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The Arms Race

Well, he got me. Imagine it, he must have been thinking. The audacity of that skydeck girl that twenty minutes into the first finance class, she still hadn’t entered the arena of other undulating arms for the chance to offer her views on why the lumber guy was running out of cash. When he looked up at me, in lieu of eagerness he evidently caught the “gee, I hope they have that New York-style blue cheese dressing again at the salad bar” glint in my eyes. It only lasted about 10 seconds, but just like that, I was no longer a cold call virgin.

To be honest, I really hadn’t been in the mood; the lights were glaring, the Aldrich Cart People had been out of hazelnut coffee, and the question–something about whether a 2% monthly interest rate was “a lot,” wasn’t all that stimulating. Needless to say, I felt as satisfied after my first time as the Toshiba software loader over at Station 9.

An hour later, however, I was all about Bangladeshi contraceptives. While the stars were no longer aligned in cold-call configuration, being second at bat with a guy on first could be just as good. Better still, I might even opt to wait and play cleanup. Of course the risk/return profile of such a move would have to be analyzed, since the brilliance quotient ante would be all the higher. I definitely could muster numerous case-summarizing-ish things to say right now, all of which would be perfectly Category II-worthy, but none of which were likely to elicit a “we might as well give you the Baker Scholar here and now” response. Also, if I said something now, there’d be little chance I’d get another at-bat this game, since, as a southpaw, I rarely get pitched to twice (the prof’s a rightie; he’s intimidated, is my theory). So grand slam it would have to be.

Bases loaded, no outs and hark, I detect a comment in embryonic stages.

I perform the requisite ultrasound prior to delivery: Is the comment stupid, irrelevant, repetitive, boring, inconsequential, immaterial, off-topic or offensive and can I say it articulately, concisely, pithily, succinctly, charismatically, humorously and loudly enough? No and yes, respectively.

Good. Pass. Next–timing. Ok, British Guy is talking. He seems to be at the tail end of his point. Estimate 48 seconds to hand-raising. Prep right arm for Flex Level 3: a northerly spike 170 degrees from body, fingers clamped together in Olympic diver formation, arm as erect as a stolen Kreplakistani missile. But oh, from the looks of the back of Russian Girl’s head, she may still want to get in her point from 3 comments ago. Should I let her go first? That would certainly be the section-maty thing to do. But what if she pulls a Going Back To What Italian Guy Said? Worse still, what if the professor wants to Move On? No, altruism is too risky; it’s now or never. Comment to temporary storage while I Alt-Tab to Listening Mode to anticipate British Guy’s last word so as to time arm-bolting. Too early and I get turned over to the hand-raising etiquette authorities. Too late, and Right Field might not see another participation window till we’ve abandoned condoms in favor of the pill. He seems to be almost done; alright easy now… steady… three… two… one… now! Wait, what’s this?

He’s still talking! Abort! Repeat, abort! Oh damn-it, British Guy, stop Moving the Discussion Forward–I have a Unique Angle! Frantically, I consider manufacturing a run by playing the Building On It card. But immediately I dismiss it: if pizza lunches every second day have taught me nothing else, moving the discussion backward would surely cause irreversible damage to the educational wellbeing of 89 people. I bow down my head in resignation: I’m no monster; I’ll let it go.

I can’t believe it. Twenty minutes left and I still haven’t said anything. A couple of times I nearly won the bid, but first McKinsey Girl From A Bunch Of Different Countries was the commentator of choice. Then for a little while I had a promising rally going, as I raised and lowered, raised and lowered in sync with the prof and 6’9 Guy’s dialogue. Then I lost out on the diversity factor, because it was clearly time to give the floor to Left Field. Ooh… the prof’s posing a question now, and I think I can answer it–sort of. But do I really want my dinky response to be my legacy for this case? Well, let’s go with a Level–tentative half-mast. Jello arm at 90 degrees, curled fingers. Aw darn-it, Russian Girl just said about 70% of what I was going to say. Should I Build? I mean, she didn’t really use the cool buzz word like I was going to. Doesn’t FASB recommend a shut-up threshold level of 75%?

Oh shoot, he’s looking right at me. My arm swaggers down, but it’s too late. I’ve got the floor. I open my mouth, and suddenly Brilliant Comment From 20 Minutes Ago starts to spill out. As I uncontrollably spew forth what was once revolutionary but is now Comment 3.0, I realize that I am committing the most egregious of section sins: The Ramble. He maintains eye contact but edges backwards towards the blackboard controls. A screen begins to descend. And 89 people are put out of their misery: I’m being taken off the air for a commercial break.

October 14, 2003
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