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A Nightmare on Park Street

It was a dark and stormy night. The weather-torn sides of the library braced against sinister gales whipping from the lake.

Chelsea Rademacher ’13
October 31, 2016

It was a dark and stormy night. The weather-torn sides of the library braced against sinister gales whipping from the lake. It was as if the building was shuddering, the swaying reflections of black trees in the windows creating a slight and ominous movement. A sudden shock of lightning cracked through the sky, illuminating the quiet, third floor of College Library. Every surface has been subsumed by crumpled notebook pages, highlighted articles, pencil shavings, and pizza crumbs; every chair is occupied by a disheveled undergraduate, neck bent at such an angle that it looks like the study method of choice is osmosis directly from the page.

It’s finals week at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. You’ve been diligent this semester — attending (most) of your classes and paying close(ish) attention in lectures. But, as always, your fate is dependent on the final exam. As the clock strikes midnight, the top floor of the library begins to clear out. Your friends make the argument that if they don’t know it by now, they won’t know it by the time the 7:45 a.m. starts tomorrow. But you’d feel more comfortable if you went over the material one last time. You flip your binder back to the beginning and dive in. Just one. more. time. Then you’ll go home and rest up.

The storm quelled sometime in the night. The sun rose over the Capitol as a peaceful wakeup call to the city of Madison. Along the Lake Mendota shoreline, birds sang their morning songs. Armed with Starbucks lattes and boxes of doughnuts, students began to repopulate the third floor of College Library.

A gentle tap on the shoulder rouses you as you peel your face from your textbook. “Are you still using that plug?” somebody asks. “Huh? No, sure,” you hazily respond, becoming aware of your surroundings. Then the panic sets in, “Wait, what time is it?” You frantically reach for your phone — dead. You tap the space bar on your computer furiously until it turns on, showing you the time: 9:13 a.m.

Expletives fly as you jump up from the chair and writing instruments go flying. You throw as much as you can into your backpack and run down the stairs, leaving a trail of Kleenex and notecards in your wake. As you burst from the confines of the library, the shining sun assaults your eyes. You check your schedule for the location of your exam, which is nearing its end. Agriculture Hall. 9:15 a.m. You start to run.

Taking the steep and winding path up Observatory Drive, fatigue sets in as you reach the social sciences building. Campus is littered with the wreckage of the storm. You find yourself hurdling over fallen branches capsized garbage bins. You’ve made it to the steps of Agriculture Hall, and you swear you can hear the Rocky theme song playing in the distance. You race up the steps with power you didn’t know you had. You fling open the double doors and race down the hall. 9:37 a.m. Just eight minutes left in the exam. You pray that your professor will show you mercy. You take a moment to compose yourself, reach for the door handle, and …

*BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP*

You sit bolt upright, gasping for air. As you blink the world into focus, you breathe a sigh of relief: it was just a dream. A nightmare.

How many of you find yourselves succumbing to the dreaded college-exam nightmare, years after graduating from the UW? Share your scary stories with us on Facebook and Twitter at @WisAlumni. Happy Halloween, Badgers!

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