The Clock Is Ticking
Dream Journal 9/7/23:
I was taking a test, along with thirty-odd classmates. The teacher sat at the front of the room beneath a huge clock. He waved his hand and set his stopwatch. We turned over the exam sheets to begin.
The first few questions were nonsense, didn’t even seem to be questions. One read “Seventeen is and isn’t a prime number.” Unanswerable, surely. I spent too much time puzzling through similar non-questions while the clock ticked off the minutes. I finally realized that the first section was in groups of four. Only one of the four was a real test question; the others were simply red herrings. Once I noticed that pattern, I gave random one-word answers to the “fillers” and answered only the real questions. Even after I knew the pattern, the red herring questions continued to rattle my thinking, making it hard to concentrate. I was painfully aware that I’d never finish in time.
Then I remembered hearing of tests where the last question read something like “If you’re reading this question, you’ve passed. Forget the other questions. Just stop and put down your pencil.” I eagerly skipped to the last question. No luck. Then I noticed that the entire test was in sections. The first section was the groups of four, the second was Jabberwocky-type statements, the third was in some sort of cipher.
I checked the ends of the first two sections – no message. Then I studied the third. Although it was in code, I was able to decipher the code fairly quickly. “Test is done. You passed.” I started to put down my pencil, but then luckily I read the next section, also encoded. Deciphered and ordered correctly, it read “You’re done, but don’t put down your pencil. Continue the charade of taking the test until the teacher terminates the test.” Whew – close call!
Finally, the teacher exclaimed, “Five of you deciphered the codes and discovered the ruse. Congratulations!” We five received B’s, and everyone else failed. The teacher gleefully added, “Finally a test with no perfect scores!”