The stack of papers neatly piled on my desk are easily an inch high.
The kind of test where you have to slit open the tab on the side of the envelope and follow along precisely with the instructor as you neatly shade in little dots on the answer sheet.
An 'Aptitude Test' they're called. 'Aptitude' is such a subjective term since no one is all that clear as to what criteria the instructors go by to 'grade' your answers. And this is why I hate them so much; why I generally just shade the ovals in to vaguely resemble a shape of some kind. Today it will be a penis.
I look around at the other students eagerly awaiting the arrival of the professor to launch us into a frenzy of dot-filling and brain-wracking. They sit stolid, motionless; some chewing gum -an offence as I understand it, another smiling as she texts someone on the other end of her phone. No one seems particularly thrilled over all to be here, but, alas, no one has a choice.
The door swings open with a whisper and a tall, lanky man sidles in carrying an armload of paperwork, a pair of small glasses, and what looks like an apple.
He quietly sets each object on the big wooden desk at the front of the test room, daintily clears his throat, and sets the pair of spectacles on his nose.
"Good afternoon, students," He begins as he turns away from the class with a fresh stick of chalk in his hand. His light German accent belays him, "My name is Doctor Holle. In ten minutes we will begin the Aptitude Test,"
I glance at the clock again: 1:50
The chalk makes gritty scratches on the board. Dr. Holle turns to us with a playful, almost sneering grin on his face and sets the chalk on the desk. His name is scrawled in jittery Cursive on the board. It becomes obvious that he's a lefty as some of the last bit of the last few letters are smeared.
"Many of you are no doubt wondering exactly what this Aptitude Test aims to prove. Am I correct?"
The majority of the class nods in a kind of eerie unison. I, not especially interested, roll my Number 2 pencil through my fingers like a rocker's drum stick
Dr. Holle suppresses a faint cough with a balled fist and continues, "As you are all aware, in the coming weeks, you will begin looking for employment outside of your studies. Unfortunately, a vast number of you will either be unable to secure a position of your primary choice, or else be ill suited to do the same. So many children now-a-days are so naive in the ways of the outside world and in how all the little interlocking gears and cogs fit within one another. I say this because, those of you who... shall we say, fit into the lesser half of the Aptitude outcome may be forced to make other, more fitting, decisions."
I am listening. Something about this man's diatribe strikes me as a little odd. What are, 'more fitting decisions?' Does he mean that we can't just sign up for a career and hope to be trained?
"Furthermore," Dr. Holle continues as he absently removes his glasses and begins wiping them on a hankie, "Since fewer and fewer job opportunities are making themselves available to the new batch of graduating youth, another, newer option has risen; an option I am hoping several of you might see a potential interest in. It is called, 'Dream A Little Dream'..."
Some of the class chuckles at the light-hearted name and the professor, with that wry grin on his face, calms them gently with arm gestures.
He covers another cough, this time more forceful, with the handkerchief, "Despite the name, it is a most excellent choice for those of you seeking an alternate path from a career you are likely not suited for. Since so few jobs are becoming available, training for those that remain is in, unfortunately, less demand. Ergo, just the hope that you could be trained to fill an available, more specific position, is false, at best. With the new, 'Dream A Little Dream' openings, your future is far more secure."
Somehow he'd only been speaking for less than five minutes. The clock moved slowly on from 1:55.
A hand went up behind me. I had seen the guy a few times in the halls, but since I had seen many people in the halls each shouting to be heard, I had no idea what his name was.
"Yes, there is a question?" The Doctor asks as he slips his glasses back onto his nose.
"Right. Yes... sir. Um, Dr. Holle..." The boy stammers as he flushes and trys to hide his embarrassment, "Is there any more information about Dream A Little Dream that might persuade us to join... you know, like incentives or what it actually offers?"
Dr. Holle nods and clasps his hands together, "In fact their is. However, since the test is to begin in sixty seconds, I will quickly usher those interested to the door where they will be met by a Mr. Gabriel who will take you to a separate room."
I stand. The boy behind me stands. All told, eleven seats empty as their occupants rise to their feet. We are quickly told to leave our test booklets and pencils, as we won't need them. Dr. Barnes opens the door, bids us all a fine afternoon, and we're all met by Mr. Gabriel. He is dressed as though he'd been teaching at a college: tan sport coat with elbow patches, a loosened tie over a denim shirt, and corduroys. Yet, the oddest thing about him is the large, fascinating amulet that swings from his jacket pocket. I might be wrong, but there's just something about its beauty. Something I can't quite place...