Time Is Ticking

I wrote a few weeks ago about preparing for the bar exam. I revealed in that post that my husband and I both passed, but I didn’t write about the difficulty of the exam itself.

In the summer of 1979, the Missouri Bar held the bar exam for aspiring lawyers in the state capital, Jefferson City, at the Ramada Inn. Candidates from all over the state converged on this town that had about 33,000 residents at the time (not counting politicians).

Most of the bar exam takers stayed at the Ramada, but my husband wanted to be able to get away from the craziness of hyperactive lawyer wannabes pumped on caffeine. So we stayed at the Best Western a few blocks away.

On the first morning of the exam, we drove the short distance to the Ramada Inn and found the huge bank of conference rooms where the test would be conducted. One room was for typists, and the others were for those of us who would write their answers in long hand. (Today, almost everyone takes the exam on laptops, but such devices didn’t exist in 1979.)

The room looked something like this. But no laptops.

The room looked something like this. But no laptops.

Each candidate was assigned a specific seat, two candidates to a table in a room filled with rows of tables. The test-takers were arranged alphabetically. Because my husband and I have the same last name, we were seated next to each other. Thankfully, there was an aisle between us, so we didn’t have to share a table. If we had, I think I would have worried about him as much as about the test questions.

We had stacks of blue books (remember blue books?) in which to write our answers. Everyone aligned their pens and blue books and water bottles, fidgeting and fussing with nervous energy, until time to start the test.

My husband has never worn a watch, while I always wear one set five minutes ahead of the actual time. But for purposes of tracking how long to spend on each question, my husband had with him a small alarm clock, which he set in front of him on the table, along with pens and blue books.

Palpable anxiety filled the room, in sighs and groans and squeaking of chairs.

At the appointed time, the first set of questions was distributed.

We wrote.

And we wrote.

Monitoring the minutes as they passed, to be sure we saved enough time to answer all the questions.

alarm-clock-ringing-6-cf8bumoxAbout two-thirds of the way through that first time block, the alarm on my husband’s clock rang. Loudly.

I looked up in astonishment. It wasn’t time yet, was it? Others in the room groaned, and the tension in the room grew twenty-fold.

Across the aisle from me, my husband fumbled quickly to silence the alarm.

“It was an accident,” he later told me. “I didn’t set the alarm. I swear.”

I didn’t know whether to believe him.

Oh, well. We both passed, so no harm done.

When has the unexpected made you more stressed in life?

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