I wasn’t late for the train today BUT it was raining so hard I was still tempted to run for it. Never fear, there is still a bit of pride left in me. I walked. Then I wrung out my socks.
I plan on entering the Palm something or other screen writing contest today. I was going to do it last night but I forgot. Midnight tonight is the deadline. Why am I entering a contest that I don’t even remember the full name of off the top of my head? Easy. I have an amazing script that doesn’t fit into most contests (35 pages), there’s a cash prize, and remember the first paragraph? Pride.
I made the finals in last night’s 5 minute fiction. Amazing to me how in just 4 paragraphs I was able to go from fairly normal and funny to weird and dark. Feel free to vote for anyone.
I have a new favorite TV show. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Today it is time to look at Wash’s journal.
June 9, 1979 – New York City
As I wrote yesterday, I’m visiting my friend Frank in New York. Today he had to go into work to proctor an exam and invited me along. It’s been a few hundred years since I set foot in a high school so I readily accepted his invitation. How bad could it be?
It could be bad. But it was nothing like Guadalcanal or France despite the best efforts of popular media to convince you otherwise.
We were set up in the gymnasium of the Mount Jefferson High School for Rapscallions, Hoodlums, and N’er-do-wells where rows upon rows of desks had been hand carried from the various classrooms and painstaking placed in ordered rows. At the front of the formation stood a folding table with two chairs, a pot of coffee, the instruction booklet, and a stop watch.
Many of the students who came in greeted my friend warmly, comrades rather than indentured servants, and the air was filled with such pleasantries as “Good morning Mr. McCourt.” Followed by his unmusical, “Morning Phillip.” Or “Morning Jennifer.” I believe that for every Phillip there were seven or eight Jennifers.
He got the test started and we spent the next two hours giving everyone the evil eye. It was great fun. When the test was over the students tripped over themselves to bring the booklets up and escape into the city. Except for one young man who was still hard at work.
Frank reminded him that time was up and he said, “Yes, yes. I’m almost finished.” Frank said, “You have to be finished now. The time is up.” The student raised his hand for silence.
This was interesting. Frank went to the desk of the student and said, “I really have to take this now. I’m sorry.” The student scratched out several more answers and then put down his pencil. “No worries. I’ve finished.” he said.
Frank told him that he couldn’t take the test now because he had cheated and taken more time than was allowed. As we walked to the proctor’s table, the student agreed that normally that would be a problem. “But, this is different.”
“How so?” asked Frank. The student looked at him, serious as could be, and said, “Don’t you know who I am, Mr. McCourt?”
“I do not.” said my friend. “Nor do I care. The rules are the same for everyone.” The student shook his head. “You really don’t know who I am?”
Frank said, and quite smugly I might add, “Young man, I don’t care if you are the son of the president. You’ve taken too long and I can’t accept your work.”
The young man said, “Don’t worry. I’m not the son of the president.” He shoved his test booklet in the middle of the pile on the table. “I’m nobody.” he said and turned to walk out.
I began to work on the pile. Surely I could figure out which test had just been added. I was interrupted however by the belly laugh of my friend and his arm on my shoulder. “Leave it.” he said. “He’ll be just fine in life even if he needs a little extra time.”
I wish that were true. I wish it didn’t matter how much time we given and that we could get a little extra if we really need it. Maybe it would make a difference. Make the difference between getting by and being alive. Make the difference for those of left afterward who just want to know why.