Monday, December 26, 2011

Expanding Our Minds . . . Painfully

Prof. Lyman Ray "L. Ray" Patterson was my civil procedure professor at Emory Law School and I will never forget one particular experience that may very well have removed about three years off of my life-span in a matter of just a few hours. I also studied copyright with L. Ray, but it was the first year final civil procedure exam that served to freak out me and everyone else in the room that day. You see . . . Professor Patterson operated on the assumption that if an individual makes it to law school, that, alone, is a pretty good indication the person is at least fairly intelligent. Given that, he wasn't merely going to present us with an exam that asked us to regurgitate the semester's materials. “Anyone can do that,” he would say. No - he wanted to really "test" us. He wanted to provide us with an opportunity to expand our minds, think quickly on our feet, and so on.

Well . . . all I can say about the exam is that I distinctly remember heading into the men's room at one point as I stalled for time, because I couldn’t think of one thing to write. And I mean "nothing,” which—for those who know me—is really something. There were people actually losing it in the bathroom that morning—crying, getting sick. My memory is a bit fuzzy as I write about the experience today but I do recall thinking, "Get your shit together, Harry. This is just an exam, no one is going to die here. Go in there and move the pen across the paper and, hopefully, enough words will come out of you so you won't flunk out of school."

To this day, I have no idea how I passed that exam.

I loved being able to relay this story to L. Ray when I visited with him years later to interview him for the Eldercation project. I remember how he smiled and, once again, explained the method to his madness.

(btw – if Jimmy Weil is reading this, do you remember playing tennis after that test? I remember hitting about three cans-worth of balls into the forest bordering Druid Valley.)

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