Yesterday’s story of a grade was not typical. Here’s an offsetting story of my journey to a BS in Accounting.
I have always been fortunate. Things work out for the best, on the whole. I have one great example to prove this.
I went back to school for an accounting degree and added a new dimension to a complicated life. In many ways life seemed roaring at me and I was going against the current. My brother died one fall, my father the next winter. I was in a new job, I needed to succeed, and I needed to add that BS in Accounting to my credentials. I crammed all the courses into a very short time, two summers and one regular year of night classes, as I recall.
The absolute most hands down difficult course I took was Business Math. It outdid even Statistics. It was six weeks of Saturdays, eight a.m. to noon, in an elementary school, seated at a desk where my knees touched the underside of the writing surface. The men in the class just sat on top of the desks and balanced their notebooks on their knees.
The first class covered resolving business models using algebra. And I needed this to graduate?! What was I going to do? I last used algebra in the ninth grade. When the teacher galloped past proportions, which I still remembered, at about nine a.m., I knew I was a goner. I kept turning the pages and taking notes, but I knew I would be found out the next Saturday when class would begin with an exam of the material covered the previous Saturday.
I went home that first Saturday and immediately called my best friend, Carol. I needed to see Frank, the engineer. Perhaps there was hope. Nothing in that book frightened Frank. For five Saturday afternoons he patiently explained what I was doing and how to solve the problems. We’re talking matrices here, long before anyone made a movie. I literally did a core dump for the exam each Saturday morning and moved on to the next phase of Business Math. Calculus. No problem. A little trig. Frank would explain it later.
The final Saturday morning would be the final exam. In spite of Frank’s assurances I doubted I could reproduce the results of the previous Saturday mornings when I had only transferred a week’s worth of memorizing to a test paper. I knew come that last Saturday I could hit all the wrong notes and expose myself for the math fraud I actually felt like.
Friday afternoon at work my phone rang. It was my mom, who had my kids for the summer. Shelly had jumped off the neighbor’s roof and broke her arm. She was in the hospital; the compound fracture could not be set until Saturday, under general anesthesia. Sometime that evening, going down to see Shelly and then resolving all the hospital details I remembered my exam the next morning.
I cannot even remember how I tracked down that Business Math teacher in another county, after business hours, but I did. I got him on the phone, explained I would be at the hospital at the scheduled exam time, and could we possibly find a time for me to have a make-up exam.
There was a very long pause. Then he said if I were willing to trade my A for a B, he would waive the final exam. And that’s how I passed Business Math.