When I was in college at SUNY New Paltz, the way one signed up for courses was to go through something called sectioning. You went to various tables representing the different departments, and you got an actual IBM punch card representing that class. Once the cards for a particular class were gone, it was closed out.
As a freshman, I was in the group that got the last choices. I could make up a tentative schedule of what I WANTED to take, but I wouldn’t know until I got into the gymnasium where this took place whether a particular class was closed out.
I recall that I got three courses I wanted right away, but the next two took forever, with my first (and second and third choices, et al.) unavailable to me. Ultimately, it took FIVE hours, and I ended up with some 8 a.m. anthropology course that I really didn’t want, though I ended up enjoying it.
I walked back to Scudder Hall, exhausted, and visited someone on the first floor (my room was in the basement). I had totally forgotten that the draft numbers were being picked that day. College student deferments had been ended by then, so it was possible that people could be drafted to go to Vietnam. I asked one friend what his draft number was – don’t recall now, but it was very high. I remember, though, that Fred the gnome’s draft number was 23, which was not good news. It was only then that it occurred to me to ask what MY number was; it was 2. As in 002. I think I was in shock, and too tired to think about it in the moment.
A few days later my oldest friend Karen wrote that, if I were going to get a low number, why not #1? As it turned out, March 6 was #1 and March 7 was #2, so I understood the source of the gallows humor.