My Webassign life
Erin Thomassen | Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I love little green checkmarks. I hate red X’s. This is my Webassign life.
My home is the Webassign homepage. It is white and rather empty. My list of current assignments is not empty. There are 63.
I take a deep breath and click on the first one. The “0/0” is concerning. I scroll down the page, on the lookout for a “Watch It” box. I locate one under number six.
I know I can answer this question, for the man with the robot-voice will lead me through every step of the problem. He is my sensei.
How could he be my sensei if I have never seen him? How can I even know he is qualified to be my sensei?
The first time I discovered the joys of “Watch It,” I saw how my sensei-to-be added a cute hat on his î unit vectors. After that, there was no question about it: he was the sensei for me. He also gave me the answers, which helped him beat out the nonexistent competition.
Even though I love my sensei, he has been getting on my nerves lately. He refuses to give me the answers to the problems I struggle with most, such as finding the maximum volume of a cube and finding a way to talk to Mr. Shoeless.
I had the prime opportunity to talk to Mr. Shoeless the other night in North Dining Hall; he was wearing shoes for once (go health regulations, beat hipsters), and I thought I could comment on his recent addition of soles to his feet.
I wasn’t quite sure how to say what I wanted to say, so I did what I always did when I didn’t know how to tackle a problem: I logged onto Webassign for a “Watch It” video. I assumed that my sensei could walk me through the solution step-by-step. I should not have assumed, for I couldn’t find any advice on approaching shoeless strangers — not even a “Read It.” I was dismayed.
But I couldn’t give up now; I had already devoted two minutes to this master plan. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place. I looked around me and saw a wonderful arena for practicing: a three-dimensional dining hall.
I headed over to the Stanford table to “Practice Another Version.”
“Hey,” I said to the first guy I saw. “You’re wearing shoes.”
“I always wear shoes,” he said, and returned his attention to his taco. I was less interesting than cheddar cheese. I would have been okay with provolone, but cheddar? I know when I’ve been insulted.
I tried to shake it off, but was struggling to get my Taylor Swift on. Her new album wouldn’t come out for two weeks, but I couldn’t afford to wait that long. Mr. Shoeless was right here, right now. I had to do what I did when I was desperate on Webassign: enter “asdf” and “Click to View Solution.”
I went up to the next person I saw. “Asdf,” I said. He didn’t respond. Maybe the network was down. “ASDF,” I said louder, this time to his back. He didn’t turn around. Maybe my answer was off by more than 10 percent.
I couldn’t give up, though — not now. He was mounting the staircase.
“ASDF!” I popped out from behind the column. He dropped his tray and everyone applauded. Yes! Applause must equal a green checkmark.
Now I knew my answer was right, but what if “asdf” would not do the trick with a different stranger? Maybe Mr. Shoeless was a “qwerty” kind of guy, or maybe he used an international keyboard. What if he would only respond to special characters or wanted a negative rather than a positive answer? The anxiety was real.
I decided to calm down. My volition was to calm down. Unfortunately, I could not turn this volition into my will, for I was not capable of calming down. Logic could not conquer emotion, at least not my emotion. Remember: I was a Taylor Swift fan.
I tried to tune out Ms. Swift and listen to my left-brain, which told me I had no reason to stress. Even if “asdf” were not the best way to start a conversation with Mr. Shoeless, I would still have seven submissions left.
On Webassign, the only answer that mattered was the last one; all the others were erased. Real life must be the same; even if I tripped or burped or broke out in an unfortunate duggie in front of Mr. Shoeless, I could still get a 100 percent on our interaction by getting the eighth submission right.
My right brain told me finger-painting with pesto would be a better idea than embarrassing myself in front of Mr. Shoeless. I listened. Mr. Shoeless was spared, and Mr. Seinfeld finally understands why everybody likes pesto.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.