Witnessing history for 15 minutes

Last semester, my roommate Kristie went to buy books for her history class and discovered the professor had assigned 16 required texts. Then on the first day of class, the professor asked the significance of the year 1954 and a handful of enthusiastic students volunteered that it was the year the shah of Iran was installed. This all happened in the first 15 minutes of class, and naturally, it made her nervous. I explained to her that these were warning signs that the class was going to turn out bad. It actually ended up being a good class, but that doesn’t mean the warning signs should be ignored.

Even before you get to the first class, warning signs can and should be noted. The time and place for instance. Any class before 11 a.m. qualifies as a bad class – I don’t care what it is.

As for place, any class in the upper levels of Funger Hall is going to be too crowded, extremely hot and therefore bad. Also, the books are usually an indicator. If one is written by the professor, it tells you two important things: 1. the professor is going to be quite knowledgeable about the subject; 2. the professor has a large ego. You probably want out of this class.

The first day, of course, is the best time to be on the lookout for warning signs. If attendance is closely monitored, that is probably bad news. Good classes don’t have attendance problems. And most importantly, if the professor makes any casual references to a midterm assignment on the Weimar Republic, GET OUT!

OK, so it is probably a bit too late to be switching around classes. If any of you are feeling stupid for staying in a class when it was clearly a mistake, I have a sure-fire way to make you feel better. I’ll tell you about the stupid way I spent my Friday night.

Well, first I worked. But when I got off, I found out my friends had spent the evening hatching a plan to get tickets for the impeachment hearing. The line starts forming at 6 a.m., which is also before the Metro is running. Therefore, my friends reasoned, the logical thing is to go over to the Capitol before the Metro stops running.

So, we went to a midnight movie at Union Station and when it let out at 2 a.m., we went over to get in line. The Capitol police officers blatantly laughed at us and told us to get lost. I guess they didn’t think we needed to get there eight hours before the trial started.

Back to Union Station we went, where we spent four hours playing cards, eating and generally getting on each other’s nerves.

At 6 a.m., we were allowed to start forming a line. I don’t know if you remember last Friday, but it was cold. We were interviewed by National Public Radio and The Washington Post.

At about 8 a.m., (right when the Metro was opening and we could have taken it) some other people got in line. At this point, we learned that you could only observe the trial for 15 minutes, a fact that was apparently publicized but somehow escaped all five of us.

Freezing, tired and with the knowledge that we had wasted 11 hours for 15 minutes, two of my friends decided to walk over to their senator’s office and try to get tickets. Right as they left, the line was let indoors. We frantically told the guards that two guys had been in line with us all night and would be right back, but it was to no avail. They missed their 15-minute window and made the entire episode even more ridiculous than before. The other two and I were so tired and upset, we could barely concentrate on the trial.

So if you take nothing else from any of my columns all year, please, take this: Go to the impeachment trial.

It is the first one in more than 100 years. But when you do go, wait until the Metro opens. It’s OK. Nobody will beat you there. And for God’s sake, don’t get out of line.

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