Monday, April 23, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Is it like this everywhere part 2

This is what happened when I showed up to take the test.

It started ten minutes before I left the house when I looked at the email again. I may or may not be allowed to use a calculator on this test, the Clerical Support Exam. Could I use a calculator? I may or may not be allowed. Who would think to include such information on an email specific to me, the person taking the Clerical Support Exam?

Oh heck. I can do math by hand.

But what if? What if a calculator might be useful?

I dashed back to the State of Wisconsin website, found the Clerical Support Exam info, and indeed, they actually did tell me that yes, I may use a calculator.

I ran upstairs, borrowed a 25 year old solar calculator from SH, shaking the dust off from it as I tucked it into my purse next to my granola bar, cheese sandwich, and hard boiled eggs, and ran back downstairs. I got into the car and pulled the email from my purse and looked at the address again, along with the little map I had drawn to UWM. Simple. Drive Center to Humboldt - I know Humboldt - it's where the consignment store is that had the Lucchese blue lizard boots for $38 that I didn't buy because I already had boots and is that the stupidest reason ever for not buying boots? - then north on whatever to whatever then east to whatever, then start looking for free parking.

Which of course was non existent. So then Plan B, which was the parking garage.

And of course the parking garage was poorly marked.

And I was getting worried because it was 4:40 and the email had said to arrive 30 t0 45 minutes early for the 5:00 exam and I hate to be late and what if I missed something important? What then? I could totally blow my chances ever for being employed! Government employment is the holy grail. Not necessarily challenging, fulfilling employment, but a job for life, and after my experiences, all I want now is security.

I finally found the garage and a space and ran to the building. The instructions just said "Lapham Hall." I assumed that Lapham Hall was therefore 1. small or 2. that there would be clear instructions within Lapham Hall about the state testing.

You are laughing.

You are laughing because you have dealt with government before. "Ha!" you are saying. "CF! As if! As if government is interested in making it easy to deal with it!"

I must say that the government employees I deal with in my city are pleasant and competent and eager to do a good job. I am on a commission, I volunteer as a poll worker, and I volunteer at the library, so I have a good amount of contact with city employees. They are all good.

The woman at the county clerk's office, though, who issued our marriage license, was a complete idiot who would not have lasted two seconds at McDonald's. She is the one who insisted that I complete the "race" field before she would give us a license, although why my race is relevant to my decision to marry still remains a mystery to me.

But she pales in comparison to the people at the civil service office in Madison in her incompetence. I don't know where they come from. Do they have any idea about what they are doing? Do they think through what they are telling people? Do they do any user testing? Do they analyze their instructions? Does anyone raise her hand and say, "Perhaps we should tell people exactly where the test is?" Or is finding the test part of the test? Perhaps they are really hiring for the new Lewis and Clark.

A friend told me, "I knew of a group at a company I used to work for that gave vague directions to where they were located to see if the applicants could find it. Part of the interview. Although I have to say some of the people in that group were pretty whacko, but boy, could they find where stuff was located."

Lapham Hall is enormous. It is several floors high. I wandered around looking for a sign. I had entered what I thought was the main entrance - by the street address given in the instructions. Yet there was no sign of any testing. I asked some students if this was the main entrance. Well, maybe the other side - opening to a courtyard - could be considered a main entrance they told me.

I threaded through a maze of halls and happened upon a lecture hall in front of which was a small desk at which were seated two women. No sign. "Is this the state test?" I asked.

They nodded.

I showed them my email. "Did I somehow miss the room number for the test?" I asked politely. I was serious. I wanted to know if I was losing it.

The one lady glanced at my email and shook her head. "No, they just don't always put it on there."

I swallowed, then said politely, "Maybe that would be useful information to include."

She looked at her colleague, raised her eyebrows, and nodded thoughtfully.

No she didn't. I joke. She just looked at my ID, crossed me off her sheet, and handed me a registration sheet.

I walked into the hall and a monitor directed me to my seat. It was 4:50. I filled out my bubble sheet with my name and birthday, then read my book. Of course I had brought a book with me. I have gone to the DMV before. I am no fool. Then I noticed that it said, "No food or drink" on the blackboard, so I ran outside and ate my sandwich. Is there anything worse than being hungry and not being able to eat?

At 5:00, the monitor said, "We're going to give it a few more minutes," which made me want to scream, because why were we supposed to show up 30-45 minutes early if we were just going to wait for people to be late? Why are the prompt people always punished? Why can't the late people ever be punished?

At 5:05, the monitor told us to fill out our registration sheet. Which is what I thought the 45 minutes early was for. Then she explained that if we wanted to leave the room for any reason, we had to give our test materials to the monitor. Then she repeated herself, saying people don't seem to remember these instructions, which made me think, "Then why not just write them on the board next to the part about 'no food or drink?'"

She passed out Number 2 pencils, which made me wonder why I had been instructed to bring two Number 2 pencils at all.

At 5:25, I finally got my test. At 5:30, she told me I could start.

The two and a half hour test took me 90 minutes and would have taken me less time if the calculator hadn't been flaky and if I hadn't been worried that the question "Is 1/8 = 0.125" was a trick question because at first I thought, "Well DUH of course 1/8 = 0.125!" but then I thought, "But is it? Of course it is but maybe I just think it is and my math is wrong and I'd better check and it seems too simple."

There were a lot of questions like that. Questions that were so simple and seemingly obvious that I thought, "State of Wisconsin, you are really not asking me the difference between 'their' and 'there,' are you? Really? Really?"

And then I had to laugh at this question:

Emily's cat is sick. She takes it to a

1. Veteran
2. Veterinarian
3. Vegan

I thought, "Nobody gets that one wrong. Do they?"

Then I got confused at this one:

A customer comes in and is very upset. You

1. Tell her you are closed and go away.
2. Tell her to go to the next window.
3. Try to solve her problem.

I got confused because I started to wonder, "They hire people who answer '1 or 2.' How can people who give that kind of answer have a job and I have no job at all? I can't even get an interview! And I write - I think - a killer cover letter. I use all of askamanager's great ideas. I have good accomplishments at reputable organizations. Why can't I even get an interview? Maybe I'm just crap. Maybe I'll never get a job again. Maybe I'll just end up as a bag lady. Maybe I've really screwed up my life. I've blown it. Now what am I going to do?"

And then I got depressed, which meant it took me a lot longer to answer the Excel questions and calculate payroll.

Now I am waiting for my score, which will take six to eight weeks, which makes me wonder if they are sending these test by pony express to Siberia to be read by Braille. All so I can be qualified for a job that pays $13 an hour, which is not enough to cover the bills. The End.


Anonymous Mother said...

Oh, GREAT! You went and gave the answer! NOW the whole test is invalid in the future.

Or is that in'.va.lid???

webb said...

So, let me get this right: The vegan sent the cat to the next window because it was closed ... right?

That story would be pathetic, if it weren't so obviously true. Surely, surely, surely, you will end up at the top of the pile after that. Then the question will be: do they actually have any jobs. [Isn't it Wisconsin whose governor is such a small government kinda guy? Or, does that mean that other states should have small governments?]

By the way, does your cell phone have a calculator? I can almost figure out how to use mine, but am told that the young folks use theirs all the time. Just askin' ...

Class factotum said...

Mom, I probably broke some law by doing that.

Webb, I was specifically forbidden from using a cellphone during the test. But not a calculator.

Class factotum said...

And Webb, yes, you would hope I would end up on the top of the pile!

I, too, am a small government kind of guy, which does lead to a moral dilemma of sorts, although I can justify my employment in government by saying that if it is to be small, it should be small with the best people. I.e., me.

Anonymous said...

Oh I can't wait to hear your stories when you get the job! j

John0 Juanderlust said...

You take the cat to the vegan to ensure it won't be eaten. It is perplexing that the average Joe or Joette would chuckle and recognize the universal truth of government operations in your story, yet they still believe that this same institution is the answer to healthcare, raising children, keeping business honest, and products and people safe.

Class factotum said...

Anon, Cross your fingers.

John, you are preaching to the choir.