So Close

posted in School on May 5, 2007

I consider myself a fairly intelligent human being. Analytical problems aren’t too hard for me, I read a lot, and I know that the echidna is the only other mammal besides the platypus that lays eggs. But the one thing that routinely stomps my face into the ground is the extremely hypothetical based science we like to call economics.

All semester I’ve been taking an econ class, and I still have a mental block on how things are supposed to go due to a poor foundation that led me to hate it in the first place. Our final was Thursday of the week, and it was an open book/open note exam. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

Let me give you a brief backstory on my experience with economics. Once upon a time, during my undergraduate degree, I took an econ class taught by an adjunct. She wasn’t bad on the eyes, but she couldn’t teach her way out of a bubble. I ended up with a B- in that class due to a combination of her lack of teaching ability and my lack of understanding what the hell all of those graphs in econ are all about (which probably came from her teaching). Anyhow, since that class, I’ve always hated econ. I leaned toward accounting more naturally. It’s much easier to work with hard numbers than to try and guess what is going to happen in the market tomorrow.

So fast forward to this week: I’m staying up all night Wednesday studying for an exam in a subject I loath, but I don’t believe the test will be too difficult considering we’ve been going over old final exams he’d given in the past covering the same material. About midnight hour clicks by and I think to myself, “Self, you pretty much have everything covered, why not stop studying for a while?” I couldn’t disagree with that! During this downtime, a friend of mine asks me a question about econ, knowing that my major involves this econ stuff, and I lend him my book. Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “The same book that he would need on the exam the very next day?!?” Yes, that book. I have no problem lending the text as I was very confident that I’ve gone over everything I needed too. In addition, I had written a lot of notes about what the old exams had gone over. I was made in the shade, or so I thought.

A couple hours after this, around 2:30 A.M., I take a break from thinking about class for a while and head to the health food store down the street (McDonalds) to get some grub. Upon returning, my friend was still studying with my book and I take my meal into my room. At this time, after two double quarter pounders and an apple pie, I feel great, and no damned econ exam would turn me otherwise. When I finished that meal of kings, I noticed that my friend had gone to sleep and taken my book, which is fine. I wouldn’t want him to leave it in the lobby. I dismissed the fact that I wouldn’t have the book for the exam, thinking my notes would suffice, and didn’t worry about possibly needing the extra help. I spent the rest of the night looking over my notes and watching anime, like any normal person.

8:00 A.M. – Zero Hour. Sitting in class before the test was horrendous. All of that previous courage was disappearing as the sun crept over the horizon. The thoughts one has about anything at night – school, sex, drinks, whatever – are generally wrong. Somehow, we humans think and do stupid things at night for no reason, as if the moon curtails our ability to think straight. With my situation, the darkness gave me false hope that I’d skate through another exam with so much ease and grace even the French judge would give me a high score. But here I was, seconds away from receiving the final exam of the final econ class I’d ever have to take. And then I saw it: the sheet we were supposed to put down our answers.

See, the previous exams we studied on only had about four problems to them. Sure, there were multiple questions per problem, but it wasn’t anything extraordinary. The answer sheet here has blanks for 22 questions. A quick chill ran down my spine just as a bead of sweat graced my forehead. What was this I’m seeing? Maybe all of those blanks are a misprint. Could he really have changed the exam that much?

Yes; he could, and did. When the actual exam was passed around I came to the realization that no matter what I did – prayed to Allah, punched the wall, summoned the power of Greyskull – I would not walk out of the class with an A on this exam. Instead of the word problems that were on the previous exams, here were graphs. Loads and loads of graphs with Average Total Cost and Marginal Revenue lines going every which way, making a thicket of unintelligible tangents across the page. I sat, mouth agape, contemplating my fate.

You ever have one of those times where you just feel like crying? A time where you just want the tears to flow? I’m a 23 year old man, and I was blinking and swallowing hard to keeps those bastards from coming out.

With my book in another’s hands and only a handfull of chicken scratch notes between myself and an inevitable fate, I began working. The questions were like braille to me. “What will all of the firms pay in the short run? The long run?” “What is the level of output at this point?” “Perforated dot, perforated dot. Dot dot dot…Perforated dot.” I didn’t understand any of it at first. The devil graphs were blowing my mind, but soon I realized that all of the information on the exam was like what we previously studied, just presented in the worst way for me. Forty minutes into the class I had managed to do about two pages of the four page exam, skipping as many graphs as I could and focusing on things I could somewhat manage. Slowly, and through as much logic as I could muster, I finished the exam. I made as much sense as I could of those graphs and gave it the good old college try. Even still, as I walked up to the front of the class to turn the papers, I couldn’t look my professor in the eye. “Have a good break,” he said. “Thanks, you too,” is what I replied, but all I thought was, “Not after this exam, I won’t.” I walked out of the class, put in my earphones and switched on the Coldplay* to suit my now depressed/emo mood.

The rest of Thursday was awful. I couldn’t help but think of how bad I had done. I haven’t walked out of a class feeling that miserable in a while, let alone sure that I had flunked. See, for my major, if I make a C in the class I have to take it over again. It’s complete bollux. I figured it up, and with my first (and really only other grade), I would need higher than a 62 to make an 80 in the class. A 62 sounds mighty low, but it wouldn’t have surprised me. I finished my day sulking like a baby.

So today grades came in, and I get a very disturbing email from the professor. Essentially, it was: “Blah blah blah, your grades are recorded.” But then the sentence: “Please do not email me or call me asking for extra credit” came up. That can only allude to one thing: people royally jacked up the final. I summoned the strength to check my grades to find out that I infact managed to…PASS. Indeed, I worried myself sick for a day, but I ended up with a B overall; a miracle to behold. I can’t necessarily find the words to describe the happiness that found me at this time, but I was happy. And now, nearly 36 hours after the fact, I can rest assured that, yes, I will have a “good break.”

*I do not own any of that B.S. Colplay crap. That was just to give the reader more insight to my depression at the time.