Ethics

I didn’t know what to do and I was beginning to panic. The proctor had already handed out the blue books and had left to get his cup of coffee. I knew he would do that. And I knew that I only had a few seconds, maybe a minute, until he returned. After that, my short window of opportunity would be lost forever.

In my pocket I had a copy of the professor’s answer key. Don’t ask me how I got it. I just had it. The how isn’t important. The important question that faced me at that moment was, Will I use it?

The clock was ticking the seconds away. At any moment that stuck-up brown-noser of a teaching assistant would return to sit at the front of the class working on his Sudoku puzzles while we, the auditorium full of sociology students rushed through a ridiculous midterm. Only I didn’t need to panic. I had all the answers in my pocket.

And it would be so easy. All I had to do was reach in, grab the paper, inconspicuously unfold it, and copy the answers into my booklet. But what if I got caught? What if, in a moment of thought about which number goes in which square, the aide looked up and saw that I was looking at something other than the test sheet or my blue book?

For me, it wasn’t about my moral fiber. I couldn’t care less about the ethics of cheating. I just didn’t want to fail one class for a stupid mistake like getting caught. I glanced at the clock again. My leg was convulsing uncontrollably. I looked over at the entrance to the classroom. There was still no sign of the proctor.

I began to reach into my left pocket. I couldn’t look around me. I didn’t want the other students to see what I was doing, but I didn’t want to call attention to myself by looking to see if anyone else was looking. And then the door flew open. Why did he have to walk into the room with such a flourish? What a melodramatic douche. I cursed under my breath and withdrew my hand. Without the answer key.

The guy next to me shushed me and I shot him a don’t-mess-with-me glare. But by the time I turned to him, he was already back to his exam. I was on my own now. The only answers I could rely on were the ones that I had locked away inside my brain.

But hey, at least my dad would be proud. My ethics would remain intact for at least one more day.

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