in a coma. The bottom line: college kids cannot be trusted. They will exploit any small advantage to sew death and destruction on unsuspecting livers.

So when Punch Bowl editor Dan Berkman invited me into his office and asked if I would research and write about the inner-workings of Penn’s financial aid system, I immediately jumped at the chance. I was then escorted out of the office, because apparently he doesn’t like it when you stand on the chair and jump at him from across the desk. I used my one phone call to confirm that I was the man for the job. I then spent the next seventy-two hours reading whatever literature I could get my hands on, which were mostly unrelated to the topic because the prison’s library was pretty understocked. Eventually I was able to sell enough of my “Horse Lover Monthly” collection on Ebay to post bail, and the real investigation began.

Between now and then, I’ve spent my entire life immersed in the dark underbelly of Penn’s Student Financial Services, discovering what sick, perverted creatures keep the enormous hamster wheel running. Surprisingly, they look a lot like hamsters. There’s mechanisms lying much deeper, though, and I’ve seen it all. With my eyes. The following report, a running diary of my entire research process, is not for the faint of heart, the faint of mind, or the faint of manly parts, because it will knowledge-punch you in all three spots.

You’re welcome, America.

I walked into the Penn Financial Aid office like I owned the place. I even forged a copy of the land deed to reinforce my disguise. That was the key to any investigation: having a solid disguise. With the right preparation, you could convince anyone that you were someone else. I once pretended to be ten years younger so I could sneak into an R-rate movie theater using a fake mustache. They were so surprised when they found out it was actually a fake-fake mustache! They were still able to rip it off, though. I didn’t expect them to have a former bodybuilder selling tickets. The skin under my nose was raw for weeks.

So here I was, standing in the belly of the beast with a crumpled sheet of loose leaf that said I owned the belly. Most amateurs would freak out in this scenario. But with years of experience behind me and a flask of scotch taped on the inside of my thigh, I knew I was ready to take this place down like me after a flask of scotch in a public institution.

I walked right up to the front desk and demanded answers.

“Look lady, I need-”

“Do you have an appointment?” asked the receptionist.

I had underestimated her training. She was clearly an experienced operative who’s only job was to repel snooping reporters like myself. With one line, she had opened a complex chess game of wits. Unfortunately, I couldn’t end this chess game like I normally do, by flipping the board over and throwing a tantrum. I would have to outwit her with my paladin and breakdance wizard. Those are chess pieces, right?

“I do have an appointment.”

“What’s the name?”

“I don’t know, what is the name?

“Sir, please tell me your name.”

Damn! She had played the name card, a move I hadn’t seen coming. She was good.

“Uhm…Stanley…uh..S-swish-gnar…gnarly. Stanley Swish-gnarly.”

“Your name is Swish-gnarly?”

“It’s a family name.”

She types the name into her computer. I use this opportunity to assess the possibility of a physical confrontation. It’s always prudent to prepare for a fight, especially when you’re embroiling yourself in thorny situations, like an underground betting ring or a thorn bush. Every bar I go to ends with a woman kicking me in the nuts. My dad used to tell me that if you don’t leave with a black eye, you never went anywhere in the first place. That’s why he always hit me before school.

“You’re not in our system. If you could please a make a reservation and then come back at a later time that would be great.”

FOILED! She played the appointment card. I hadn’t seen that one coming. With one fell swoop, she had felled the most important piece on the chess board, Barry Sanders. Not even my crayon signature on the fake deed or my fake-fake-fake mustache could convince her to let me through. I had no choice but to retreat and regroup.

On the way out, I ripped the flask of scotch off my inner thigh. Thankfully hair doesn’t grow there anymore, since I’ve been taping flasks there since I was old enough to wear a diaper. This case was going to take longer than I thought.

STAY TUNED FOR FUTURE EPISODES!

PART 2 COMING SOON.

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