Ok, so you know that time you thought your flight ticket was for a certain date, and then when you got to the airport it turned out it had been for the day before? And you were tremendously pissed off? That never happened to you? Well it happened to me. And to Mr. Baddie. Independently, if I might add.
So anyway, today was my great TOEFL test date. Because I tend to apply for things that need me to prove my English skills – even though by now it might as well be my mother tongue, for the little I speak Romanian. But I digress. Well, the good people at ETS (the developers of this mightily fine test) do provide a series of instructions on what to do on the day. I read them all conscientiously, I swear I did. All 3 pages of them. And the result of that was that by the time I was through, I had totally forgotten if I was supposed to show up there at 8:30 or 9. And I didn’t quite bother to check. Even if they did say that under no circumstances will candidates be admitted after the start time, and that you need to “report” there half an hour before. And if you don’t, your test fee (which is incidentally rather substantial) will be forfeited. Bah! So what? I will rely on my gut feeling about this and leave the checking to other, uncool people.*
This is how it came to be that I was still on the tube at 8:35. I got off at Alexanderplatz, where I needed to change connections, waited and waited for the U2, which finally took me the necessary two stops away. I was in Rosenthaler Platz at 8:50 and I knew I had to walk for only a few minutes to get to the building. Except…. I had a bad feeling. So I checked my instructions sheet for the first time today and… there, to my great dismay, it said that the test starts at 9. And that the address is Rosa Luxembourg Platz. **
Ok people, I panicked. Because although the two are relatively close, they are not close enough to walk in 5 minutes. And there’s no direct tube connecting them. (Why would there be?) And I didn’t know the area. Right, I said to myself, I’ll do my best. I went out, and frantically looked for a cab. And miracle of miracles, I found one in 4 minutes. And it only took 3 minutes to get to the square I needed. I jumped out, crossed the street and went into the building. I flew past reception, and went on the elevator, reached the testing centre and came to a grinding halt in front of their glass doors at 9 am sharp. I could spy a group of 15 people sitting down and an invigilator standing. I knock, and she opens the door. “For the TOEFL test”*** I offer with my last breath. “Yeeees?” she replies eyeing me suspiciously. I pause. She resumes: “are you registered for it here?” “Yes!” I exclaim, giving her my puppy-eyes look. “You are quite late” she sniffs, but moves aside a bit. I take advantage of the small gap and weasel my way in. “Why is that?” she enquires. I pretend not to hear her, especially since everyone’s attention is now riveted on me. “Why is that?” she ìnsists. “What?” I repeat dumbly, hoping her question will just go away. “Why are you late?” she almost shouts. “Because… err… my train was delayed” I manage, looking away furtively. Because I would never, ever consider telling the truth.
“Ah…” she smiles kindly “it’s ok, settle in and you can start with everyone else.”
And this is how I took my TOEFL test.
* the truth though, is that I am usually a worrier – and I check every little thing and everything must be just so; but despite my best efforts I am, almost without exception, tragically late.
** I am beginning to think I might have some sort of name dyslexia. Like the time I wanted to go to a Damien Rice concert and ended up getting tickets for David Gray instead. But their names do sound similar, right? And David Gray turned out to be cool too. It was just a bit sad that everyone else in the audience was singing along and I didn’t know one bloody song. But fun, I tell you, lots of fun…
*** The TOEFL test, if I may explain, has 4 parts. I do believe that the Speaking part has been designed by sadists with no concept of human civility in mind. You are asked to read some texts or listen to several conversations and then rephrase, synthesize or reproduce key points or opinions. There are 6 such tasks, and you are given 45 or 60 seconds for each. After which you are abruptly cut off. I can’t really imagine any real-life situation (never mind a university context, which is what this test aims for) in which your interlocutor would cut you off after that short amount of time. As if, if you can’t make your points in 45 seconds, you are not fit to live….