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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Senators, muffins and short-term memory loss

Before law school, I hadn’t much considered the possibility that a human brain might have a finite capacity and that, when it reaches the saturation point, the only way a new thing can go in is if an old thing comes out.  I am, for example, gaining confidence in my ability to navigate the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. But I forget the name for those stitched-together pieces of leather you put on your feet to keep from going barefoot.

I used to talk literature and politics. Try drawing your friends into a spirited debate on the drawbacks of applying the doctrine of promissory estoppel and you’re liable to end up shouting into the void that you needed new friends anyway. My reasoning is a scratched recording, moments of clarity interrupted at regular intervals by jarring confusion. 

Last week, a day or two after Chris Matthews interviewed Jack Conway in front of the law school, an attorney whom I know from my newspaper days and who is peripherally involved in Conway’s U.S. Senate campaign wanted to chat about the race. I’m digressing here, but I remarked with dismay that it doesn't look good. My observation was that, as cute brunettes go, Conway is as good as anything the Republicans have trotted out lately, but the Democrats just can’t seem to use lowball tactics with a straight face. Like all people who are good at one thing or another, the truly vicious and dumb make it look easy. Left to the unskilled, mud wrestling with Aqua Buddha just feels awkward and sweaty. In the meantime, Rand Paul gets a pass for deeming Medicaid “inter-generational welfare” and suggesting that the need for federal oversight of the mining industry is overstated, since nobody’s going to take a really dangerous job anyway. Right.

Anyway, I emerged bleary-eyed from the library just yesterday and fell into conversation with a pair of the deans. One of them mentioned some breaking news about a fire at Fort Knox. Naturally, I launched into a story about how I used to live in a town with a dog-food plant that on certain days smelled incongruously like blueberry muffins. At the time, it made sense. It’s only in retrospect that I recall the polite, vaguely disturbed head nodding generally reserved for people who just can’t help it.

It seems to me the onset of cooler weather has precipitated a climate change within the law school as well. Some days, the silence is palpable. As far as I can tell, it’s a low-grade anxiety that falls somewhere south of panic and north of that unspoiled sense of entitlement we enjoyed 10 weeks ago. There exists an increasing uncertainty as to our fates. There are idle murmurs of lost jobs that might be regained, alternative paths that might be explored in the event law school declines to deal with us favorably. There is pressure to draft course outlines, pressure to research and write 3,000-word memorandums, pressure to digest concepts of staggering complexity. There is pressure. And then there are those who have been relegated to the margins of our lives. “They don’t understand,” a colleague told me, “that it never ends.” It’s true. Law-school assignments are like zombies. Kill one and 10 more rise up in its place. And then the one you thought was dead isn’t dead after all.

Clouds have silver linings, though. At least one of my Section 2 classmates chooses baking as a means of relieving stress and the rest of the class benefits. I sat down to take a practice midterm in Contracts yesterday and discovered I knew more about that confounding topic than I had given myself credit for. Finally, I can’t explain it, but I’m filled with a sense of forward momentum I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Now, I’ll get out of here while I still remember where I live and hope I don’t lock my keys in the, uh, oh, you know, that thing with the wheels that go round and round, that thing that goes varroom when you start it up. Crap. It’ll come to me.

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