Sunday, September 26, 2004

Socrates... Is That You?

Early in the week I had my first real Socratic dialogue. Although it was nowhere near as bad as it is depicted in "The Paper Chase" or "One L," it was still unnerving. Here is a brief reenactment so I can attempt to convey what I was feeling at the time:

[Fade into a packed classroom at University of Minnesota Law School. Slowly pan in on a student checking his e-mail... oblivious to the horror that is about to befall him. Enter, stage right, a law professor with a very tight bun... she is carrying a book entitled CIVIL PROCEDURE and, like always, she does not appear happy]

Prof: Mr. Unreasonable
Me: (crap) Ya... Yes? [hey look at that, my sweat glands work!]
Prof: Tell me about the case of Blah v. Bad Guy Trying to hurt Blah.
Me: Sure... It's about... (S**T, I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT IT'S ABOUT... I know I've read it)
Prof.: [waiting]...
Me(thinking): ... (There was some guy who was fired... and... WHERE'S MY BRIEF... OK, don't panic... the professor's looking at you...)

[Cut to professor glaring at the pitiful, helpless, sweating student, who after one question appears to be reduced to a shell of his former self]

Me(thinking): ... (YOU IDIOT... your classmates are silently laughing at your inability to get a word out... they all think you're stupid, stupid, stupid... no one will even want to look at you for fear that your raging moronism is contagious...)

[pan through the class showing blank stares on faces of classmates... crickets can be heard chirping somewhere in the classroom]

Me(thinking): ... [fiddling on computer] (Just breathe... BREATHE... find your brief... you know you did a brief... here it is...)
Me(thinking): ... [phew] [reading brief] (oh yeah, this guy was going to testify against his employer, that's why he was fired... and that's why he was suing)...
Me(speaking): Plaintiff was fired because he was going to testify against defendant, his employer... [additional details of the case]
Prof: Thank you Mr. Unreasonable... now what was the issue the court was trying to decide?...

[Fade Out]
[END SCENE]

Total time elapsed during the preceding scene: about 1 second
Perceived elapsed time in my mind: 1 week, 38 minutes, and two seconds

It really wasn't that bad... except for the split second where I wanted to say "Why are you picking on me?!" But then I realized that the professor isn't Nelson, and I'm not Milhouse, and the classroom isn't the playground of Springfield Elementary. Once I calmed down I felt OK. I just hope my subsequent Socratic interludes are as peaceful.

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