Productive Slacking

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I used to love taking any classes in school that involved essay answers rather than memorizing facts and figures.  Being able to use your own thoughts and explain an answer through words was always far better than trying to point out the medulla oblongata on a blurry photocopy or explaining how you determined the mathematical answer for ‘x’.  It took an ability to explain yourself and communicate in an effective way.  And it took imagination, especially when comparing and contrasting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with another work when you avoided reading Chaucer entirely because he gave you a headache.

In college, when papers were due, I used to hang out in the computer lab with everyone else, filling up the appropriate number of required pages with my opinions, thoughts and findings, just like everyone else.  But, because my brain just happened to work in that way, I could finish quickly and have extra time while all of my friends were still working.  So, while they were stressing through page after page, I would sit at a computer I the back of the room playing Tetris.

Why the college computers had Tetris programmed on them I have no idea.  But it kept me entertained while I waited.  And, it became a tradition that people would print out copies of their papers and bring them back to me to review in between games.

I would review the drafts, scribble notes and comments, scratch out sections that didn’t work, add things I thought were necessary, and pass them back for the next draft to be typed in.

At first it was just friends – the guys I played football with, the guys who lived in my dorm, classmates that I studied with, etc – but it soon expanded to anyone who might be in the lab at the time.  People would bring their pages to me with a pleading look and I’d enjoy reading though them and editing and revising.  And it simply became a habit.

I guess they must have gotten decent grades on these papers because they kept coming back.  And I kept getting better and better at Tetris.  But, as I look back,I wonder if I should have at least charged for my services instead of doing it out of the kindness of of heart.  If I had a nickel for every word I fixed, every dangling participle I removed, or incorrect version of ‘there’, ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ I fixed, I might have been able to afford to get out and enjoy those days a bit more.  Though I wouldn’t have had the high score on Tetris.

And you’ve gotta have priorities…

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