I have to admit to having been a bit shocked early this week when I received a press release from the Mobile County Commission explaining how some Spring Hill College students had ordered up a bunch (or more properly a clutch) of puppies to be delivered to campus as a way of helping relieve exam-related stress.

Ordering puppies? We ordered pizzas when I was a SHC student. Maybe Dominos should consider throwing in a side order of cheesy bread and a Dalmatian pup with any extra large, two-topping pizza. Seems like a great way for one of these pizza delivery joints to separate itself from the pack, so to speak.

While it has been many years since I last took an exam, I sort of remember enough to hopefully crank out an entire column about it. Exam time can be very stressful for students who actually care about making good grades, or for those who didn’t go to class very often and are trying to learn an entire semester’s worth of botany in one night. Truly I’d never given any thought during those times about having live animals running around yapping, pooping and peeing, or how that might affect my ability to somehow pull a C in college algebra. But apparently I’m in the minority.

“These are class leaders with a future,” Mobile County Commission President Connie Hudson declared in the press release. “This is an inspired idea to relieve stress.”

Perhaps her statement was a bit enthusiastic, but what do I know? When I looked up puppies and exams online, up popped a story on Huffingtonpost.com offering 10 ways to relieve exam stress. Guess what was number one. That’s right, driving around neighborhoods near campus and shooting inflatable Santa, reindeer and snowman decorations with a high-powered pellet gun. (Only good for fall semester.)

Actually number one with a rawhide bullet was hanging out with puppies. Apparently this trend is sweeping the nation. People in high-pressure situations are now surrounding themselves with puppies. The offices of the Mobile County Commission may be filled with puppies as you read this.

Maybe the trend will move up the food chain. Is it only a matter of time before the President of the United States comes on TV to announce the country is entering World War III while cute little fur balls roam around the Oval Office and wrestle across his desk? Would we collectively feel better about nuking North Korea and the entire Middle East if puppies tacitly approved? I think so.

In the case at SHC this week the commissioners were happy to provide puppies from the animal shelter in hopes of landing some of them permanent homes for the holidays and beyond. So if it helped some students make better grades and got some pups new homes, that’s a winner. I’m sure some knucklehead still failed his history exam and ended up with a pee stain on his carpet, but you can only lead a horse to water, or a puppy to students, in this case.

Still, I found the list of things students in 2014 are doing to relieve “exam stress” very interesting. While there were some very logical suggestions — running, working out, listening to music — to me others fell into the category of procrastinating and whining. They included cleaning off your desk, making a calendar, talking to your parents about how stressed you are, performing an act of kindness and making yourself a yummy muffin.

It’s hard for me to imagine how taking the time out to bake muffins would help anyone pass literature. Certainly calling my parents to whine about my stress would only have opened the door for discussions about how terrible my grades had been in the past, thus creating the situation where I had to take 18 hours a semester and was therefore stressing about having six finals. No thanks.

College students today seem to have it far easier in many ways than we did in the prehistoric days of the late ‘80s, but also harder in many other ways. I can only imagine how much easier it would have been to have the Internet, iPads and electronic databases versus books while trying to study. By the same token, it has to be so incredibly distracting as well. The temptation to text friends, check Facebook or crank up Rick Springfield’s “Working Class Dog” album on the iPod would be tremendous.

In the pre-tech world we had our own ways of “de-stressing” during exam time, and puppies — sadly — weren’t part of it. There were two pledges we made live with a goat for a while, but their grades didn’t indicate stress relief or any actual intelligence.

Back in my day (thanks for that line grandpa) the de-stressing was less complex. The number one way to deal with exam stress was ordering lots of terrible delivery pizza. Being fat was comforting.
Some students also found that drinking large amounts of alcohol or inhaling smoke from exotic plants from far away lands to be stress relieving. I’m sure those students were particularly loose going into the exams, but very few who used those methods of stress relief were around long enough to endure finals more than a couple of times.

One great method of stress relief was finding someone who was REALLY stressed about exams and taking time out of your own studying to do something terrible to him. A fun one was “pennying” a guy into his dorm on the morning of his big exam. Pennying was accomplished by shoving pennies between the door and door frame until they were pushed so hard against one another that the lock couldn’t turn and he’s trapped. The guy with the exam is screaming and tearing his hair out, but your own stress just melts away. Until the Dean of Students calls. (Not recommended.)

Another old school method of blowing off steam was simply complaining. Instead of studying, griping about how unfair the class was or that the professor hadn’t even gone over the material that would be on the exam was a terrific way de-stressing. Once you’d convinced yourself and anyone who would listen that the whole exam was rigged against you, it was easy to accept inevitable failure.

But the most foolproof way of all to avoid exam stress was the simplest — take easy classes. Most of my exam stress disappeared after I left pre-med and took up journalism, and I did it without the help of a single puppy.


THE GADFLY BY LAURA RASMUSSEN

Confucius say arena with no music like cruise ship terminal with no boat.

Confucius say arena with no music like cruise ship terminal with no boat.