Thursday, February 6, 2014

my SAT experience

I pull into the parking lot; there is a malfunctioning electrical sign with the words "Welcome to Collins Hill High School" sputtering sparks quite unwelcomingly; as if they are warning me to turn back around and go home to my warm bed and quiet novel. As I step out of the car, a blast of icy wind hits me that chills me to the bone. I begin to trek towards the front door. As I enter all I can see are bodies. Some laying down, catching up on sleep, some gossiping with each other, a few couples wrapped in each other's arms exchanging saliva molecules. A gym teacher who looks as if he's never ran the mile in his life steps out and booms: "Admission tickets and photo ID ready. Form a line and check in." After standing in line for eternity and transferring my heavy water bottle to my Kavu pack, I am directed to room 2.120. Not 2.130, and not 1.120, but room 2.120. "Good luck," the overweight gym teacher tosses in my direction as I cross the long hallway. Little does he know that it's only the SAT, not The Hunger Games. I enter the room and take my seat. It's number 11, with my last name hastily scrawled beneath the number on the powder blue sticky note. I take a deep sip of my hazelnut coffee and survey my surroundings. I'm in French class. Romantic paintings and cheesy poems in Francais are posted all around the room; not a single one of the plain prison walls are visible. As the remaining detainees file in and take their seats, I sigh in anticipation; the quiet before the storm. All of the sudden a screechy voice exclaims "Phones off and on the corner of your desks." I finish my Facebook post and comply. When I look up, I see an enormous fat bluebird perched on two skinny legs; or, the moderator of the classroom. When she comes to check my phone for life and sees the previously shattered screen, she wittingly remarks, "Why did you beat up your phone like that?" I shoot her a look of disdain and take another sip of my coffee. Years pass and it's time to take the test. I look at the first question and am elated. "I know this one!" I think as I bubble in my name. Next comes the date, my address, and a series of numbers that will keep track of my scores. But I had just barely scratched the surface of the horrors of the SAT. I open up my answers booklet and there on the page is...nothing. Nothing but tiny blue horizontal lines about a half an inch from each other. I take yet another sip of my coffee with the precision of a neurosurgeon; the last thing I need is for my caffeine to go down the wrong pipe and sputter right back out onto my peers. The topic of the paper was as follows: Can progress be possible without struggle and conflict? I set to work. I begin my paper with a fake statistic about Americans believing in struggle and conflict, make myself prima ballerina, volleyball captain, and president of my student body (none of which without struggle), create a bogus military scenario, and use a metaphor from LOTR to complete my essay. Easy peasy. I advance to the next section: math. Tears begin to brim in my eyes as I remember all of the hair I had pulled out of my head the previous day over the extremely complex equations. But not for long. I take a look at the first question: if x=18 and y=4, what is 2x+4 divided by y? I was taken aback by the complete simplicity of the problem and its resemblance to 8th grade algebra. I crack a smile but quickly hide it to keep from seeming arrogant. Centuries pass and I finish the elementary exam. Next, the aviary educator has us sign a declaration in cursive, of which all of us knew how to emulate-except one boy with mouse brown hair and dark freckles. He continued to antagonize Miss Moderator by asking how every letter in the statement was written in cursive. After about 60 years of waiting for him to finish his statement, my hair begins to gray and I catch the exasperated smile of a tall boy my age and reflect it back to him in a bonding moment of annoyance. The rest of the sections are a blur-but the grammar section I know I had advanced in; because of my assumed family post as Grammar Nazi, I had plenty of practice on the subject. Several more math sections passed and as I mindlessly fiddled with my calculator I could feel the pressure of my fellow test-takers' stress and perspiration. I would have bombed the vocabulary sections if it weren't for my extensive years of studying Latin. But in a single moment my heart was torn in two and pitilessly dropped to the bottom of my stomach; I had bubbled in one of the English portions into the math sections. I hastily scrambled to copy the answers into the correct box, but the detour had taken 10 minutes out of my time for the last math section. As I guesstimated my way to the end of Section 8, the alarm clock rings and bird teacher screeches for us to drop our pencils. I enthusiastically drop my pencil and it rolls off the desk and onto the ground...how embarrassing. But there was an encore to my pride. It turns out that another student, two rows ahead of me, had also bubbled in the wrong section and was incapable of handling the situation for himself and inquired of the moderated assistance. The spare time he bought me lent me the opportunity to check my work. Satisfied, I closed my test booklet, took a swig of coffee and smoothed on some Chapstick. The last two sections passed equally as easily and I was out of the room before Miss Bluebird could stop me. After I had made some mindless chatter with the boy I had exchanged sore smiles with, the gargantuan gym teacher splits us apart by booming "The test is over. Exit the building." I'm guessing he was hurrying us so that he could beat the late afternoon McDonald's rush. I sit on a cold, dry bench and freeze to exhaustion until my father's silver beaming Sonata appears over the horizon. As I step into the car, I am overwhelmed by the comforting heat and the Shane Co. commercial buzzing on the radio. I read him my story.

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