Wax Long and Throw the Bull

I’ve always wanted a platform from which I could share my unsolicited opinion. Now that I have one I find that I’m not sure what to say. Goodness knows I’ll come up with something – I’ve always had a knack for filling empty space.

Actually, this is what made me so successful in school. Multiple choice questions made me want to weep because I could think of several different ways to argue that the answer could be a, b, or c, depending on the motivation of the teacher who wrote the question in the first place. Unfortunately, I didn’t study quite enough to know my information down cold, so I’d end up second-guessing myself and later discovering that I should have gone with my gut. I can hear my sister yelling at me from across a couple of states that you should always go with your gut on multiple choice questions, but experience has taught me otherwise; every time I chose to un-second guess myself, it turned out the second guess was correct and I’d end up gnashing my teeth over my answers later, annoyed that I had gone with the wrong gut feeling.

But give me an essay question and I’m golden. I could answer a question I didn’t know the actual answer to and end up with full points. I did this by pulling out every piece of information on a subject I knew, and wording it in such a way that the teacher would assume that I’d known the correct answer all along and just padded it with extra information. It used to make my sister burning mad when I trotted out this skill. She’s a science writer by nature, which means that she studies hard and answers questions in succinct, simple sentences. The fact that I could not know an answer but convince someone that I did annoyed her – and made her laugh too, more grudgingly than admiringly, I think – to no end. At the end of the day she had the better grades, but I was just half a step behind her with less effort.

Of course, when I finally did have to take a couple of labs for my biology minor in college, my TAs destroyed my papers. I absolutely loathe science writing because it doesn’t allow me to say anything with the remotest bit of color. I would explain the methods that I used to obtain my results like I was writing an English paper, and I’d get back comments on comments written in red ink telling me to say it straight. Unfortunately, they had discovered that I didn’t have enough to say to fill ten pages. Fortunately, no one else ever did.

Point in fact, the science paper version of this little story should go: Andrea likes essay questions better than multiple choice questions. This is because she knows how to throw the bull.

So, uh, fair warning. I can make a short story very long. You’ll undoubtedly discover that soon enough.