Ground School Examination #1 or "If You Don’t Know the Answer, Just Circle ‘B’"

I discovered last night just how many books and other study guides you can fit on a king size mattress.

Check that. I discovered last night just how many books, other study guides, MacBook Pro’s and DOGS you can fit on a king size mattress.

I spend a lot of time in bed. Well, technically ON the bed not IN it. And not for the two REALLY obvious reasons that people are in bed: watching “The Tonight Show” and reading the Sunday paper. (Well not so much “The Tonight Show” since Conan O’Brien took over.)

Last night, however, was the night before the big test. And I was WAY behind the power curve and knew it. So I dashed home after work prepared to do nothing else but review the material, fill in the little dots on the test form and then settle down for a long winter’s nap, even though it’s only September.

I gathered the 40-plus pounds of books, maps, charts and other reference materials and plopped them on the bed making sure to choose the ones undoubtedly containing the answers. I gathered the unused-to-date flash cards as well, figuring that if I went through these while I was working the test questions, I would be able to reinforce my learning.

But not until I took a power nap. Just a quick one.

So I closed my eyes and relaxed. My eyelids were already heavy during the commute home, so there was absolutely no problem relaxing.

I was awakened with sloppy dog kisses as Chloe, the smallest of the three, decided to join the other two on the bed. But not, of course, without her official greeting and demand for affection. Of course, she trampled across the flash cards and sheets of paper scattering both about the duvet. (There! I’ve finally done it. I’ve worked the word “duvet” into a casual sentence. I think I’ll pat myself on the back for that one.)

Once I got Chloe settled in her little bit of mattress real estate, I sat up, opened the test booklet and dove in again. I should mention here that I did some of the questions earlier at an undisclosed location, so I didn’t have to start from scratch. There were three or four questions from earlier which I had serious trouble understanding. And they knew it. Those were intimidating questions. I could hear them laughing and mocking me from inside the test booklet. Just as I turned to the page on which they were printed, I could hear them say to each other “Shhhh! Shhhh! Here he comes – act naturally!” and reminding me just how half-baked this test this really was.

Out of fifty questions, I answered most correctly from memory. I also double checked my answers against the printed materials, and then corrected the ones I missed. But these last few questions weren’t going willingly. No sir, they were going to withhold their answers as long as they could until reinforcements arrived.

One was a question of logic involving altimeter settings, and I won’t bore you with the details. But when I thought about it, not only was it painful, but for some reason, my brain went into a do-loop (as opposed to a loop-de-loop) and I just couldn’t see the answer clearly. I got the math right on the first try, but the “why” of it was escaping me.

The others were all regarding classes of airspace and reading maps and charts.

I can’t tell you how many times I scribbled “RTFP!” (Read the effin’ problem) next to the offending questions in a futile attempt to force the demise of ambiguity and rescue the truth from among the other two “answers.”

But it was not to be.

Even though I will pass the test, it was a humbling experience which reminded me why I hated college. I never studied then and I flunked out of both the math and the physics departments. And just like in college, I tried to take the shortcut to the solution by relying on my own perspicacity rather than the tried and true method: studying in advance.

So I am still a little confused about airspace and altimeters. But it’s become painfully clear to me that old (study) habits die hard. The truth is, I’m a lousy student and to succeed at this course, I will have to… let’s say modify my habits so that I can prevent the desperation of an exam.

But learning is supposed to be about rescuing the truth, isn’t it? Finding the correct answer? Seems as though I rediscovered the truth about my study habits, another lesson I’ve learned that wasn’t in the course syllabus. One I could have remembered and avoided.

Seems as though I had the answer to THAT question all along.


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