I had to take a four and a half hour test today for my Blackberry Enterprise certification, and it was horrible. Did you ever have that dream where you forgot you had a final exam and when you finally sat down at the desk in the gymnasium and flipped your paper over, you didn't know a single answer? So you sat there and stared at the paper, and all you could hear was everyone around you busily writing? And then, one by one, they stood up and handed in their papers until you were the last one left in the room? No? Well, it was kind of like that.
My test was at 10:30 this morning and I had to be there 15 minutes early to fill out the paper work. This was the second time in a month that I've been to the test center, since I stupidly showed up on the 7th because I had rescheduled the test and not changed it on my calendar.
The girl behind the counter looked at my two forms of ID, then she took my Blackberry away and locked it in the cabinet and for a second I felt very free. No phone, no pager, no e-mail -- just me and the open road. I contemplated making a break for it and just driving until I hit Mexico. We don't need no steenking certifications. But then I remembered that I have a wife and a house and a mortgage and a job in a tough economy in a state where jobs are hard to come by, plus I am a pasty gringo and I probably wouldn't fare well in the tropics. So I stayed.
This testing site is really a training facility -- so they are big on classrooms, and small on exam rooms. Their "test-taking" room is basically a closet with four library-type desks in it, all facing in opposite directions. It's not very comfortable under the best of circumstances, and if the AC isn't working great it's like being trapped in the trunk of a car that's been left in the sun. Of course, today was about 93 degrees, and their AC was wheezing and stumbling like Michael Moore's heart.
When the counter girl sat me down at my desk, there was one other guy already in there. She said "If you need anything, just let me know." I thought about asking her for an appetizer and a drinks menu but she didn't look like she was having a great day. Before I could start my test, I had to click through about six pages of legalese, and then click on a button that said "I agree." Even now I have no real idea what it was that I agreed to. As I type this, someone could be on their way to my house to harvest my left kidney and be fully within their rights to do so.
About a minute after I sat down, I heard something strange. It was sort of like someone singing a single note, about two blocks away.
After about the third time I heard it, I realized it was coming from the other guy in the room with me. Apparently, he had a "thing" where he made this little high-pitched humming noise in his throat every 30 seconds or so. He sounded like a really distant test of The Emergency Broadcast System.
So that was pretty annoying. That and the heat. I tried my best to ignore him and click through my questions. The majority of the test consisted of hypothetical scenarios, and you'd read a page about a fake company, their servers, their network configurations, the number of users and their geographical locations, what systems they currently had, how much money they had to upgrade, and then they'd ask you a dozen questions about what to do and how to do it. The answers were always multiple choice, but not like: What does TLS stand for? (a) Terrific Light Show (b) The Last Starfighter (c) Transport Layer Security. Instead, they were the kind where they tell you to "choose the best three" and there are something like six possibilities and they all sound right. Unfortunately for me, "How the fuck should I know?" never seemed to be one of the choices.
I was about an hour into it, when the counter girl came in with another test-taker. He sat down at the desk next to me and the second the door closed, he immediately let loose with the fart of all farts. I mean, it wasn't a loud whoopee cushion fart -- it was relatively discrete as farts go, but the room was so quiet and the desks are so close that there is nothing even approaching privacy. If some nose-breather had a whistling booger, it would sound like a Lou Marini sax solo in there. The volume of gas in this guy's colon was staggering. It sounded like a tire losing air. It was fully 5 seconds long, and I feared for all our lives.
So I'm in an 8x8 room with a human teapot and someone who smells like he just shit his pants, and I'm only on question 30 out of 160. Things were going well.
I started breathing through my mouth and reading (and guessing answers) faster. I also found the one movement that made my chair squeak slightly, and I kept doing it over and over. So sue me -- I'm a little passive-aggressive.
After three hours of this, I was done, in more ways than one. I thought about using the last hour to go over the answers I hadn't been sure about, but then I realized there were very few answers that I actually had been sure about, so I would probably just be wasting even more of my time. Plus, I figured that if I stayed between EBS and IBS for much longer, I'd snap. As it was, I figured there was already a 75% chance that I'd have to burn my clothes.
At least the part of the nightmare about being the last one to leave didn't come true. Fart boy and the human tea kettle were still there when I left, and for all I know they still are.
I have no idea how I did, but I'm pretty confident I failed miserably. I was nowhere near prepared, and it was a beta test, so the good thing was I didn't have to pay for it. I'll get to take it again when it's an official test, and hopefully I'll have better luck in all respects.
Lastly, it seems I'm all about pimpin' my blog this week. I just found out that my Blogger friend Averyl has entered the Mad Men contest! If you have a second to vote for her, it's a one-click thing and the link is here. Thanks!