Boomerang Days: Final Fantasy

A Longhorn does college all over again.

Boomerang Days: Final Fantasy

I’ve been returning to the UT campus for over a year now. I’ve explored the dorms, worked out in Gregory Gym, and strolled the Drag, but in all my attempts to relive my undergrad days, I have yet to attend a class. This may or may not say something about my academic vigor.

So in an attempt to fully experience all the glory of my undergraduate life, I request to sit in on Government 310L. It’s a little difficult explaining to the professor, who is a year or two younger than me, that I’m choosing to sit in on his class not for credit or for any real interest in the subject, but because I want to relive my college days. I get permission to visit for one day.

I’m late, of course. Tardiness is a part of my DNA, like freckles and tiny nipples. This is all too familiar: jogging in jeans, sweating in the midday heat, bursting into Batts Hall, the cold chill of the university’s overly eager air conditioning system.

I take my seat just as the professor hands out a long list of questions. A pop quiz? Holy crap! It’s like that nightmare where you forget you’ve registered for a class and don’t show until the day of the final and find yourself unprepared, naked, and pelted with pats of butter by scantily dressed, red-tailed devils. You know the one.

None of my fellow students seem surprised. It occurs to me that perhaps it wasn’t a pop quiz for everyone else. Maybe it was even on the syllabus, which I’ve failed to even glance at.

I stare down at the questions and the old test anxiety hits me like an unpleasant narcotic. My stomach churns stones and my armpit sweat glands open with more force than the Littlefield Fountain.

Inexplicably I have fond memories of the frantic test preparation of my college years. There was something heroic about pushing myself through sleepless hours in a corner of the UGL or the back room of Flightpath, sucking down bottomless cups of coffee and desperately trying to memorize a semester’s worth of information in one night. I remember flipping through illegible notes and giving thanks that I had purchased used textbooks so I could at least skim the last student’s highlighted sections. There was a glorious lost-cause romance to those cramming sessions. Finally I’d show up for the test a jittery puddle of stress and moderate competence, my brain holding the necessary facts as firmly as a paper bag holds soup.

But for this government test I don’t even have the paper bag, let alone the soup.

The first question asks for details on the 23rd Amendment. I think for three seconds and then instinctively reach for my smartphone. A few fellow test-takers shoot me a look. Turns out Google counts as cheating. So I return to the question without the one tool I’ve used to answer every semi-difficult question for the past seven years. Thinking without my phone feels like opening a pickle jar with one arm or wearing sunglasses without a nose. How is this preparing students for the real world outside of trivia contests held in Amish country?

Luckily the test is multiple choice, undeniable proof that the universe has a heart for poorly prepared students. I’m a big believer in the educated guess. It’s guided me through everything from religious preferences to marriage proposals. Though, if I’m honest, educated guess is a bit of an oxymoron. If I were educated, I wouldn’t need to be guessing.

I go for A and move on to the second question. This one is about a Supreme Court case I somewhat remember. Maybe there’s still a little soup in the bag after all! But the answer is A again. Is it possible that a professor at one of America’s most respected universities would have A as the answer to the first two questions? It’s too simple a pattern. I clearly should not choose A.

Unless he expected that I’d think he would never repeat A and so did just that to trick me. So I clearly must choose A.

Unless he suspected that I’d suspect he’d be trying to trick me and so I clearly can’t choose A.

After half an hour on question No. 2, I’m ready to drink some of that iocane powder from The Princess Bride and call it a day.

That’s when the professor announces we should be wrapping things up. I’m still on the first page! I quickly fill in the rest of the answers in a pitiful flurry of extravagant ignorance, then turn in the sweat-soaked pages to the frowning professor, my now former friend.

Thank God it’s over. And let’s pray that at least 70 percent of the answers are A*.

*Editor’s note: The author scored a 42.

Illustration by Mario Zucca.


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