Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Pencils Down

It's time for final exams. Everyone in the world seems to be churning out their seven-to-ten pagers and sharpening their number twos except for me. This is the first time since I was six that we're on the brink of summer and I don't have a single test to take, or portfolio to compile, or essay to write about a book I had yet to crack open.

Most valuable lesson learned during high school English exams: turns out that, actually, you can completely judge a book by its cover--to the tune of a 5 on the AP exam.

I kind of miss sitting in the hot high school gym with my pencil and back-up pencil and back-up back-up pencil, watching a teacher descend the endlessly long row of desks with an armful of sealed exam booklets which you MAY NOT TURN OVER UNTIL THE EXAM HAS STARTED. DO NOT TURN YOUR BOOKLET OVER. DO NO--THAT'S IT, MIKE, YOU'RE OUT. OUT. GET--I DON'T CARE IF YOUR FATHER'S A LAWYER, YOU'RE OUT OF HERE.

There was something exciting about (pre-college) final exams. Besides the fact that two hours and a hundred multiple-choice questions were all that stood between you and the shimmering oasis of summer vacation, it was obsessive-compulsively satisfying to see an entire year quantified in a blue booklet.

I also think that for many of today's godless youth, taking final exams is the closest they will every come to the sacrament of holy orders. A nun may turn her eyes heavenward and rapturously wed Christ, but there is no leap of faith greater than an unprepared senior diving into a calculus exam with a sign of the cross and a quick prayer that that big "s"-looking thing just means "subtract." There is no subjugation of the self to divine will comparable to the truant who trusts that God will not lead his 500 words on "To Kill a Mockingbird" astray and embarks on a timed essay jaunt through the pros and cons of hunting small game.

Not that I was ever so radically underprepared for a test. I usually had my notes highlighted, my review sheets filled in, and my intranstive Italian verbs committed to memory. But when it came to my Chemistry final there did come a point when, in the middle of the exam, I turned my academic fate over to some kind of higher power and began indescriminately filling in bubbles. I didn't understand the subject from day one, and actually occupied my class time learning to write "I hate chemistry" with my non-dominant hand. Despite the fact that I'd studied the periodic table to the point where its afterimage glowed a ghostly green on the backs of my eyelids when I closed them, and despite the more metaphysical fact that God, if he even exists, probably didn't give one fluffy white poop about my Chemistry grade, I remember listening to the scratching pencils, the whirring fans, the teachers hissing expulsion threats through their teeth and thinking: "Okay, um, now You take over."

I think I actually got an eighty-something on that exam. (And accordingly: praise the Lord.)

So, I guess what I'm saying is good luck to everyone dealing with final exams. You'll do fine. Just remember that a squared plus b squared equals c squared, and, when in doubt, just talk about "manifest destiny." That gets 'em every time.

Besides, it won't be long until your final exams resemble mine:

1. Which dressing does the loud old lady in the other cubicle ask for every day when she orders a salad for delivery?
(a) ranch
(b) thousand island

2. How many times can you remember that same old lady calling the maintenence department to report that something is "sticky"?
(a) never
(b) at least four
(c) two, because that one other time she was calling about how someone plugged up the toilet, just plugged it all up, all kinda paper and feces in there, it's disgusting, someone better get up here and fix it.

3. Circle the only sentence spoken to you since your boss went on vacation:
(a) Hi, how are you?
(b) We're going out to lunch, would you like to come? Don't worry, it's on us.
(c) What's the hell's the matter with this copier?


Anonymous brad said...

when i was in seventh grade, mr. maxson gave us a test where all the answers were b.

3:21 PM  

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