I did a degree ceremony today. By "did" I mean acted as graduand's marshal. This involves telling everyone what to do at the start and then getting the students who have not got their degrees yet (called graduands) down to the stage so that they can go and get their degrees and become graduates.
It is great fun. We use City Hall and, although it can get a bit hot, there is always a fantastic atmosphere in amongst the nervousness.
Today things went OK. Except for one thing. I lost Laura. One of the jobs that I have to do is "slot in" people who register late. This means that they don't have a seat in the main hall, and so they sit down the front, next to me, and it is my job to put them in line in the right place so that they can get their degrees along with all the rest. Laura was one of the students I was due to slot in during the presentations. Things were going well as I fetched down the row into which Laura was due to be placed so I asked her to stand up and get ready to go. Unfortunately I then made a fatal mistake. I looked the other way to see how the queue was going. When I looked back Laura had melted into a sea of students wearing gowns.
Now, put a gown and hat on a bunch of people and they all look rather similar. Add to that my atrocious memory for faces and you have trouble. So I had to start asking people "Are you Laura?" to try and find the right person.
Unfortunately, people who are coming down for their degrees are not actually in a fit state to answer such questions. They are usually concentrating on remembering who they are so that they can walk across the stage at the right time, worrying about curtsying, and generally being a bag of nerves.
I've actually done the graduation thing as a student myself, and all this is quite normal. So when a graduand has someone towering over them asking "Are you Laura?" they immediately think "I'm not sure? Should I be? Why does he want to know?". Panic ensues. Two of the blokes in the queue told me that yes, they were Laura. This baffled me, and we were just entering a downward spiral of confusion when I spotted her and ushered her into the right place. Just in time. I don't think anyone noticed. And Laura went across the stage just fine.