Monday, August 18, 2008

The Continuing Adventures of Pedro the Proctor!

A new installment from an old friend:

It’s the end of spring term and time for everyone's favorite ritual: the sitting of the final exam in the cavernous athletics complex. This is a third year course so I make the naïve assumption that everyone is familiar with the drill...

As the students are settling into their seats, we wander around the room ensuring that no lingering iPod ear buds are still streaming music into student's heads and that cell phones are turned silent and stowed in backpacks. One young lad has his cell phone on his desk so I kindly ask him to put it in his bag. "I don't have a watch so this is how I keep track of time" referring to the LCD clock on the outside of the phone. On the wall ahead of him is a gigantic athletics complex clock, must be two feet in diameter. I point to the clock, "There's a clock on the wall." "Too much reflection from the lights; I can't see it. I'll put away the phone if you'll come by every 15 minutes and tell me the time." My suspicion is that Millennial-Boy doesn't actually know how to tell time with an analog device or he missed the whole Big- Hand/Little-Hand class in Kindergarten. Time to move onto the next snowflake two rows over...

"I don't have my university ID card with me." "No problem, do you have some other picture ID, like a driver's license?" "No. The only thing I have is a VISA receipt that has my name at the bottom." For three years you have been showing up at midterm and final exams. For three years proctors have been asking for your ID. Do you not carry a wallet? Worst case scenario if you drown in the creek that runs through campus then I guess the police could ID you from the VISA receipt...

We told the class in advance that we'd be using Scantron bubble cards, yet we still have people showing up without pencils. Luckily we have a few golf score-card pencils to pass out. I'm sure the next request is going to be for erasers since the pencils have none.

The exam finally starts and I wander around with the other proctors. One girl has five rolls of Rocket candies and a huge bag of pretzels to carry her through the 2 1/2 hour exam. Two seats up Bladder Buddy has a large coffee, a 1.5 liter bottle of water, five granola bars and a box of Smarties candies. 1500 ml of water / 150 minutes of exam time, that's just under 1/2 and oz. per minute. Maybe this guy is a star at "Century Club" - the old beer drinking game of 100 oz of beer in 100 minutes. Between the candy, food, and water if the athletics complex collapses today, no one will perish before the authorities dig us out. He also has 5 sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, two mechanical pencils PLUS a package of 5 disposable mechanical pencils that he has just opened on his desk. If we run out of golf card pencils, Buddy can spot us a few from his personal stock.

A hand goes up in the back, I wander over. "I'd like to get a drink." "So would I," I think to myself momentarily, before I get back to the needy student at hand. This being the athletics complex, our exam writing space is blessed with not one but two cooler-style water fountains. "There is a water fountain at the front of the room." "No, I need something from a vending machine." "But we have water right here in the room." "I didn't eat today and I've got really low blood sugar. Everything is fuzzy; it’s hard to concentrate. I'm sure I saw a vending machine on the way in." Escort the student through the doors at the front of the room. Nope, no vending machines. Wander out the other exit doors at the other end of the room. Again no vending machines. After all that the student sits down to resume her exam without any added nutrients. I'm guessing the low blood sugar has induced vending machine hallucinations. A more benevolent prof would have nicked some Rocket candies for this young lady.

45 minutes into the exam, Bladder Buddy's hand goes up. The double whammy of the coffee's diuretic effects and the shear volume of bottled water are taking their toll. He gets an escorted trip to the loo. Almost exactly 45 minutes later, hand goes up again. Another trip to the water closet. It’s been the other proctors dealing with him thus far. His body is near saturation - after 30 minutes now his hand goes up. "I need to go pee," comes his plea. "You've already been TWICE! It’s your own fault for drinking this much water." I say as I point to the half-way mark on the big ol' water bottle. "But I really have to go." I tell him there is only 1/2 an hour left, cross your legs and hope for the best. As I walk away, I think to myself "Learn to control your urethral sphincter Grasshopper; these lessons will serve you well later in life when the ol' prostate starts to go." No one faints, explodes, ends up with permanent eye strain from squinting at a badly lit clock or is found face down in a creek clutching a VISA receipt so I figure it was a good exam in the end.