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.


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