Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Can You Seat A Large Party?

            It’s Christmas Eve in St. Pete Beach, Florida and Grandma tells us we need a reservation for 22 people.  It’s hard enough securing a table for a party that large on a normal day, let alone December 24.  It took a few calls, but we made it happen.  Skidders at 5:00 P.M.
            Taking a step back, I guess I should explain how we gathered together 22 hungry Jews in the first place.  Our extended family happened to be gathered in Florida for the occasion of my grandparents’ 50th Anniversary.  Apparently that’s a pretty big deal…so here we were.
            When we showed up at 5:03, our tardiness was the least of our problems.  Choosing a good seat is imperative for the success of the meal—no one wants to listen to that distant relative bore them to death with their entire life story—so everyone was scrambling to perch themselves amongst company they could at least tolerate.  To make matters worse, there were only 20 seats (actually, 19 and a high-chair) at our mile long table.  It was another seven or eight minutes before a couple of extra chairs were fetched and everyone was squeezed into place.
            I felt nothing but sympathy for the poor waitress who proceeded to take our orders.  Serving 18 adults and 4 children is difficult enough, not to mention my family’s notoriety for giving exceedingly complicated directions.  After all the onion-less salads, on-the-side pasta sauce, and extra-medium burgers were ordered, the real fun began.
            The kids played with silverware, the drinks were refilled, and the food was slowly but surely delivered.  One child fell asleep at the table and was wheeled across the street to her bed at the hotel.  Her younger sister was wide-awake but refused to eat anything that wasn’t one of her mother’s French Fries.  Finally, the dishes were cleared and it was time for the adults to square away the bill.
            This is always the most entertaining part of the meal (at least when you’re in no danger of being the one that ends up with the check).  The respective heads of households jockeyed over rights to pay.  It’s mostly the men of the family that take the reigns, but the fiercest competitor of them all is my stubborn grandmother.  With such a large group this process was exceedingly difficult, but once the dust cleared we emerged with some kind of impromptu plan for splitting the total.  Still, the losers could be seen passing cash across the table to a chorus of screams and curses.  It’s amazing how good adults are at pretending they enjoy shelling out large sums of money for their family.
            Of course when that was over, there was the typical scheming about how much to tip; no one wants to be the one who comes out the cheapest.  There was also a controversy over whether or not some gratuity was already included with the meal.  It took a solid half hour for this entire payment process to be completely resolved.  So, when all was said and done, there were a handful of grumpy adults, a crowd of disinterested spouses, and a faction of tired kids who all just wanted to go home.  One by one, we filed out, en route to our respective hotel rooms.
            I’m sure my version of Christmas Eve dinner wasn’t exactly of the traditional variety.  We don’t go to mass, we don’t light up the tree, and we wouldn’t dream of eating pork (actually, I got a bacon-cheeseburger).  But as far as I can tell, my family’s holiday meals are just as crazy as the rest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


            Thelast day of class—it used to be a huge relief. You were finally done.  But as Iwalked out of class for the last time this semester, I was accompanied by nosuch sense of freedom.  The truth is, I’mnot quite done yet.  Here comes finalsweek.
            Honestly, I don’t really know what to expect. I’ve never taken a final exam before. I’ve written final papers.  I’veprepared final presentations.  I’veconstructed final projects.  But neverhave I sat down to take a test that counts for 40% of my grade in one class.
            Inone sense, exams are a great opportunity to put hard work in and earn a goodgrade.  A week or so of dedicatedstudying can have an enormous effect on a student’s GPA.  Yet, it requires a certain alacrity anddevotion to commit to receiving the desired grades.
            Howdo you even begin to study for a test that covers a semester worth ofmaterial?  Obviously going over priorassignments and assessments should give a good indicator of what will await ontest day, but the breadth of these exams can seem quite daunting.
            Asa graduate of the Park School, where finals didn’t exist, this is entirely newterritory for me.  The idea that two anda half hours of multiple choice questions can undermine an entire semester ofstudying and work is terrifying. Nevertheless, I’m pretty confident that I’ll make it through this firstround of exams relatively unscathed.
            Toall those college freshman that are going through finals for the first time,just like me, I wish you the best of luck. Especially to the Park class of 2012, try not to worry too much.  Put in an honest effort and you’ll be justfine.  We shouldn’t write off exams as anevil invention of the educational system; I think it’s healthier to view themas just another opportunity for us to succeed. So don’t be lazy.  Hit the libraryhard for a few days—you won’t regret it.