Called out of my fitful slumber by the buzzing on the nightstand, warm feet hitting the cold floor, I started my day. Long before the birds chirped or the sun pushed over the horizon, my coffee maker perked to life eventually providing its caffeinated nectar to shake me out of my early morning stupor. The hot water of the shower felt so good. I wanted to stand there and let the heat continue to warm me but life called and I had to answer. My usual morning routine continued, but the early hour and the knots in my stomach reminded me that this wasn’t an ordinary day. It wasn’t extraordinary either. Not really. But in my little life, the events of the day were significant.
On the road by six a.m. the darkness and rain enveloped the car. The cadence of the drops beating on the roof and windshield seemed a fitting soundtrack to the thoughts tumbling around in my head.
Arriving at the test center 30 minutes early (per the online instructions) I wasn’t the first to enter the doors. Unlike the warning in my preparation guide, the employees at the testing center were friendly, warm and welcoming. A nervous energy hung in the air of the tiny, single windowed waiting room as more people joined our anxious group. Each of us faced our own challenge: GRE, MCAT, ACTFL and some other with initials I can’t remember. One by one, we were led through the sign-in process. ID’s checked and validated, signatures gathered, clothes, pockets and jewelery checked, and finally scanned with a metal detector, we entered the cheerless, windowless, industrial gray room. There, the proctor showed me to my cubical. Number 7. Muted, fabric lined partitions housed a simple desk with earphones and a computer. My home for the next 4 to 5 hours. Two official pencils, four pieces of official scrap paper, two official tissues (yes, after I told them about allergies and a cold, they issued me tissues and I could only have two at a time…policy) and my driver’s license. I bowed my head, praying for clarity, recall and the ability to control my tears. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention I fought tears the whole morning. Because of the test, yes, but when you’re a 45-year-old woman with a husband of 24 years and 4 children (3 of which are teens) there can be a myriad of reasons for tears and I’m a stress crier anyway. So, tears were brimming.
One little click of the mouse and the test started.
Blocking out the background noise of other testers entering and exiting and the proctor pacing behind me and the clicking of computer keys and the buzz and hum of electronics and the little video cameras rimming the room capturing my every move, I plugged away. First the writing…then a verbal section…finally one of two quantitative sections I’d been dreading. The top right hand of the screen told me I was almost finished with section 3 of 6 sections. Almost halfway. A relieved sigh escaped. Then,
The cheerless, windowless, industrial gray room now void of light.
After a collective moan we sat, silent.
Strange little beeps sounded every few seconds.
Several moments passed. It’s hard to say how long. Time passes differently when you don’t have a clock to watch. After a few tense moments sitting in the dark wondering, the testing agent came in and told us to take our ID’s and come into the waiting room.
Diffused light from the only window in the waiting room was a welcome relief from the dark of the testing dungeon. We sat in chairs around the perimeter. Personally, I avoided eye contact and any conversation. Everyone else remained in silence as well (except two young, perky doctors-to-be…at least I assume they’re doctors-to-be since they were both taking the MCAT) . Not wanting to lose whatever concentration we had, we each retreated into the recesses of our own thoughts (well, not the 20 something Barbie Doctors who discussed med schools like they were comparing hair salons).
one dimly lit room
unanswered questions hanging
to be continued…