Thursday, October 19, 2006

Emotional Distress

Striking fear into the hearts of 1Ls everywhere is that dreaded word. Exams. Off in the December distance is this amorphous evil that plagues us all and drives even the most ardent slacker to occasional studiousness. At my law school, exams are not as bad as at Dan's or David's. None of our classes have grades here. Instead we have "narrative evaluations," whatever that means.

Anyway, to prepare us for the exams and to give us a taste of what we'll be up against in a couple of months, today we had a practice torts exam. Now for those of you who don't know, torts is the section of law that that has to do with most civil lawsuits. People suing for everything from serious injuries to corporate irresponsibility. Cases range from the standard (A sues B for causing an injury to A when B acted negligently and crashed into a building) to the ridiculous (woman goes into a hospital for fertility treatment, and comes out having lost her leg).

Well, we took this exam under the same conditions that we will be under in December. Since I have a laptop, I was going to use it for the exam. I downloaded and installed the software that they assigned. What this does is lock down the computer, only giving access to the current word file to prevent cheating. Sounds like a good policy, right? Everyone has an equal chance and an even playing field. Nice theory, anyway.

So as I'm finishing up, with a few minutes to spare, I add some information to my test at the last second. To make sure everything is ok before I turn it in, I hit the spell check button. I had done this once or twice before as I went through the exam, making sure things were ok as I went. Now I was on my final time. I clear any serious issues and then I can finish up.

So I move the mouse to the toolbar, hit the spell-check button, expecting the window to pop up...

And the screen clears. Suddenly, I'm looking at my computer desktop, and the software is closed. Hmmm. Not good, but probably no big deal. I had been saving early and often in case something like this happens. But to get back into the software, I have to call over one of the technical support guys to log me back in. He comes over, takes a look at my computer, opens the software, and says…uh oh.

So now my mind starts to race. What happened? What's the problem? What did I do? What did you do? He looks at the computer and tells me what I already know. The file is gone. My exam has disappeared. My computer has eaten my answer.

Well, what am I supposed to do now? Tech guy calls the academic affairs boss into the room. He takes a look at the situation, and wants to schedule some time with me later in the day to retake the exam that I had just spent the last hour working on. Well, as you can probably imagine, this just makes my day. Now those of you who know me well have seen me react badly to similar types of situations, but I'm doing my best to keep my cool and work the problem instead of doing all the evil things to everyone around me that are flashing through my mind.

As calmly as I can, I explain that I follow the "save early, save often" philosophy that comes from years of traumatic experiences with Microsoft Windows products. I know that somewhere, deep in the bowels of my computer's hard drive, is my exam. I know it is there because it has to be there.

So the tech guys kick it around for a while, look at the places where the file is supposed to be, and have a look of deep sympathy and sorry for me predicament. Finally, boss tech guy comes in and asks to see my computer. Well by now I have told a few of my friends what's been going on, and they tell a few of their friends, but more on that in a few minutes.

Anyway, head tech guy takes my computer from room to room to hallway to try to get away from crowds of noisy 1Ls relieved over the end of the exam. Naturally, I go with him. He makes a few calls and finally starts opening up hidden files in hidden folders, looking deep into the hard drive in a place that no one would ever have guessed. Finally, he comes to a file that matches what he was told my exam should be named. It looks like it was last changed about the time I last saved, although I can't be sure. I ask to check the file to make sure it is the right one, but of course it is encrypted, so I just have to trust this software (yeah, right) that he has the right file. Anyway, head tech guy takes the file away to get it decrypted, formatted, and sent out for grading. I just hope that it is at least close to the final version that I wanted to put together. That's as good as it is going to get for me on this go around.

Well, after that, we have torts class. Imagine that, torts class after a torts exam. Sounds like fun, right? Well anyway, I go home for a little while after torts for my lunch break, and then come back for afternoon classes. As I'm walking into my classroom, I see a classmate of mine, and we're talking about the exam (of course). His went fine, he's glad that it is over, regular, expected things.

Then he asks me how mine was. I start to tell him. Well, I was just finishing when I hit the spellchecker and it crashed. He interrupts my at that point. "That was you?!" he says. Apparently, my story is spreading. I told a few people while they were working on my computer. They told a few people this story from the exam. And they told a few people.

Now I won't pretend to know how David felt getting grilled by his contracts professor. I've given some right answers and I've given some wrong answers in my two months here, but I've never had a long face off in any of my classes. But I do have some idea what its like to go into a room and have people talking about what happened to you. Not the greatest experience of my life, but at least its making a fun story for my friends.

I'm trying my best to not be a slacker in law school. Days like today don't make it easy.