It happened early one morning last week. I was at work and the telephone rang. It was a court reporter setting up a telephone hearing. “Dammit” I thought – I had agreed a few weeks ago to cover this matter for another attorney in the office and I had completely forgotten to look through it yesterday as I had planned to.
I quickly buzzed my secretary to go find the Simpson file for me. My mind was a wreck. It was not my case, so I had no background on it at all – what was the dispute about, who were we representing, all of those most basic things were big, ugly question marks in my mind. The mind that was racing wildly. There are cases were someone is less interested in the outcome than are the others, and maybe our client is one of those. I surely have the experience to sit back and listen to the other lawyers ask their questions so that when my turn comes I can elicit something good and not bad. But what if I am the one who has to start at the beginning? “This could get ugly” I said to myself as I fumed “Where is she with the Simpson file.”
Fortunately, all of the problems were quickly solved. It happened in the most unexpected way – I woke up. In reality, it was Sunday morning. There was no hearing. I had not been asked to do anything. And there was absolutely, positively, not a Simpson file. For anyone looking for a way to really appreciate your life as it might be at a given moment, I cannot recommend this method highly enough. Because once it became evident that there was no Simpson file (and none of the potential catastrophes that went along with it) life could scarcely have been better.
I suspect that all of us have, at least once, awakened in a panic over a similar kind of impending doom. I have had conversations with others where we share experiences that are some variation on taking an important test in school. The one I have experienced a handful of times is where I find myself seated in a classroom, ready to begin taking a final exam. The problem is that I had completely forgotten that I had signed up for the class and had not been to a single classroom session for the entire term. Such dreams (at least for me) have never progressed to actually having to answer test questions. They end with the sheer dread that comes from the looming disaster of not knowing any of the material. And, of course, the sheer joy that comes from realizing that you have avoided what would have been a monster fail.
One of my children, who shall remain unidentified, actually did this in real life – that child thought a college class early in the semester had been dropped, and was surprised to receive a report card with a big fat F for the course. The situation was not made better by the fact that this report card arrived following what the student had intended to be the final semester for graduation. I was sitting right next to the youth as the mailed result was opened. I saw the panic start to set in on a face that had been so happy a few minutes before.
Marianne was furious, but all I could do was start laughing. When she asked me (in a not terribly happy tone of voice) what was so funny, I could only respond with: “Everyone I know has had nightmares about this exact scenario, and here this kid has actually done it in real life!” My reaction calmed my offspring somewhat, who was subsequently able to contact an advisor and move around some credit hours to apply to the final requirement, and all was resolved – without going back to school. And without the need to wake up.
I will confess that I came kind of close to a variation on this theme. I attended a university that maintained a physical education requirement. It was a point of pride for me that I was able to earn my six phys ed credit hours without once donning a pair of gym shorts or athletic shoes. The school had anticipated students like me by offering courses that included bowling, pocket billiards, casting & angling and archery. My final two hours came thanks to a course in golf. You could say that I took a golf course. Or not.
I dutifully attended every class, and as one who started from zero when it came to knowledge or experience in the game, it was helpful. I had an ancient set of clubs that had surely been hand-me-downs to my father. The canvas bag and big names etched into the clubs like Sam Snead and Tommy Armour (OK, big names in the 1930’s) were the giveaways. I learned about the grip, the stance, the swing and one of our two weekly sessions was at the university driving range where we would hit bucket upon bucket of balls with a particular club.
The final exam was to be held at the driving range where I was to be graded on ten strokes each with a wedge, a 9 iron, 5 iron and a driver. It was my last exam of the semester and I worked late the night before. I awoke with a start and remembered that I had forgotten all about my golf final. I threw on some clothes and rushed to the driving range, arriving just as the last students were finishing up. I ran (OK, so I did run at least once for my PE credit) and was out of breath by the time I got to the instructor. In a method that has served me well ever since, I confessed that I had overslept and asked “What can we do?”
The professor looked at me and laid out my options. “You can hit the balls if you want, I have time. Or” he continued “I have been watching you through the semester. I suspect that if you were to hit the balls the way I think you will, you will get a C. If you would be good with a C we can do it that way.” Having taken the class on a pass/fail option (and being no fool) I replied that a C would work for me. I thanked him for the courtesy, apologized again, and walked back to the car.
So the crisis was averted. I guess waking up was part of that one – if I had not awakened when I did, things could have taken an ugly turn. And it felt just as sweet as my successful resolution of the Simpson file.