On the Usefulness of Hand Turkeys

Everybody has gotten to a place on some test at some point where you’ve look down at the page and realized there is no hope.  Your doom is sealed, defeat is inevitable, there is no way out.


When (not if) this occurs, there are two available options:

  1. Give up.
  2. Give up, but with style.


I mean, if you’re going to fail, might as well make the most of it, right?

In high school (and even undergrad), I never had the guts to go through with option two.  Grad school, however, was a different story.

At the beginning of my first semester, all the new grad students had to take placement exams in music theory and in music history.  I’ve always been pretty strong in both areas, so I might’ve skimped on studying just a tad.

It was just an entrance exam, how hard could it be?

As soon as I looked at the first page, I had my answer: Pretty darn.

As I paged through the test I left more and more questions blank.  It covered the entirety of music history as we know it, and, well, I only remembered parts.  I nailed 20th century avant-garde movements, and most things that related to classical piano repertoire.  But, I was sunk on that first page (ancient Greek music theory).

I mean, come on, who honestly remembers what the heck tetrachords are and how they function in the Greek theoretical system?

Nobody, that’s who.  And definitely not me.

As the minutes ticked by, I stared glumly at my completely blank first page.  This was a terrible embarrassment for perfectionist me.  The end of the world, really.

But then, I had an idea.  I could save this.  I didn’t know the answers, but I could save this.

Instead of answering the questions, I drew a magnificent hand turkey.  My best work.


(Obviously, this isn’t a picture of the one I actually drew, although I hope my professor kept it).  I put tears on his eyes, and drew a speech bubble that said “I know none of the answers.  Have a great day”.

Needless, to say, I failed the test – primarily because of the Greek theory section.  But (miraculously) only by a few points.

I actually was later able to convince my professor to let me skip the review classes in spite of my test score.


He never said so, but I’m pretty sure it was because I drew such a great hand turkey.



I spent a summer as a youth worker directly following my graduation from college.  For one of our activities we ended up needing to get our hands on a real (dead) fish, because reasons.  We needed it to be frozen, preferably, but very recognizably a fish so that it could be easily anthropomorphized.

However, neither I nor my coworkers had any idea how to actually acquire a dead fish.  Can you just buy them at the grocery store? Do you have to catch them yourself? How does this work?  Obviously, none of us were seafood fanatics.

We didn’t even know what kind of fish we wanted.  Someone vaguely suggested “bass…?” and we all sort of nodded knowingly, since apparently this was the only word that anyone knew was an actual fish species.  And that’s probably only because of this horrifying piece of merchandise:


Despite our inadequate knowledge, one of my coworkers and I volunteered to procure our dead fish.  We decided the best place to start would be the seafood section of the closest Kroger.  But when we got to the counter and said hi to the seafood man, we realized that neither of us knew how to ask for what we wanted.  After a few seconds of awkward hedging around the subject, (which greatly confused the seafood man), my coworker gave up and blurted “We’re looking a for a fish with a face.  Do you have any of those?”

The seafood man blinked a few times and responded “You mean, like, a tilapia….?”  Not knowing what a tilapia was, but fairly certain that it would work for what we wanted, both of us nodded.

“You’ll have to go to the other Kroger, their seafood selection is bigger.  We don’t sell those here.”

“Oh.  Okay.  Thanks, have a a good day!”

As we left, we both looked at each other and repeated “Tilapia. We want to buy a whole, frozen, tilapia,” which incidentally, looks like this:


As beautiful a face as you could ever want on a fish.

Certain that with our newfound knowledge we could purchase this fish without looking like complete idiots, we made the trek to the other Kroger in town.

Unfortunately, as we approached the seafood counter both of us blanked.  What kind of fish did we want? Who knows?  Instead, I bit the bullet, took one for the team.  It worked last time, it would work this time.

“Excuse me sir,” I said.  “We’d like to buy a fish with a face, please.”

After blinking for a few seconds, seafood man #2 said “you mean, a whole tilapia…?”


And that’s how we bought Morty, the amazing (frozen) dead fish.  His name is short for Rigor Mortis because, well, you know…