Ah, October, the start of the exam season.
You know, I always can’t help but indulge in a little schadenfreude this time of the year because it feels so liberating knowing I never have to take exams again.
Like many people, I didn’t like studying, and I especially hated having to sit for exams. I swear the experience of trying to cram as much information into my head and feeling anxious about my exam results gave me PTSD.
I kid you not. I still get nightmares in which I’m sitting for the Chemistry ‘O’ Level exam and have absolutely no idea how to balance any of the equations.
Yes, that really did happen in real life. My parents were shocked that I fared so badly, especially after they spent all that money on two different tutors.
My reply to them? There was just no chemistry between me and those teachers.
Thankfully, I’m a lucid dreamer – I know I’m dreaming while I’m dreaming. In fact, I’ve even developed the ability to take control of the dream.
In the last nightmare I had about sitting for an exam, I uttered to myself the same line whenever things were getting too scary for my liking: “Relax, this is all just a dream. Take control.”
And so I did. I attempted to conjure a Lamborghini out of thin air and drive out of the exam hall. But a supercar didn’t appear.
What appeared was a M113 armoured personnel carrier, the very vehicle I spent about a year of my life learning to handle during my NSF days.
I rolled my eyes before sheepishly climbing into the vehicle. But upon entering the driver’s compartment, I was plunged into yet another nightmarish exam scenario.
Most of you NSmen would know this “exam” too. It’s called ATEC. For those of you who don’t know, the ATEC “exam” comes in two stages. Stage 1 evaluates a unit’s proficiency in weapons handling, combat drills and tactical knowledge. Stage 2 is when the entire unit goes out into the field to “play laser tag” and complete missions.
In a nutshell, my first reservist call-up was also quite a traumatic experience. Why? Because I was plunged right into ATEC Stage 2 with a bunch of uncles much older than me.
To make matters worse, I was posted to a Bionix battalion. As I mentioned earlier, I was trained in the old-school M113.
As you can imagine, this scenario is like having studied for only E-Math but having to sit for an A-Math exam.
I still remember that one ATEC mission in which I was tasked to bring a bunch of uncles to secure a junction. Unfortunately, the sensors that we wore started beeping, indicating that we were all “dead”, the very moment we reached the objective.
I looked at the ATEC evaluator and scratched my head.
“I think the enemy fired some kind of airburst round that instantly killed everyone,” he said.
“Some kind of airburst round? Like that also can, ah?”
The evaluator shrugged his shoulders.
“Anyway, here’s the good news. You’re still alive,” he said.
I looked at all the uncles around me and felt like a useless leader who had led them to their “deaths”. Memories of me failing my chemistry tests came flooding back. It was a sad day. But I was determined to extricate myself from this recurring nightmare.
And so I did what I do best – I took control.
“So, this is what I’m going to do,” I told the evaluator.
“I’m going to cast some kind of spell that will resurrect all my men. I will then cast some kind of fireball that will incinerate the enemy.”
Nope. He didn’t buy it.
The way the uncles reacted to the mission failure was heartening. In fact, it reminded me of the time my parents showed me support after I nearly flunked my exams.
“Don’t worry about it, young man,” said the sergeant, who gleefully put a reassuring arm over me. “Failure is not always a bad thing.”
“Because it is a learning experience?” I replied.
“No. Because we can now rest and cook Maggi Mee.”
LOL Mondays is an ongoing series of slice-of-life stories from freelance writer and NSman Alywin Chew. Look out for the humorous tales which will be posted every first Monday of the month, to help you drive away your Monday blues!
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