May 12, 2007


In a high school English class we had a midterm where we were told one of the long essay questions in advance and allowed to bring a sheet of notes into the exam with us. Being the typical literature-class-disrespecter and smart-alack that I am was, I decided that I didn't need to outline my exam. How complicated could an exam essay possibly be to require a whole page of notes? I figured that I could put that sheet to much better use.

I don't recall all the details, but I think I must have had English after my other tests, and with this ridiculous note page edict, I was casting about for ways to spend my study time productively. On some whim I picked up my dad's old dictionary and started leafing through it absentmindedly. Of course! I could put anything on this page -- how about a bunch of rare and unusual words? I mean, it is English, it doesn't matter which kind of words I use as long as they make sense. They want pointless verbiage? I'll give it to them! On what basis would my English teacher penalize me for using strange but correct English words?!

So I spent a day or two building up a giant document that cataloged everything weird that I found in the dictionary, then I selected the 50 or so with relatively common meanings that could conceivably be used in regular writing, (if one was inclined toward being pretentious and misunderstood), to put in my "notes." And of course, when the test rolled around I crammed about 20 in there with no shame whatsoever. When I handed it in I even asked the teacher "if he had a dictionary nearby." Such was my adolescent hubris.

If this was an 'excellent' story instead of a 'mildly amusing' story, I would have failed the test*. I actually did well. It helped that my teacher was the type of guy who would get a kick out it. He said that it took him about 20 minutes to grade my several page essay because he had to stop every sentence or so to look something up. That'll show him for trying to teach me.

Though he doesn't realize it, he managed to get me back 5 years later. But that is a tale for another day.

If it was a Tim O'Brien story I definitely would have failed, even if I didn't, because that makes it 'more true.']