Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986


This morning marked the beginning of this year’s high school exam scrutineering. It’s my third year, and probably my last for a while.

Every year I go into it with good intentions – the work basically being a three-hour leisurely stroll, I figure I can use the time profitably in plotting a novel, composing a sonnet, praying for the nations, revising my times tables or otherwise redeeming each golden minute. But between the heat and monotony and gradually increasing stench rising from the serried ranks of teenage boyhood,  I invariably fall into a hypnotic torpor, shuffling mindlessly up and down like a zombie.

The most intellectually stimulating thing I did today, for example, was read the graffiti on the desks. Most of it was genitalia or genitalia-related discourse, but there were a few which showed evidence of original thought. “RIP draw a fish if you’re bored”, followed by a fish, pleased me greatly. “[Illegible name] Your Black” gave me pause for thought. “Kick Back” was intriguing, as it could be variously interpreted as “chill out, dude, life is short” or “resist The Man’s oppressive regime”. But my favourite was one desk which contained not only a number of swastikas, but “JESUS ISNT REAL” and, somewhat obliquely, “TEXAS”. A perfect axis of teenage rebellion, penned no doubt by an atheist Democrat with genocidal tendencies… y’know, that trope of Kiwi high schools.

Other than this, the amusements were few and far between. We had a moment of excitement when a boy claimed his schoolbag had been stolen, but then he found it. I had to frown down a youth who asked me if he’d spelled something right (he had, but we’re not allowed to tell them that. It was ‘thrust’. How would you even misspell that?) A boy finished his exam and wandered out without permission, leaving his paper unattended on his desk, which necessitated a Special Report. Another boy’s pen ran out and I gave him mine; he kept it, which would have been upsetting, only I’d filched it from the supply room and the clicky bit kept falling off. (Rule 1 of scrutineering: do not bring your good pens from home.) I got called “Miss” a lot. There was cake in the break room. And so the morning passed.