Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Where Were You When the Bells Rang?

I was in my Federal Income Tax class.

I had gotten to class a few minutes early, as is my wont, and was settling in when I saw a friend of mine (also a fellow St Mary's parishioner) watching a streaming video on his laptop a few rows ahead of me. I went down intending some good-natured ribbing, figuring that he was just obsessively watching Sistine Chapel smoke stack on the Vatican-cam. It was only when I got closer that I realized that what he was actually watching was the pealing of the bells of St Peter's, and the plume of white smoke, signifying the election of a new pope. I felt kind of like a dumbass, but was mostly overjoyed.

Before class started, another of the Catholic students (salt of the earth, light of the world, etc) alerted Professor Alstott to what had happened and asked if we could take our mid-class break not at 1:00 pm when we usually take it but whenever the Urbi et Orbi speech was delivered. She assented (what difference does it make to her?) and assigned the first student (let's call him Nick Salazar, since that's his name) to be her designated pope-watcher.

So class progressed, much as it ever does, discussing the intractability of the marriage penalty in a system of progressive taxation. Then, when the pope was about to speak, we broke. We shuffled into the student lounge where we listened to the Urbi et Orbi speech. (I'm told there were boos there when the Cardinal's selection was announced; it wouldn't surprise me, but everyone was very well mannered when I arrived.) It was a moving experience, and a typically eloquent Ratzinger speech (I'm beginning to understand a disturbing amount of Italian and spoken Church Latin), though His Holiness does still seem somewhat under the weather.

When it was all over, we returned for the second half of class. Not long thereafter (indeed, quite shortly thereafter) I was called on to discuss the case of Earl v. Commissioner. I can now say truthfully: if one must be put on the spot in front of 130-odd Yale Law tax students, it's best to do so just after having been blessed by the pope. It really takes a great deal of the pressure off. I wound up speaking, on and off, for close to a half hour, and all of it, I understand, fairly coherent. All thanks to good Pope Benedict XVI, I imagine. So bully, I say.

Anyway, that's the closest I can come to an amusing story surrounding the Holy Father's election. Thereafter I had another class (Theories of Statutory Interpretation, which featured some shmeh jokes about the pope's age) then came home, put on long pants, went to Mass (where I saw the Salazars again...they're everywhere...), went to the Yale Federalist Society's leadership election (congratulations Josh Hawley, our new president), and then from there to trivia night at Anna Liffey's, where I was supposed to be the missing piece that put my team over the top. Instead, I was the piece that got us tantalizingly close to the money, but just not. I actually probably cost the team more points than I earned it, by talking down to correct answers in the final, double-points round in favor of plausible, but wrong, ones. So we finished fourth, narrowly trailing the third place team (and the cash). It's clear the team needs a fourth, someone with brains, a level head and an encyclopedic knowledge of 80s pop music (our team's Achilles heel). I would suggest Eve Tushnet but a) I don't know her, and b) it seems like she'd have an awfully long commute for a fairly modest cash prize. And so, the search continues....