They say you never forget, but I'm afraid I have. It is now almost 19 years since I took my last college exam. I no longer recall the parched throat, the wildly darting eyes, the sense that your whole life is on the line -- and the line is winning.
I now spend my days at a computer, sipping coffee and daydreaming about lunch. I don't stop to consider that, within range of my typing fingers, hundreds of D.C.-area collegians are spending their late April studying, stewing and suffering.
But Devorah Centor of George Washington University has refreshed my memory.
By blaming the guy who's typing these words.
Devorah wrote to me early this month, probably as I was taking yet another nap to finish up yet another two-week vacation. Her attitude toward my latest absence is summed up brilliantly in the first word of her letter.
After that, she gets a little more specific.
"I need someone to blame for the C in stat, and I knew the stuff! I was just too nervous to apply it and that I blame on you," she writes.
"Devorah," I mumble, "if only you knew that you're blaming a guy who got a D in stat!" But I read on:
"Every morning since I arrived in Washington, I have started my day with a cup of tea, a croissant, the comics and Bob Levey. My roommates thought I was a basket case the last time you went on vacation. They should have realized that if it happened when I was under a lot of stress -- exams, papers, etc. -- I would really be loony. And so it has happened."
Swallowing my pride (after all, how would you like to finish fourth to tea, croissants and comics?), I read on:
"If I'm this bad when you're on vacation, how am I going to be during my vacation when I have to go four count 'em four months without the W. Post comics and you? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh again . The New York Times and Newsday for the comics just aren't the same. And now you've deprived me of two weeks in addition! How dare you? . . . ."
"Oh, well," Devorah concludes, "I guess I'll just have to manage. Peace, love and long life from an ever-frazzled bio major."
All I can say, Devorah, is that if you'd gotten The Phone Call, you would have done the same thing I did.
It was from the accounting department, those folks whose records never vanish and never lie. They wanted to know when I was going to take the vacation I had been keeping "in the bank" since 1977.
I tried a joke.
I asked if my vacation time would earn 8 1/2 percent interest if I left it in there for another few years.
Heh, heh, heh.
The silence on the other end of the receiver was, as they say, deafening.
So, faced with a choice that was no choice at all, I took the time off, rather than lose it. But I swear, Devorah -- cross my heart and hope to pass math -- that I won't take any more time off until late July. Which is another way of saying:
I will be there throughout the dog days of May, to help guide you to the promised land. I could never desert you or your fellow undergraduates in a moment of need, even for the beach. With tea, croissants, comics and Levey, all things (including A's, including sanity) are possible.
The only thing that isn't possible is help from me with statistics. I've forgotten many things in 19 years, but not that D.
As you might put it: Arghhhhhhhhh!