I was talking with someone recently about being a college student, that you’re free to do what you want when you want. It got my mind wandering back to Iowa State–so I wrote some blog stuff about those good ol’ days.
It also reminded me that sometimes–I’m an idiot. ID-10-T.
We turn back the clock to May, 1988. Finals week. I’d been suffering some restlessness and was antsy to be done with school so I could head home for a month before heading to New Orleans to work the Republican National Convention (back when Republicans were rational and reasonable…really–those days existed once upon a time). When you get antsy, sometimes you let details slip through the cracks.
At big schools, they publish the schedule for Finals well in advance. Sometimes there are conflicts and students are often permitted to reschedule exams if the published schedule has them taking more than two in a single day. Beneath those schedules or sometimes listed separately, specific classes were assigned to certain times–regardless of when you had your class. These were large classes or classes with numerous sections. It permitted a single standardized test to be used–and to avoid cheating, that listed class took priority over the normal schedule.
By May of ’88, I was a seasoned, jaded veteran of six semesters–just like the core of Foster House….we few, we happy few. I knew how things worked, where I had to work, where corners could be cut. Junior year of college is a glorious time.
So when the Finals schedule came out, I jotted it down. It was a good schedule. A couple tests on Monday (noon, 2pm), a couple on Wednesday (8am, noon) and then I was outta there. Perfect. The first test up was Physics 111–Physics for the Non-Science major. It wasn’t as easy as you’d think and to this day, I ALWAYS get confused by the difference between centripetal and centrifugal force.
So we get to Monday and I get to the Physics II (the name of the building) lecture hall half an hour early–a chance to get focused, skim my notes, and pray I had not (again) confused centripetal and centrifugal. Other than that, I’m ready for it. All I’ve got to do is get something like a 65% to guarantee a ‘B-‘ in the class, so there’s no real pressure. I’ve got this.
And then students start coming in and I notice something, something I had not noticed all semester. The class is about 85% women (which at the Iowa State of 1988 was amazing since enrollment was 60-65% male at the time). It must have been all the sweatshirts and winter coats and that I actually paid attention in class rather than to the people around me (also, paid attention to the pain of sitting in wood seats from 1910 constructed for 5’6, 140lb people). I start thinking, “Wow, I’ve missed out on a lot of daydreaming potential.” (Sue me, I was 19)
The TAs show up, start passing the tests upwards towards the top of the lecture hall. I took one, passed tests along. Time to get down to business. I look down and realize I’ve made a massive error. Huge. Immense. The test I’ve been handed is “Fashion Merchandising 101”. I’m in the wrong place or the wrong time. I’m in trouble because it’s hard to pick up a 65% when you’re a no-show for the test.
I was able to calmly get up, turn the test back in and explain I was in the wrong room. I get out in the hall and I can’t find a test schedule. The school paper? None are in the stands. Physics office–they can tell me…closed for lunch. I’m now entering “Batman carrying a bomb and being unable to throw it away” mode from the Adam West Batman movie.
I go to the other Physics building–only high-level tests going on there. I’m now more than 15 minutes late to wherever I’m supposed to be. Today, I’d describe the feeling as being like Gene Hackman right before Eastwood shoots him in ‘Unforgiven’. This isn’t how it’s supposed to end. I just wanted a B in Physics.
I decided to head a building over–time has blurred what it was, but I think it was the Armory and the Navy ROTC on the southeast side of the building. Finally there on their bulletin board, they’d posted the schedule. I had the wrong day. It wasn’t one of the special classes or anything that had a priority–I’d written down the wrong date.
30+ years later and I still remember my panic.