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The art of the almost all-nighter

During my years as a college undergraduate, I pulled tens of thousands of what we in the college-undergraduate business call "all-nighters." And while that's an impressive - not to mention completely fabricated - figure, what's even more impressive is the number of "almost all-nighters" I pulled.

An "almost all-nighter" is when you "almost" pull an "all-nighter." This involves staying up so late supposedly writing a 10-page paper about Samuel Taylor Coleridge - but really reading the Wikipedia entries on topics like time travel, Venn diagrams, and Lithuania - that you get no more than three hours and no less than 10 minutes of sleep (if you get less than 10 minutes of sleep, you've pulled an all-nighter).

That's all well and good, you're probably saying, but what's so impressive about pulling a bunch of almost all-nighters? Aren't real, honest-to-God all-nighters infinitely more impressive? You'd think so (if you were an unenlightened loser, anyway), but they're not.

Most people can pull the occasional all-nighter, so long as they either take a nap the next day or have their eyes pinned open a la Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange. But it takes a pro to pull three-to-five almost all-nighters per week, every week of a semester, and avoid 1) passing out in the shower more often than doctors recommend, 2) being involuntarily committed by university officials, or 3) evolving beyond the human form and exploring the universe as a disembodied consciousness.

Unfortunately, while I did pull three-to-five almost all-nighters per week, I wasn't much of a pro. I never suffered any of the consequences listed above - much to my chagrin, because I've always wanted to be involuntarily committed - but I did spend a lot of class time biting the insides of my cheeks to stay awake.

Occasionally, though, biting the insides of my cheeks didn't work. On such days, I would rest my forehead on one hand and pretend to stare intently at my notebook while actually catching a few Z's. To add to the illusion, I mastered the skill of appearing to take notes while unconscious, scrawling meaningless squiggles and swirls across page after page in my sleep.

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