Sunday, October 2, 2011

60. Tests

Last weekend I was in our nation’s capitol attending the National Book Festival hoping for a weekend free of aliens and pesky questions. No such luck. I had secured a good seat in the History and Autobiography tent and had 30 minutes or so to wait for the first speaker when who should plop down beside me but C.W. himself? I knew it was he, for who else would show up at this event wearing a white coat with a stethoscope draped over his shoulder? He appeared as a studious young man in his twenties.

“What’s up, Big Dope?” he said as I pretended not to know him.

“Waiting for the first speaker,” I said. I began to study my program.

“Can you help me while you wait?” he said.

“Help you what?”

“I’m preparing for a test.”

“What kind of test?”

“Just a test,” he said, thrusting a sheet of documents into my hand. “Just ask me the questions and see how well I do.”

I glanced at the sheets. They contained a series of multiple-choice questions. Then I looked back at him.

“Just ask me the first one,” he said.

I read aloud the first question listed. “The patient should be positioned (1) on his stomach, (2) on his back, (3) on his side, or (4) It doesn’t matter.”

“Number two,” he said. There was genuine excitement in his voice. “What’s the second one?”

I looked, and confusion began to set in. “What is the optimum length of the first incision?” I didn’t bother to read the answers.

“C.W.,” I said. “What the hell is this?”

“It’s a test for doing an appendectomy,” he said. “I want to get licensed in case I might be needed.”


“I want to be approved for conducting appendectomies so I made up this quick test to prove I’m ready.”

“You what?”

“I just need to pass a test,” he said. “So let’s get busy.”

“C.W.,” I said. I didn’t know where to begin.


“You can’t be permitted to conduct an appendectomy by passing a test.”

“Why not?”

What could I say? “It’s idiotic,” I said.

“Isn’t that the way your species’ education system works?”

I didn’t know how to answer. In a federal building some four or five blocks from where we sat, experts are promulgating that exact methodology.

Why must I study the skeletal system?
I just want to do appendectomies.
“Can’t I learn to take out an appendix by studying for a test?”

“No,” I said.

“Why?” I can learn exactly how to do it in just a few hours,” he paused. “Particularly if I have a guide for taking the test.”

“One thing,” I said.


“Experts tell me it takes four years, a great deal of supplemental learning, practice, and considerable experience combined with contemplation to know what to do if something goes wrong.”

“What could go wrong?”

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