Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Twilight Zone

This would be a good title for the era in which we live right now, but I'm going to use it slightly differently, to talk about all those inner vortices which hide in our minds. The really weird ones.

I was once invigilating an exam with two hundred students in the room. I was a student myself, then, only a little more advanced than the ones who were taking the exam. Someone was supposed to come and relieve me after two hours but nobody turned up. I was sitting in this enormous room, on stage, for hours and the sun kept burning straight into my face. There was nothing to do but to watch all those private moments of stress and concentration and the sudden realization that the exam is impossibly difficult, to listen to the sneezes and the coughs and the furious erasings, to hunt for any cheaters and to avoid looking at the ones who were crying. I tried to do statistical distributions on the numbers of eyeglasses and blue jeans and zits to stay awake, but I was rapidly approaching a point where I needed some water and food and sounds. I had also not slept a lot the night before.

Suddenly I got this overwhelming desire to jump up and scream:"FIRE!" The more I tried not to think of doing it the more I wanted to do it. The struggle was terrible; I was biting my tongue and this really obnoxious, wild, delicious laughter was bubbling up from my stomach. My rational part was giving a long speech about responsibility, ethics, my own career prospects and the Western civilization, and my twilight part was thinking of elaborations on the initial scheme.

I was rescued at the last moment by a professor who finally remembered that I had been there for six hours alone, in the middle of a sea of humanity. But if he hadn't wondered in I don't know what would have happened. I had actually bitten my nails into my palms so hard that I was bleeding. When I got out of the room I had to run for an hour.

The moral of this story: ?