Monday, October 25, 2004
Jason Mulgrew's Guide To Cramming
Cramming, though not on the same plane as making stained glass, winning hot dog eating contests, or completing a successful armed robbery, is an art form. And, if done properly, it can be a great benefit to the student who is too lazy or too cool study, since we all know that reading the material when it is actually assigned is for nerds and Asian people.
Fortunately, I have been blessed with an incredible ability to cram. Early in high school, I was a nerd. I spent hours on my Latin grammar, read all the books assigned in my English class, and poured over my algebra. Also, I was masturbating at least three times a day. It was great (the masturbating, not the studying).
Then, something happened - I don't remember what exactly, as I was really into pills at the time and was hanging out with a bad crowd consisting mostly of bikers and junkies and dating a German-born prostitute named Mia and thus I don't remember much from '93 - '95. But I realized, "Wait, a minute - I could work my balls off, study hard and do all my homework, miss social engagements and be a loser, and get a 3.8. Or, I could essentially do nothing but review everything 24 hours before an exam, and start all my papers only 48 hours before they are due, have fun, and get a 3.5. I think my choice is pretty obvious. Also, are all guys' birds this small? Because mine looks pretty small."
And so I crammed in high school. Cramming in high school was easy because I didn't really have much else going on, as though extremely popular, I had a job that took up my weekend nights and no driver's license because I'm an asshole (eventually got one late senior year). My priorities were basically: 1) go home and masturbate; 2) make sure you don't get caught masturbating. And grades are only part of the equation for the high school student because of a little thing called the SAT, which I was able to work around well enough, with pure luck and a sexual favor or two.
And then I crammed in college, with the help of like-minded roommates and a little thing called "snorting Ritalin". Cramming in college was great - the all night library sessions, working yourself into such a trance that before you knew it you'd have read hundreds of pages and spent hours in your cubicle, tearing into some shit that you were certain you'd never need to know or use again. And there was a great pride in cramming in college. There's nothing like studying a semester's worth of Survey of Bio in 28 hours and getting an A- on your mid-term. Well, there are a lot of things that are better than that (eating a big fucking sandwich, breaking in a wild horse, eating a big fucking sandwich while breaking in a wild horse), but that's pretty good.
And all this cramming got me to where I am now - sitting in my big, fancy (well, it's not really that big or that fancy) office in Manhattan, making way more money than I should (not that I have this money, as I spend at least double what I make), spending my day checking fantasy sports and making personal phone calls.
This past weekend I was pressed into cram mode again, as today I have a mid-term for my grad class in Russian history. It's been a while; I graduated in 2001, and since then I've haven't been in a real academic environment. And I've never before been in an academic situation where I have something else to do besides studying, as my work day is roughly from 8:30am to 7pm (including commute) every day. That only leaves me five hours to eat dinner, drink or smoke, check fantasy sports some more, write various diatribes calling for a race war against all New Zealanders, etc.
So I was a little rusty this weekend as I got into cram mode. Below are my five tested and true pointers for cramming, and how I did after with them taking three years off from studying.
1) Get a good night's sleep
It is important on the night before cramming to get some rest. If you try to read 300 pages of 17th century British social history while sleepy, it just ain't gonna work. Therefore, the night before the day before your test, you should get a solid night's sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to go.
On Saturday night, the night of the celebration of my roommate Brian's birthday, I started drinking at about 7pm. When at the end of the night I rolled off my bed in a drunken haze to shut off the music I was listening to because it was keeping me from sleeping, my clock read 6:06am. In the eleven hours between, I had countless Bud Lights, shots, and mixed drinks, and spent a whopping $187 on booze at the bar. At the end of the night, there was no food to be found, so I ate a slice of white pizza from a pizza box that had been sitting on my kitchen counter since Thursday. In the process of heating the pizza, I dropped two bottles of beer I was drinking on the floor, sending shattered glass everywhere. I gave up on the bottles and drank whole milk straight out of the carton with my old white pizza. My sleep was fitful, drunken, and replete with bouts of intense stomach pain. And yes, I am single.
2) Get an early start
When you have to cram for a test, don't dilly-dally in the morning. Wake up, shower, and start right away, as most people are sharpest in the morning. Also, the more you study earlier the less you have to study later. Remember, time is of the essence.
I woke up on Sunday at 1:30pm. I checked the internet and sports scores, went back to bed, beat off, and finally left my bedroom at 3. I ate half of a carrot cake from Dean & DeLuca. I took a long shower, got dressed, and finally was ready to study. It was 5:15pm, exactly 24 hours until my mid-term. Only 800 pages to go.
3) Go to a quiet place where you won't be distracted
It's best to get out of the comfort of your room and go to a library. Your room offers too many distractions: internet, TV, music, the phone, etc; the library has nothing but quiet and books. Since this is the first time you're reading this material, it's important to read it actively, not passively while doing something else. The library or another quiet place is the best place to do this.
I got to the library at Hunter at 5:45. My goal was to read at least 300 pages of the material. The library closed at 8, which gave me two solid hours.
However, I forgot that the library at Hunter is hoochie-mama central. Lots of super hot ghetto 18 year-old Puerto Rican girls wearing tight half-shirts and jeans that look painted on. I spent most of my time at the library fantasizing about said hoochie-mamas, how I would walk up to the one at table across from me, and say something smooth like, "Look, I don't know you, and you don't know me. But I know there's something between us - I can feel it in my soul. If I'm wrong, I'll walk away right now and I'll never see you again. [with conviction] But I'm not wrong."
At that point, she'd stand up from the table, look deep into my eyes, her body just brushing up against mine, put her hand down my pants, and say, "This is now mine." Then we'd have crazy freaky sex right there on the table in the library, then once again in the stairwell of the library, then once more in the bathroom on the 4th floor. Then we'd go get a pizza. She'd pay.
Result? I got hungry and left the library at 7. Pages read: 50. Pages understood and digested: 7.
4) Remain focused
It's important while cramming to keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your focus on the material. Pay specific attention to areas you think will be asked about. No matter what, don't drift off.
I got home about 7:30 or so, and was depressed. And what do I do when I'm depressed? Drugs, mostly. So I smoked just a little bit of pot to see if it would help. It didn't. I tried reading, but I got really caught up on the words "sobriquet", "syncretic", and "lionized". These have to be the awesomest words ever. Also, I got really caught up on the story of how in 989 Prince Vladimir chose Orthodox Christianity over Islam as the "state" religion of Russia, supposedly saying, "Drinking is the joy of the Rus and we cannot live without this pleasure." I mean, that's just awesome. Choosing a religion for millions of people, the impact of which would determine the course of world history for hundreds of years to come, simply because his people like to get drunk. Fucking awesome.
5) Don't panic
You must stay calm. Know that really it's only a test, and soon the whole thing will be over. The worst that can come of the experience is a bad grade, which you deserve anyway. Also know that everything always works out for you anyway, so, really, whatever.
Being a little high made me a little freaked out. There was a lot of, "Oh my god, it's 9pm and I have a mid-term tomorrow and I still have to read 700 pages! Also, I haven't even reviewed my class notes! What am I gonna do? God damn it I'd love some Tostitos right now!" and "Damn it! If I had just read even 15 pages a day, I wouldn't have this problem! I am such an asshole! When will I ever learn? And where the hell are those Tostitos?" The good news is that after some Tostitos and a couple of Unisom, I was able to calm down and fall quietly asleep, without having done any more preparation. Oh well.
And now here we are, a few hours from the test. And honestly, I couldn't care less. I am grossly under-prepared and banking on the incompetence of my classmates to make me look good by comparison. There's pretty much nothing I can do now, save for relax and write a really long post.
So I ask for your collective well wishes and good karma this evening from 5:30 to 6:30 tonight (Eastern Standard Time). Sure, I don't deserve this, and I deserve to do poorly on this test, but I certainly don't want that to happen. Besides, you guys owe me one. So just send some positive energy my way, and like the Wailers sing, "Everything's gonna be alright".