“No that can’t be it, come on William, think!” William tapped the chewed-up end of his pen absently against the side of his head. Things were not going well in the land of William, and if he didn’t pass Dr. Tisdale’s exam with flying colors it could very well mean the end of his graduate education career. And, as these things tend to do, it all seemed to balance on his ability to answer this final question- Please define tinaphobia.
“What the hairy armpit is tinaphobia?!?!” William almost blurted out when he first read the question. Fifteen minutes passed. Fists buried in his temples, William could not, for the life of him, recall the slightest inkling as to what the term might mean. His classmates slowly began to finish their own exams and with a metal to Formica scrape, one by one they pushed back their chairs and left the class having safely depositing their completed exams with the fearsome exam proctor- Tina Diaz.
William allowed his mind to wander as he scrutinized Tina, and wondered what had caused the waifish woman to be so vile. Dressed in dowdy blacks and greys, Tina always looked as if someone had just run over her puppy and presented the broken carcass to her as a birthday gift. Her voice was more of a growl than anything and she could cause a grown man to cry with a single look from her piercing and bottomless slate grey eyes. As the accountant for the department it was rare to see Tina out from her cavernesque office but, from time to time, a faculty member would need a proctor for their exam and poof! Tina would appear from behind her stacks of projections and graph analysis eager for the job. No one was really sure why she so enthusiastically volunteered but then again, no one really cared.
The students all loathed Tina- some even feared her. William chuckled a little as he thought back to how terrified of the woman he had been as a first year grad student. During his first exam Tina accused him of trying to use his notes to cheat, which he was not, but the grilling he got left such a lasting impression he thought he’d never recover from it. Now, at the cusp of graduation (if he could only thing of the definition of tinaphobia!) he realized Tina just got a kick out of scaring students half to death and picked her victims at random.
As he continued to stare at the woman, she swiveled in her seat and while itching her scalp with the gold letter opener she always seemed to carry, scanned the classroom, her eyes like laser beams. Quickly hunching over his exam before Tina’s stare could bore into his brain, William knew, if he was being honest with himself, he was still a little afraid of the deceivingly frail-looking terror.
“That’s it!” he thought to himself excitedly. Scribbling in his definition for the tinaphobia, William sat back and reread what he wrote. Content, he gathered his belongings and with eyes still averted from Tina’s stare, turned in his exam and briskly exited the room.
Two days later, William was patiently waiting outside of Dr. Tisdale’s office, he had been summoned for a meeting regarding the exam. Sweat was beginning to accumulate around William’s collar and by the time Dr. Tisdale invited him inside he was a nervous wreck.
“So William, overall you did very well on the final. I just had one question regarding an answer you submitted for one of the exam questions,” Dr. Tisdale said calmly as he looked over the exam William had submitted to Tina.
William tired not to panic as he quickly inventoried all the answers he had provided on the exam. Unable to come up with anything he thought would warrant a meeting with the professor, William could do nothing but sit quietly and wait.
“I just have to ask,” Dr. Tisdale said as he laid the exam down and with a smile looked over at William, “where on earth did you come up with your definition for tinaphobia? I mean putting down the definition as the debilitating fear of Tina; I practically fell out of my chair laughing when I read that!“
William breathed a sigh of relief and laughed. Shrugging his shoulders he replied a bit coyly, “Oh, nowhere in particular,” knowing full well the entire faculty was acutely aware of Tina’s reputation with the students.
“I gotta say William, I needed that laugh after a day of grading. In fact, I’m tempted to give you extra credit just for creativity alone,” Dr. Tisdale said still smiling.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: So apparently every fall one of the instructors puts a question on their exam that asks students to define some medical term called Samaoshoehrokphobia (ok, so that’s not actually the term but the take away here is that it starts with Sam and ends with phobia) for extra credit. And every year (at least for the past three years) this question seems to prompt at least one student to define the term as- “the fear of Sam”. The instructor of the exam thinks this is quite humorous (and I tend to agree) and she makes it a point to tell me each time someone decides to include me in their answer… like today. Glad to see I’m making an impression on young minds (the joke is that I’m probably the last person they would be afraid of, I’m kind of a softy).
Love & Squirrels.