Proctor gambles on growling gut

Though I didn’t particularly enjoy sitting for the ACT exam when I was in high school, I now find myself proctoring the test. Part of my job as a youth director is to proctor the exam on a special Thursday test date, designed for kids unavailable to take the test on Saturday.

Preparing for the test, I made sure I knew exactly how to set up the desks and how to deal with students without proper ID. As I administered the test, I carefully read aloud the instructions as written in the manual. In order to keep the test fair, the test administrators offer very strict instructions on how to proctor the exam.

I took great care to ensure that I was quiet as could be. I wore flat shoes (not my loud high heels) and I removed all the noise distractions from the room. Of course, when you try to be that quiet, something is not going to cooperate.

I was silent, but my stomach apparently had a lot on its mind.

I always make sure I have enough to eat, and I always eat a good breakfast. Last Thursday was no different. Though I wasn’t actually taking the exam that morning, I’ve been trained from years of standardized testing that a good breakfast is key to a successful test day. As I drove to work (listening to The Da Vinci Code, of course), I munched on an apple cinnamon Quaker Oatmeal To Go bar.

The test began, and that’s when I lost all control.

“Lia,” my stomach growled, “you didn’t feed me enough for breakfast!”

“Quiet, you,” I ESP-ed back to my stomach. “I know you’re not used to waking up before the sun rises, but you will just have to deal with it for now.”

But as the students concentrated on filling in the correct bubbles with their No. 2 pencils, I concentrated on getting my stomach to follow the “no talking during testing” rule. Every time I felt a growl coming on, I fought it with all my might.

During the break, I ate a protein bar – my favorite kind, filled with chocolate and pretzel and caramel. (Are these things actually good for me?)

“That was alright, Lia,” my stomach roared, “but I was hoping for one of those chicken sandwiches with the special sauce.”

At that moment, the girl in the front row and I suddenly made eye contact and seemed to share a moment together. A stomach growl is one of those noises, just like chewing carrots: In my head, it’s a noise of huge proportions, but I don’t know whether people outside my head can hear it. Did the girl hear my stomach? Or did we just happen to look up at the same time? Would I distract her while answering the one question that would make the difference between community college and the Ivy League?

Nervously, I rested my hands around my stomach, trying to prevent it from any more complaining.

“If you speak up one more time, I will have to ask you to leave,” I told my stomach.

My stomach seemed to lighten up for the rest of the morning, especially once I sent it a real lunch a few hours later.

But now I know that next time I’m in a situation where I need to be 100 percent quiet, I’ll need to remember who is really the boss of my volume level and take myself out for a steak.

Or else, I worry that my friends will start assigning a voice and a personality to my stomach growl.


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