April 15, 2008

TAX DAY! or, how this one time, I almost didn't graduate from Oberlin but then I shaved a rat's head and everything magically worked out for the best

In past years, April 15 would find me scrambling to complete my overly complicated, multi-state, last-minute tax reporting. Somehow, this year, I got my taxes done early and mailed YESTERDAY. I am like, so administratively sound right now, you guys.

Anyway, in honor of this special day for the United States economy, I thought I would share with you the story of one tax year in which I was NOT quite so on top of things... this is the story of tax preparation and its fallout circa April 15, 2006.

It was my last semester at Oberlin, and I was taking two courses required to complete my psych major (and thus, my degree). One of them was a 2-credit neuroscience lab. Since it was a once-a-week lab course, and only worth two credits, attendance was mandatory. I also had softball games many afternoons, which complicated my attendance and made the professor grumpy. Of course, one week, my lab section fell on April 15, otherwise known as TAX DAY OF DOOM.

Let me mention that I am really bad at remembering to do things if they are not in my routine. Or remembering to do things that are in my routine after I have been soundly shaken out of the flow of normal activity by something as traumatizing as trying to complete my taxes at the last minute.

So, this tax day necessitated a lot of phone tax support from my mom, and generally running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get everything squared away -- the proper forms and payments mailed from Oberlin or Detroit to the appropriate agencies. I let my coach know that taxes had been more complicated than I'd planned and I'd be late to softball practice, but somehow in the midst of my tax-related frenzy, I completely flaked on going to my (mandatory for graduation) neuroscience lab. And this was the day we were supposed to do brain surgery on a rat. Oops.

Having missed rat brain surgery (clearly the pinnacle of my career as a psych major), I was convinced that I would fail the lab since the professor had already been very unforgiving about potential softball-related absences. My only hope was to go to the another lab section the next day, which was run by a different professor, and beg for her to let me participate in their rat surgery session. The only problem? I had a softball game that afternoon, and would not be able to stay for the whole surgery.

Thankfully, the other professor was very accomodating, and allowed me to switch over to her lab section for the remainder of the semester (the rat project continued after the surgery, when we implanted an electrode in the pleasure center of the rat's brain, and then tracked how he learned to press a bar to stimulate the electrode), as long as it was okay with my new group members that I was not able to complete the surgery. I arrived in lab wearing my full softball uniform, ready to perform rodent neurosurgery. The group was cool with me not being there for the whole class, so after the demonstration surgery and the anesthetization of our rat (Orpheus), I was tasked with the important duty of pre-surgery prep before I left.

In other words, I shaved the rat's head. This did not go incredibly smoothly, since Orpheus wasn't quite anesthetized enough, and was pretty squirmy. Nevertheless, I completed the task and then rushed off to my softball game. I remembered to go to the rest of the classes, and eventually passed the lab with flying colors.

So, I guess I might have been overreacting, but for those 24 hours following that fateful tax day, I was absolutely certain I would be unable to graduate from Oberlin. It seemed so ridiculous yet so fitting that I would miss graduation for such a silly reason. But in April, 2006 I learned a valuable lesson about Tax Time: while there are those Tax Days that make you miss the important things in your life, there will always be subsequent miraculous opportunities to shave rat heads and undo the damage you've caused in your tax-induced delirium.

In the end, I graduated. On time. All thanks to Orpheus, who (begrudgingly) let me shave his little rat head when my academic career needed it the most.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this with the world. I'm so glad that English majors don't have to perform rodent neurosurgery to graduate.