September 25-October 9, 1997. An unexpected performance at the start of the school year. (#147)

The start of the new year at the University of Jeromeville felt a little different this year, because I finally had a well-defined career goal: I was going to teach high school mathematics.  A few years ago, I remember having told people that I could never be a teacher, because of all the politics involved with education.  The professional organizations and labor unions for teachers tended to lean far to the left of most of my political positions.  I just assumed that I would stay in school forever and get an advanced degree in mathematics, unless I thought of something else to do with my life in the meantime.  But after a positive experience last spring helping out in a high school math classroom, and a negative experience last summer doing math research, I had decided not to let politics get in the way of doing something that I would enjoy doing.

School started on a Thursday, as it always did, and as was the case most quarters, Thursday was my lightest day of classes.  I was working as a tutor again this quarter, so hopefully I could schedule lots of tutoring groups and sessions on Thursdays.  My only class that first day was Writing In Education, which met on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the late morning.  I took Advanced Composition as a sophomore, which, combined with the AP English test that I took in high school, satisfied my writing requirement.  I could have taken Writing In Education instead of Advanced Composition, but I did not know two years ago that I would be going into education.  Also, if I stayed at UJ for my teacher training, that program required twelve units of English as a prerequisite, so this class would count toward that.  I could take a fun English class later this year to finish that requirement, if such a class existed.

I took two math classes that quarter.  The first one was Theory of Numbers, which met Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays in the morning.  I walked into the class Friday morning and took a seat on the left side of the room against the wall.  The class met in Younger Hall, in the old part of campus facing the Quad.  This was a classroom with chairs that had writing desks attached, not a lecture hall with fixed seats, but it was a relatively large classroom, holding around sixty students.  Students continued trickling in, and shortly before class began, Sarah Winters walked in and sat in an empty desk on my right.  I smiled and waved.

“Hey, Greg!” she said.

“We finally have a math class together,” I pointed out.

“I know!”

Sarah was another mathematics major, and I had known her since our first week as freshman at UJ.  When we were freshmen, she lived downstairs from me in the same dorm and was also part of the Interdisciplinary Honors Program.  She had been part of some of my most memorable moments and adventures, but despite being good friends and having the same major, this was the first, and only, time we ever had a math class together.

The professor, Dr. Alterman, was also at the time the Chair of the Mathematics Department, so I had heard his name around the department a bit .  He was an older man who spoke in a way suggesting that German was his first language.  I was not entirely sure what “theory of numbers” meant; Dr. Alterman explained that it was the study of positive integers.  Number theory dealt with questions involving prime numbers and prime factorizations, modular arithmetic, and divisibility, which quickly built into much more complicated results.  This class sounded interesting so far.  Numbers were something I could easily wrap my head around.

After lunch, I had my other math class, Introduction to Abstract Algebra, in Wellington Hall on the other side of the Quad.  Since this was a required class for all mathematics majors, I recognized many students whom I had had in classes before, including Jack Chalmers, Katy Hadley, and the student formerly known as Andrea Briggs.  Andrea was my first crush at UJ, but I quickly learned that she had a boyfriend, whom she had recently married.  Sarah was not in this class; I wondered why, since it was required.  Although normally a senior class, it is possible to take it as a junior; maybe she had taken it last year.  I never did learn why.

Abstract algebra was once described to me as algebra without numbers.  Abstract algebra studies the relationships between the elements of a set and the operations done to the element, categorizing such relationships so as to show that mathematical structures that are used for quite different purposes can sometimes be very similar.  This sounded fascinating, but difficult to conceptualize.  The professor for that class was Dr. Hess, and he spoke clear English, something unusual among the mathematics faculty at UJ.  I had heard of him before, because he was married to Dr. Thomas, another mathematician at UJ and one of my favorite professors.  I knew of at least one other married couple among the UJ mathematics faculty besides them.  I began looking around the classroom with the fleeting thought that maybe mathematicians were destined to marry each other, and maybe my future wife was in this class.  If so, the girls in class did not give me much hope.  Andrea was married, Katy and I never really seemed to click, and the rest of the girls in this class weren’t very attractive.

I was in University Chorus again this quarter.  Before, chorus had always met Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12:10 to 1:00, but this quarter the time had moved to only Mondays and Wednesdays, from 4:10 in the afternoon until 5:30.  After going through the procedural first day matters, Dr. Jeffs, the conductor, handed out the syllabus.  “You’ll notice something unusual,” he said.  “On October 9, a week from Thursday, we have a performance.”  A few in the room gasped.  I found “October 9: Waite Hall Dedication” on the syllabus  Waite Hall?  Hall, as in a building on campus?  I knew this campus well from all of my explorations on my bike, and I knew of no Waite Hall.

“The drama building next door is being renamed, in honor of Dr. Cecilia Waite,” Dr. Jeffs explained.  “In 1928, Dr. Waite became the first woman to be offered a tenured faculty position here at the University of Jeromeville, and she will be the first woman to have a building named for her.  Back when UJ was just an agricultural college, Dr. Waite was considered the founder of the  English department.  She was also an accomplished poet, and we will be singing ‘Doors of Learning,’ a piece with lyrics written by Dr. Waite, and music composed by a former professor here in the music department.  We will also sing ‘Hail, dear Jeromeville,’ the UJ alma mater.”

“The ceremony will be an hour long, from 9 to 10,” Dr. Jeffs continued.  “All of the performing arts groups will be at this dedication.  Attendance is mandatory.  So if you have any conflicts with other classes, talk to your professors now.”  I did not.  I would have to run straight from there to English, possibly in my chorus tuxedo, but I would not have to miss class.  And when I filled out my availability to work for tutoring, I had not put 9:00 on Thursdays as an available time slot; I wanted one day of being able to wake up a little bit later, if possible.

“We’ll be practicing these two songs for the first two weeks, then we will move on to the other pieces we’ll be doing for our regular concert in December.”  Dr. Jeffs instructed a few volunteers to pass out sheet music for Doors of Learning and Hail, Dear Jeromeville.

Last year, when I began doing chorus, I learned very quickly that reading sheet music was not my strong point.  I took piano lessons in childhood for a few years, so I knew how sheet music worked, but I was not experienced enough to learn a new song exclusively from sheet music.  Both of the other times I did chorus, the campus store had a CD of the piece we had to learn in the textbook section along with the sheet music, and I learned my part by listening to the recording while singing along from the sheet music.

No such recording existed of Doors of Learning, and by the end of that first rehearsal, it had become obvious that this song would be very difficult to learn.  Having been composed by a professor of music in 1970, it was full of very strange, nontraditional chords,.  The lyrics itself, a poetic description of life at a university, would have some semblance of rhythm if they were spoken without the music, but the strange music seemed to eliminate all traces of rhythm from the poem.

On Wednesday, the next time we met, we began rehearsing Hail, Dear Jeromeville.  This song was much simpler.  The marching band played it at the end of every football and basketball game, so I had heard it before.  It was in the unusual key of D-flat major, which may have made it difficult to play on instruments, but this would not affect me as a vocalist, as long as I knew the starting note.  The chord progression used simple, predictable chords, and the four parts of the chorus sang the song in unison, so there were no strange modern harmonies to adjust to.  Halfway through the class, we switched back to Doors of Learning, but this time we divided into groups, sopranos and altos in one room, and the much smaller group of tenors and basses in the other.  With only two parts of strange harmonies in the room instead of four, it was easier to concentrate on my part without the discordant sounds of all three of the other parts throwing me off.

It had been over three years now since I had graduated from high school, and for all practical purposes, I only had one high school friend left.  It was more difficult to keep in touch in the 1990s, with no social media or texting and long distance phone calls costing money per minute.  Email was a newly mainstream technology, and I had stayed in touch with a few high school friends by email, with varying degrees of frequency.  But as more time passed, the emails from high school friends gradually stopped coming.  Melissa Holmes was the only high school friend I had heard from in the last several months, and she did not write often these days, being very busy with school herself.

Four years ago, I spent much of my senior year of high school in a secret, internally tumultuous attempt to sort out my feelings for Melissa and her apparent lack of feelings for me.  Fortunately, we emerged from that experience still good friends.  Melissa moved to the opposite end of the state for school, where she had grown up and where most of her family was.  I got an email from her over the weekend after classes started, and I wrote her back Monday night, telling her about the very weird music I had to learn for chorus.

She replied about a week later.  

From: “Melissa Holmes” <>
To: “Gregory Dennison” <>
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 10:42 -0700
Subject: Re: hi

Wow, two retreats the same week.  Sounds like a great time!  I’ve never been to either of those places, but I have been to the Great Blue Lake, and it’s so beautiful up that way.

How are your new roommates?  Everyone getting along okay?  I moved into a small studio apartment by myself, a little closer to campus this year.  Classes are keeping me busy.  I haven’t really been doing much else.

I’m glad to hear you’re doing chorus again.  Good luck on that building dedication ceremony.  And you’re right – I got out my guitar and tried playing that weird chord you told me about – it sounds terrible!  Hopefully it sounds better in context, as part of the whole piece.  Let me know how it goes!


It’s good to know I’m not the only one who thinks Doors of Learning sounds strange, I thought, chuckling to myself.  I got out the sheet music again, trying to hear the bass part in my head, focusing only on the notes I would have to sing, hoping that I would be able to sing them with three other parts simultaneously singing notes that did not harmonize naturally to my uncultured ear.

By the time of the performance, Doors of Learning had started to sound a little better to me, and I felt like I had pretty much learned my part.  Melissa was right; the strange chords and harmonies did sound a little better now that we had put all of the parts together and rehearsed the song in its entirety a few times.  The harmonies still felt unnatural to me, but when the song was performed as intended, something just felt like it worked right.

I took the bus to school in my tuxedo on the morning of the building dedication, arriving at the building by 8:45 as I had been instructed.  The drama building, and the recently erected sign bearing the name Cecilia Waite Hall, faced Davis Drive just south of the Quad and southwest of downtown.  Waite Hall was sandwiched between the music building and the art building, neither of which had been named after people yet.  The three buildings faced a paved courtyard with a sculpture in the middle; facing Waite Hall, my back to the street, the music building was to my left and the art building to my right.  Inside was a four-hundred-seat theater, with a hallway to the side leading to classrooms and offices.  A portrait of Cecilia Waite had been added permanently to the lobby.

I went into a door leading to the backstage area, where we had been instructed to meet.  A number of chorus students stood around mingling; I walked up to Scott Madison and Amelia Dye, the newly-engaged couple whom I knew from church.  “How’s it goin’, Greg,” Scott said.

“These are some of the weirdest chords I’ve ever heard,” I said.  “But I think I know my part now.”

Amelia offered reassurance.  “I’m sure you’ll do fine,” she told me.

“And, just think,” Scott added, “if you mess up, there’s lots of other guys you can try to blame it on.”

I laughed.  “Thanks.”

Dr. Jeffs called us to attention, announcing that the ceremony was about to start.  He explained that we would perform Doors of Learning about halfway through the hour-long ceremony, and Hail, Dear Jeromeville at the very end.  When we were not performing, we were to sit silently backstage, so as not to interrupt the speakers and the other performance groups.

From where I was, I could hear everything happening on stage.  The speaker introduced himself, then spoke for a few minutes about Dr. Waite and her contributions to the English department, the dramatic arts department, and the university in general.  When he finished this, I heard him say something that surprised me: “And now, will you please welcome to the stage, Professor Emerita Cecilia Waite!”

As the crowd applauded for Dr. Waite, I realized that it had never occurred to me that she was still alive.  From all that I had heard about her in the last two weeks, I associated her with the early history of the university, since she joined the faculty in 1928.  Dr. Waite spoke for several minutes, after which the master of ceremonies returned to the stage to introduce a brief performance by drama students.  They were followed by the concert band.

We were next.  When the band finished, the master of ceremonies announced us, and I followed everyone else onto the stage.  We walked onto risers that had been placed at the back of the stage, and Dr. Jeffs took his place to conduct us.  I looked out at the room full of university dignitaries and noticed a small, frail-looking woman who appeared to be at least ninety years old in the front row.  This was definitely Cecilia Waite; I recognized her from the portrait I had seen half an hour ago.  She smiled through the entire performance of the song with the lyrics that she had written.  Despite the nontraditional harmonies, I thought we sounded pretty good, especially with the full orchestra accompanying us as well.

We returned backstage while the Chamber Singers performed, followed by an instrumental performance of the orchestra and a few other performing groups.  Others shared stories about Dr. Waite in between the performances.  At 9:55, as the ceremony reached its end, we returned to the stage to sing Hail, Dear Jeromeville, with the orchestra backing us again.  As we finished, the entire room applauded.  I smiled.  I had never been honored by a group of university mucky-mucks before, and while I was certainly not trying to impress anyone, I appreciated their approval.

I got a few interesting looks from classmates walking into Writing In Education in my chorus tuxedo, but when someone asked, I simply explained that we had a performance for chorus this morning.  After class, I immediately took the bus home, then changed into normal clothes and ate lunch at home before riding my bike back to campus to meet with the students I was tutoring that afternoon.

Cecilia Waite passed away in 1999 after a battle with cancer.  I saw a much smaller reproduction of the portrait in the lobby on the obituary page of the Capital City Record one morning and realized something looked familiar about that picture, then I saw her name in the headline, and it all clicked.  Dr. Waite had lived to see her legacy on the sign in front of the building, and now I was a part of that history.  Many years later, the social media pages of the Jeromeville Alumni Association shared a photograph of Waite Hall and a short one-sentence biography of Cecilia Waite.  “Do you remember what it was called before that?” the caption asked.  I typed, “Before that, it was just the Drama Building.  I was there in 1997 performing with University Chorus at the ceremony to dedicate the building under the new name.  Dr. Waite was there too.”  When I began studying at Jeromeville in 1994, I thought of the campus as just a place to go to school, but the longer I had been here, I was finding myself relating and connecting more and more with the history of this campus.  I had a connection to this campus now, and I still feel that connection to this day.

Readers: Have you ever been part of a local ceremony like this one? Or do you have any noteworthy connection to your local history? Tell me about it in the comments!

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January 29 – February 2, 1996. Four midterms in one day. (#69)

I stood at the bus stop on Alvarez Avenue with mixed emotions on a cold, dry Monday morning.  A small crowd waited with me for the bus that would bring us to campus in time for 9:00 classes.  I was not sure if I would have to stand or not; this was only the fifth stop on the bus route, but in this cold weather, fewer students would be riding bicycles to campus.

I was coming off of a high from the weekend.  I made some new friends Friday night at Jeromeville Christian Fellowship, Eddie and Xander and Haley and Kristina and Kelly; we had a fun night of talking and games at the girls’ house.  And Sunday Eddie and Xander and their roommates hosted a party to watch the professional football championship.  Eddie borrowed a projector from his church and put a big bed sheet on a wall, so we could watch the game on a huge screen.  It was a little dim, but it worked.  After a year of feeling alone and less connected to my friends, compared to last year in the dorm, this felt like a huge step in the right direction.  Eddie and Xander and six other guys from JCF all shared a house, with Haley and her roommates right down the street and another house of guys from JCF around the corner.  Maybe next year I would be able to live in this kind of situation and feel more connected to people and things around me.

Despite being on an emotional high, however, two metaphorical black clouds loomed on the horizon.  The game did not end the way I wanted, with the despised Texas Toros winning by a score of 27 to 17.  Texas had won three out of the last four championships, and that would bring smug taunts from all of the haters of my Bay City Captains. The Captains lost in the semifinal round this year.  But, more importantly, I was worried about this coming Friday, when I had midterms in all four classes on the same day.

On Sunday, at the football party, I had mentioned the four midterms.  “Can you ask your professors if you can take the midterm on another day?” Eddie had asked.

“I think there’s a rule that they can’t make you take that many midterms on the same day,” Xander added.

I had not considered that approach; I had just assumed I was stuck with this crappy schedule.  So my plan for today was to ask each of my four professors if I could take the midterm early.  Hopefully, by suggesting early rather than late, they would see that I wanted to use my study time wisely and do my best, not get an advantage that others would not have.

“Not possible,” my professor for Differential Equations said curtly after I presented my request.  “You got the dates for the midterms on the syllabus on the first day of the quarter.  If those dates were a problem for you, you should have dropped the class.”  This professor, a middle-aged balding man who told us to call him Larry, never bothered me before, but after that day I decided I did not like him.

I had an hour break before my next class, so I walked across the Quad.  This was the oldest part of campus, dating back to the school’s founding in 1905.  The Quad was a grassy rectangle surrounded by tall oak trees as old as the campus itself, with a paved path running north-south down the middle, and a few pines, redwoods, and other trees scattered on the grass.  On a warmer day, the Quad would gradually fill with students sitting on the grass to study, or socialize, or socialize while attempting to study.  But at ten in the morning on a cold day in late January, the Quad was empty except for the trees and a few students walking across it to get from one building to another.

The Memorial Union building lay just north of the Quad, extending all the way across it east to west.  The building was home to a number of student-run commercial enterprises, the namesake memorial to University of Jeromeville alumni who died in wars, a post office, the campus store, offices and meeting rooms for the Associated Students organization, ATMs for three different banks, and my current destination, the Coffee House.  This was a large student-run enterprise that served pizza, burritos, sandwiches, soup, and all sorts of other food items, in addition to the hot beverages after which it was named.  Next to the kitchens and cash registers were large expanses of tables which made good places to study and people-watch.

I got a large hot chocolate and began scanning the crowded tables for an empty one, or for someone I knew.  I saw Scott Madison from JCF sitting alone with some kind of fancy spiral-bound book in front of him.  I walked up and asked, “Can I join you?”

“Hi, Greg!” Scott said.  “Sure!”  As I sat down and got out my math book, Scott slid the book in front of him toward me and said, “Check out what I got!  It was on sale, because it’s already the end of January.”  It was a day planner, which Scott had filled out with dates of upcoming exams and projects, Bible studies, JCF activities, and other plans he knew he had coming up.

“That’s nice,” I said.  “I wish I could be that organized.  Every year I get the little planner they sell at the campus store, and by the middle of October I’m not keeping up with it.”

“It really helps, especially when you’re busy like me.”

I grabbed Scott’s planner and turned it toward me, flipping to the week of August 11-17.  Scott looked at me wondering what I was doing.  I did not want to spy on his plans; I simply wrote “Greg’s birthday” on August 15.

“Nice,” Scott said.  “I guess I have to send you something now.”

“It’s in your planner, so yeah, you do.  That’s the plan.”

Scott and I continued alternating between small talk and silent studying until it was time for my next class, Math 108, Introduction to Abstract Mathematics.  This was the first quarter that I had taken two math classes simultaneously, something I would be doing often as a mathematics major, as well as the first quarter that I took upper-division classes.  Those unfamiliar with advanced mathematics would be surprised that this course involves very little calculation, instead covering mathematical logic, set theory, and the fundamentals of abstract algebra and analysis.  The professor was a gray-haired, well-dressed man named Dr. Davis Cutter; his official title was “professor emeritus,” which I believe meant that he was officially retired but still performed some duties for the university.  I always thought there was something pretentious about having a last name for a first name, but Dr. Davis Cutter seemed like a nice man.  Maybe he would be nice enough to let me take the midterm early.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I can do that,” Dr. Cutter said.  “We have a policy against that, and in order to maintain academic integrity, I can’t give out the test early.”

“Okay,” I said.  “I figured it would be worth asking.”

“Good luck studying,” Dr. Cutter replied.  “You’ll probably do fine.”

“Thank you.”  Apparently this department policy trumped Xander’s rule about not having more than three midterms in one day.  I had never heard of this rule other than Xander mentioning it yesterday, and by now I suspected it was not real.

After Abstract Mathematics, I had English 101, Advanced Composition.  Every student at UJ had to take three writing classes; since I had passed the AP English test in high school, I only had to take one of the three.  This instructor was a middle-aged hippie woman named Dr. Paris; I was under the impression that we would be learning how to write in the class, but she made the assignments about things like art and feminism, not exactly topics I was familiar with.

“Dr. Paris?” I asked as she was putting things away at the end of class.


“So I noticed the other day that all four of my classes have midterms on the same day.  Is there any way I might be able to take Friday’s midterm early?”

“Oh… I can’t do that,” Dr. Paris said.  “I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.  I thought I’d ask just in case.”

“I can’t just give it twice on different days.”

“I understand.  See you next time.”

My classes so far today had all been in Wellington and Orton Halls, two buildings near the Quad that each contained dozens of classrooms used by all subjects.  My last class was physics, back to back with English with no break, and not in the Quad area.  As I walked to Ross Hall, where the large physics lectures always were, I thought about how everyone had rejected my plan so far.  Larry’s statement about dropping the class especially stuck with me.  It had never occurred to me to drop a class for that reason, or to plan my entire quarter around the dates of the midterms.  It made more sense to me to plan my schedule in a way that works for my day-to-day life over the ten weeks of the quarter, even if that means one or two hard days of multiple tests or multiple papers due.  But now I had to suck it up and accept the fact that I would have one very difficult day.  And I would have another difficult day later in the quarter, since three of my classes have a second midterm on the same day, February 23.

I was still hopeful that I might get to take the physics midterm early.  This class was in a large lecture hall with almost 200 students, and it would be difficult to get Dr. Collins’ attention after class.  But I knew that Dr. Collins had office hours immediately after class, because I had been in there a few times with physics questions, so when class got out I followed him to his office in the Physics-Geology Building, adjacent to Ross.  By the time I got there, three people were ahead of me in line.

“Dr. Collins?” I said ten minutes later when it was my turn.  “I have four midterms all on Friday.  I was wondering if there would be any way I can take the physics midterm early, so I can get one out of the way first.”

Dr. Collins thought for a minute, then checked his calendar.  “I think I can do that,” he said.  “Can you be here in my office Thursday at 3?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Great.  I’ll see you then.”

“Thank you so much,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” Dr. Collins replied.  “Good luck!”

I walked back in the direction of the Quad and Wellington, where I would be leading a tutoring group at 4:00.  It was nice of Dr. Collins to reschedule my midterm.  I expected him to be the least likely to make this arrangement, just since his class of 200 students was so much bigger and less personal than my other classes.  I was not sure at this point if Dr. Collins recognized my face or knew my name.  He was the first professor that I had had twice; I also took the first quarter of physics with Dr. Collins last spring, and I was in his office hours frequently after bombing the first midterm.  This week, I would still end up taking four midterms in under twenty-four hours, but now at least I could concentrate on physics first, and then only have three midterms to study for when I got home on Thursday.  This was a definite improvement.

I spent most of the rest of the week studying.  I had enough routine homework to work on that I did not do a lot of special studying for the midterms until Wednesday.  It was a rough week, and by the time Thursday afternoon arrived, I felt that I had very little free time or relaxation all week.  I also owed emails to six different girls I knew from the Internet.

After eating a burrito at the Coffee House for lunch, I headed to Ross Hall for physics lab.  I walked past the library, where a sculpture of an egg with a face had his nose buried in a book.  One of the writing assignments in Dr. Paris’ Advanced Composition had been to research the meaning of a work of art on the UJ campus and write about it.  I chose the Egghead sculptures, one of which was here in front of the library.  To most of my peers, they were just weird, but I learned to appreciate them more after I read about them.  The one in front of the library seems fairly straightforward, he is engrossed in his studies, although to this day I still do not understand why it is a different color than the other six Eggheads.  I heard somewhere that students rub the Egghead during exams for good luck.  I do not believe in luck, but with four midterms in the next twenry-four hours, I took no chances and rubbed the Egghead.

When I finished my lab, I walked across the path to the building where Dr. Collins’ office was and knocked on the door.  “Hi,” Dr. Collins said.

“I’m here to take the midterm early.  You told me to come now.”

“Oh, yes!  Greg, was it?”


“Just sit here, and let me know when you finish.  I’ll be working on some things here.”

I looked through the exam, reading every question before I started.  Electric current… electric fields… watts, amperes, joules… I can do this.  Everything looks familiar, like homework problems that I had studied last night.  No problem.  I finished the problems in about half an hour, then went over each problem again to make sure I did not make any miscalculations, and that my answer made sense.  “I’m done,” I said to Dr. Collins at 3:40.

“Just leave it here on the desk.”

“Do I need to come to class tomorrow if I’ve already taken the midterm?”

“No.  Take the afternoon off.”

“I will.  See you Monday.  And thank you so much for letting me do this.”

I went home and took a break from studying.  I answered emails for about an hour, then ate a Hungry-Man dinner.  After that, I continued studying, looking over the writing concepts we had learned in English class and all of the math problems we had done and words and theorems we had learned in the two math classes.  I felt fairly confident about Differential Equations, but Abstract Math was a little more of a concern, mostly because Dr. Davis Cutter did not always follow the textbook, and my handwritten notes were a little messy and hard to read.  I opened a blank Microsoft Word file and typed all of my notes for Abstract Math; that made them both legible and fresh in my mind.

The next morning, I walked straight from the bus stop to my Differential Equations exam.  It was easy, as I suspected it would be, and I left class ten minutes early.  I spent the extra time sitting against a wall in the Coffee House, since all the tables were full, reading my Abstract Math notes.  I felt fairly confident by the time class began.  When I arrived, I looked over all of the questions first, and all of them seemed straightforward.  One problem mentioned the Well-Ordering Principle; I drew a blank on what that was.  Ordering?  Putting numbers in order?  Oh, yes, any set of one or more natural numbers has a smallest number.  This seems obvious in colloquial language but needs to be clarified in the exact science of abstract mathematics.

I had an hour for lunch, in which I gobbled down the sandwich and banana that I brought from home in five minutes so I could have more time to study for English.  I had a mental block against English that had persisted since I got a B-minus in tenth grade English four years ago, the lowest grade I got in high school.  By the time I arrived at Dr. Paris’ class, I just wanted to get this over so I could get home and enjoy a weekend of not having to study.  The questions about sentence and paragraph structure were pretty straightforward and seemed to match everything I studied, and the part where I had to write, I did the best I could.  I was not as worried for this class, because with the four papers we had to write, the midterm did not count for as large a share of the grade as my other midterms did.  By the end of the hour, I knew that I had done the best I can, so I turned in my test to Dr. Paris and walked toward the bus stop.

I did it, I thought, as the bus left the Memorial Union and turned on West Fifth Street, passing fraternity and sorority houses.  I had completed four exams in just under twenty-four hours.  I was getting home an hour earlier than usual, since I had already taken the physics test that the rest of my class was taking now.  And I felt confident about the midterms.  I began my post-midterm relaxation weekend by collapsing on my bed as soon as I got home, at 2:30; I closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew, it was after 4:00.

I spent the next three hours wasting time on the Internet, talking on IRC, writing emails, and checking a few Usenet groups.  I also worked on Try, Try Again, the novel I had been writing off and on for a few months, as I waited for people to reply to me.  At seven o’clock, I drove to campus, since parking at night only is less expensive than parking all day, and walked to the lobby of 170 Evans, the lecture hall where Jeromeville Christian Fellowship met.

Eddie, my new friend who hosted the football party last weekend, was doing name tags with Raphael, who had been his roommate the year before.  “Today was the day with all your midterms, right?” Eddie asked.

“Yeah.  One of my professors let me take his yesterday.  So I had three today.  I think I did okay.”

“Good!  I’m glad you got through that.”

I put on my name tag and stepped into the lecture hall, bumping into and almost knocking over Haley Channing as she walked up the aisle perpendicular to me.  “Oh!” she gasped.

“Haley!  I’m sorry!” I said nervously.  Of course, life would throw this curveball at me; after all of my hard work and four midterms I felt good about, I end the week by embarrassing myself in front of Haley, narrowly avoiding injuring her in the process.

“Hi, Greg,” Haley chuckled.  Hopefully that reaction was a good sign.  “How are you?”

“I’m great.  I had four midterms today.”

“Four?” Haley asked incredulously.

“One professor let me take one early, but I still had all four in twenty-four hours.  And I think I did okay.  I’m just glad it’s over.

“I would be too!  I have a paper due Monday.  I’m going to be doing that all weekend.”

“Good luck!” I said.  Then, after a brief hesitation, I asked, “Where are you sitting?”

“Down there next to Kelly,” Haley replied, pointing to the back of her roommate’s head.  “Want to come sit with us?”


“I’ll be right back.”  After Haley stepped outside, I walked to the front of the room and sat next to Kelly.  Haley returned a few minutes later, just as the band started playing.  I did my best to concentrate on the band’s worship music and Janet McAllen’s talk and not be too distracted by Haley’s cute smile.  And, after hearing her sing, I discovered that she had a nice voice too.

After JCF ended, I stood around making small talk with people for a while.  I did not get invited to any social plans afterward, and I did not get to talk much more with Haley because she went home immediately afterward to work on her paper.  This week, I did not care about having no social plans.  I was exhausted after my hard week of studying, and a weekend at home by myself being lazy sounded perfect.  I could socialize next weekend when I had recovered.

I did well on all four midterms, even the one in English that I was less certain about.  That stressful week took a lot out of me, but I survived.  If life was trying to get me down, it would take much more than four midterms in twenty-four hours. A year and a half into my studies at a somewhat prestigious university, I was still excelling academically.  My future goals may not be entirely clear right now, particularly with my mathematics major, but I was keeping my grades up, and that would be important if I did go to graduate school eventually.  School was always one of my strengths, and that had not changed in the last few years; all I had to do to get good grades was work hard enough.

And in August, when my birthday came around, I did in fact get a card from Scott.  He was serious about sending me something after I wrote my birthday in his planner.  I liked this new group of friends.