The chariot

There is a practice in France that college students use to pass their exams (or not). It’s called “Une charette”, a chariot in English.

It goes like this.

We have a student, someone who is in first, second or whatever years of college and is enjoying the newly found independence from parental supervision. That student, let’s give her a name and call her Karen, has decided that youth is too sweet a time to let it go without a bit of fun. Fortunately, she quickly finds that she’s not the only one among her peers that had the same thought. Huzzah! Here goes the social gatherings, the classes attended half awake and the bedroom looking like Fema needs to intervene. Days transform into weeks that pile up into months. Karen has never been happier, discovering many valuable things among which some that my mother has forbidden me to mention on this site.

But a deadline approaches. Soon, too soon, could be as early as tomorrow: the week of exams. That’s where the chariot takes place.

Buried into a pile of books, eyes red because she’s staring for hours at a computer screen, nerves completely shot Karen proceeds to ingurgitate four or five months of classes in 24 hours. The next day, a bit tired, she gets tested. She sometimes succeeds, mind you. But more often than not, she fails. Those chariots do miss some wheels.

If it looks like I’m making fun of her, I am not. I’m merely trying to keep my writing entertaining. As a matter of fact, I myself have often been guilty of pulling the chariot sometimes. And, yes, I’ll confess that I’ve also done it in my professional life. Now, hold on! Be nice. Let’s suppose I get a phone call to be a substitute for a drummer and the gig is in two days. The only question that was asked was: “Can you learn a repertoire in 48 hours?” The answer would be yes. And, suddenly, a very big chariot just parked in my studio.  Just for the record, all chariots I’ve accepted I’ve managed to pull. I will not look bad on stage because music matters.

Let’s, if you will, apply the concept to studying an instrument. Every week you take some lessons, every week you get some assignments and every week you get, obviously, a week to do the job. I just described the principles of music lessons. If you don’t know how it works, I recommend you try it, I know a great teacher. So, the student is loaded with a list. Only one day passes and said student hasn’t touched the instrument. Two days. Three. You get my drift. On the six day, big awakening! Oh, my! tomorrow I have my lesson, I need to get on the horse! In a panic the student looks for emails, papers, assignment page, anything that will guide him through the vague memory of what was said at the last lesson. Chariot await, dear sir. Frantic and on edge (That’s one of the sign of the chariot, it puts people on edge.) they scramble through the exercises. But because misery doesn’t like to be lonely, here comes a plethora of other bad feelings. There is anger: “I’m missing a page, my teacher didn’t send it to me, it’s his fault!”. Despair is there too: “I’ll never be able to do all of that”, usually followed by dark negotiations: “If I present 2 from the five I’ve got to do, maybe I’ll get a free pass.” Then, sometimes, grand resolutions: “I quit!” . Disaster.

Should I give you the moral of this blog? I think you get it but I’ll say it anyway: No chariots! Early bird gets the worm, be the turtle not the hare, etc.