Sometimes, life just feels like a bunch of excuses.
Reader: How come you haven’t posted anything in over a month?
Me: My Internet was down and I got snowed in.
Reader: But your Internet couldn’t have been out for a whole month.
Me: I had midterms!
Reader: How did you take them if you were snowed in?
Me: Aliens abducted me at laserpoint and flew me to the testing center.
Reader: Why would they have done that?
Me: They were very hostile aliens.
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t really abducted by hostile, academic aliens from planet HIST&136, but it might have been a preferable alternative. A week before our midterm, my professor posted a study guide for the exam and a reminder that we were supposed to have the test proctored. The study guide consisted of five potential essay questions. At the top (and I quote): TWO OF THESE QUESTIONS WILL APPEAR ON THE EXAM.
No other information was provided.
Being the paranoid, anxiety-ridden waif that I am, I decided that there must be more to the test than just two essay questions. Rather than starting to study, I spent half an hour begging my parents to take me to the library on the iced-over roads, and another hour composing a strategic email to my history professor that would put out subtle feelers as to the contents of the rest of the exam. It read something like this:
Since it sounds more professional, I always start out with that kind of greeting. However, as a fan of the traditional vampire, I prefer to write emails in the evening.
This is just to let you know that my Internet is down due to the recent storm. I’m trying to get as much as possible done at the library today, but might not be able to return because of unsafe driving conditions. I’d like to ask for your patience (and mercy!) in the event that I am unable to submit my paper on time.
In three sentences, I had cultivated sympathy for myself under a valid pretext. I then casually slipped this little gem in:
Also, I was wondering approximately how long (in terms of a time limit or number of questions) Thursday’s exam will be.
I was reasonably proud of my work. All I had to do was wait for a reply.
After the first fifteen minutes of clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email, my finger was getting kinda sore, so I used my time to study.
And by ‘study,’ I mean ‘search.’
You see, some college professors are prone to picking their test material from a website that is essentially a veritable gold mine of questions – complete with answers. All one had to do when facing an online exam was to open up a different browser, go to the home page that one had bookmarked a few weeks ago, and type one’s question in the search box.
Don’t ask me how one knows that.
Anyway, I went a little crazy since I didn’t know exactly what section I was looking for.
We’re talking a hundred-page Word document. I copied the questions, I pasted the questions.
And I looked at them hopelessly before refreshing my email a few dozen more times.
Sure, my memory’s good, but it’s not that good. Trying to memorize a hundred pages in four days – it was enough to make someone hide in their closet for a few hours instead of studying.
So I hid in my closet for a few hours instead of studying.
It was about that time that my Internet came back, and I wrote out answers to all five essays. Yes, I could memorize them in advance – but the other questions had to be a priority. The response from my professor had been cryptic. It was clear that he would divulge no more information.
I even went as far as enlisting the help of my mother. After thirty years of marriage, she was an expert at code breaking.
Me: So my history midterm’s in a few days.
Mom: You ready for it?
Me: Hnnh. What do you suppose ‘two of these questions will appear on the test’ means?
Mom: You’re not ready for it, are you? (A/N: Told you she was an expert.)
Me: See, I’m assuming there’s more to the test, but if there is… it would take torture to get it out of him.
*Brief pause, accompanied by clinking noises from the kitchen*
Mom: …Put it back.
I spent two days rewriting answers in the hopes that I would remember them. The second day was more frantic. I didn’t move my butt out of my chair for five hours, and it probably would have been longer if I hadn’t looked at the Q&A discussion forum for my history class (which had been set up six weeks previously and ignored by all students since its creation) and found out that the test consisted of only the two essay questions, which was when I ran around the house screaming for a long time.
You’d think I would have started memorizing the essays, but I was compelled to add a post thanking the questioner for posting his question and adding that I’d had the same one. This, of course, took over half an hour to write, because although I had to make it (subtly) clear to my history professor that this was what I’d been going after in my email – otherwise, I looked like someone that couldn’t even click on a link and read a study guide – my response also had to be more subtle than my email. If it wasn’t, I ran the risk of my professor rereading my message while knowing my true intent. If he uncovered my attempted email subtlety, it would retroactively expose me as the kind of freak who would spend an hour writing an email that actually had a pretext.
After much struggling, revising, and rewriting; I came up with this:
Thanks, I had the same question.
One crisis averted.
However, I still had five potential essay questions. Five responses to memorize.
Knowing that I remember songs better than anything, I threw together a few random chord progressions, set the essays to music, and brought the house down until one in the morning to the tune of ‘American Revolution: Stick It To The Man.’
When I sat down for the test, I was disappointed to see that neither of my favorite songs were on it. However, the campus’s idea of ‘proctoring’ was to put me in a room by myself and close the door.
Before you ask, I did take advantage of the opportunity to use notes. Yes, you got it right. I was able to hum those damn songs as much as I wanted without anyone looking at me weird.
Had the need arisen, I would have also been able to look at the photos of my essays that I’d taken with my phone before going in, but luckily, it didn’t come to that.
Besides, if I’d cheated, the aliens might have caught me.