Updated: Dec 6, 2019
One may as well begin with Theodore's text messages to his father.
"The dates" are Thursday September 19 - Wednesday September 25, when Teddy and I were planning an excursion to Munich for Oktoberfest. Bayern Munich will be in town for a game against F.C. Köln on the Saturday, which coincides with the opening appearance of the Münchner Kindl (Munich's female monk mascot) at the Oktoberfest parade. This trip was intended as a reward for his taking 4 semesters of German instead of repeating Latin (and my reward for being retired!). Indiana's required chemistry course for neuroscience majors had other ideas. But they were dealing with a seasoned professional in the art of excuse making...
This strategy had been field tested many times by students in my own classes, and earned the additional backing of Sophie's friends Iris, Kari, and Duffy, who were playing Ticket to Ride (Europe edition) with Sophie and her Dad to take her mind of her knee injury when Teddy's text came in. "The less you tell them," Iris confirmed, "the better." In an attempt to stiffen Teddy's spine, which was audibly weakening, I reminded him of an old family story about my great-uncle Guy and the diabolist Aleister Crowley.
I misspelled Crowley's first name as usual, but I was under stress (my strategy of drawing a third route to Sevastopol was going down in flames), as was my great-uncle Guy at the time (actually Teddy's great-great-uncle), who was climbing K2 without oxygen in 1902 and had to disable Crowley when he was threatened with a gun. It's true - you can look it up on our family website . My son's response to all this is priceless, and worth everything.
"The fridge" is a mini-fridge stocked with beer from Brewdog, a craft beer company from Aberdeen that decided to open its first American factory in Columbus. I rewarded their enterprise with a small investment, for which I receive free beer for a year and said fridge, which will go nicely in Teddy's new house. (Unless he can't get this Orgo exam switched, in which case I'm taking my friend Bernard to Oktoberfest with me.)
Teddy then drafted a reasoned if somewhat overexcitable plea for clemency. "I came out of today's lecture really excited to have you as my professor this year" (good) "You seem to be keen on helping students" (steady now) "As excited as I am, I was looking through the syllabus the other day and I saw that our first exam is on September 24. Unfortunately, I will be out of the country from September 19th through the 25th for family reasons" (bingo).
Disaster struck. "Hi Theo," came the polite response. "I am not sure what you mean by 'family reasons.' The test date and time was part of the registration of the class, so it shouldn't have been a surprise. Can you elaborate on what you mean?" Teddy hit the roof: "You know what's dumb? Science is the only subject that takes missing an exam this seriously. Like come on man you should be accepting that your students want to explore other cultures." At this point, I was forcibly reminded of the great moment in The Magic Flute when Papageno, terrified out of his wits, asks Pamina what they should tell Sarastro ("Was sollen wir ihm sprechen?") She soars above him magnificently. "We will tell him the truth." ("Die Wahrheit. Die Wahrheit.") It was time to access my inner Pamina.
Teddy's response was brilliant. "I was planning to take this class in the summer, to avoid this whole situation, but then an internship opportunity arose away from home at Harvard
Medical School that I could not pass up. I am not trying to evade this exam because I do not want to take it. I am a student who enjoys acquiring and being tested on new information so that I can use it in my future as a scientist. I am asking you to let me miss this exam to experience another culture and spend time with my father."
And you know what? It worked. Teddy met his professor today and was cleared for takeoff. Oktoberfest, here we come!