• Anonymous
      February 2, 2008 at 11:48 am

      [CENTER][SIZE=”4″][B]Trapezoids [/B][/SIZE][/CENTER]
      [RIGHT][SIZE=”2″]By Matthew C. &##&&$#&[/SIZE]

      I spent two days testing this week at a vocational center affiliated with a local hospital and sponsored by the State of Ohio. It was a charitable arrangement brought about by my slow spiral of psychological and physical demise lasting over ten years. I recognized my vocational therapist’s name and remembered him as my speech therapist from a long hospital stint over ten years ago, which eventually brought me to this encounter. This care giver of a fellow taught me how to talk again and seeing him reminded me that the letter B is tough when your lips no longer work correctly.

      While I waited in the testing room for the troops to gather, I thought how similar this room was to an evaluation room at a physician’s clinic. I imagined the table covered with paper like that found on a clinic evaluation table, where the housekeeping personal could quickly tear the strip away and prepare the room for the next patient. The lighting was certainly sufficient for close inspection of even the most minute body cavity, so much so my body cast no shadow. I could hear the huge pencil sharpener in the adjacent room, churning out fine tips in what sounded like a twenty foot piece of John Deere heavy equipment cultivating the ground, so my trained ear discerned. I expected at any moment to hear screams as if the pencil sharpener served a second duty, turning flunked testers into puree like a wood chipper I had seen once in a gruesome movie, but the howling did not come as expected. For a moment I thought to yell out, “Ohhh, my leg”, but thought twice in that I did not want to disturb the other clients involved in testing.

      As my old friend of years gone by, and his staff, began to cow prod my mind, thinking a secret vocation worthy of consideration might reveal itself deep within the recesses of my mind, I guessed they thought they already knew how my mind worked; I reasoned that it was just a matter of formality and protocol asked of them by the State that they should torture me so. I summized they would compare my reactions to the rest of the world like other historical testers might have done during the Spanish inquisition. They brought in their thick barrage of standardized tests along with John Deere sharpened pencils and asked for my compliance.

      They sat me down in front of a bunch of colorful blocks and asked me to recall patterns of pretty purple circles with yellow and blue bands reminiscent of subatomic particle- the kind I frequently dream about during brief moments of REM sleep. A young woman placed patterns in front of my face and asked me to retrieve the blocks they symbolized after just a few seconds of study, to test my memory for colorful things with a high gloss finish that bounced glaring light into my eyes. The pieces were of differing patterns and shapes and colors, but once the long rectangular key card was gone, so too was my interest in remembering them, for I already had enough images of quarks and bosons filling my brain. Thinking just a few more line items might result in a critical cascade, my mind seemed to avoid this intrusion perhaps fearful when presented with ridiculousness these images might come out my ears and trickle onto the testing table that lacked a paper topping sufficient for easy clean up.

      For two days they tested me, pushing my mind to do things that did not make much vocational sense, adding further dissonance to the world that surrounds me like the darkness of a moonless night. I learned during the past ten years of illness that life is not what you make of it; rather, it is how you cope with the changes that defines who you are as a person. If I had to evaluate them at that moment, I ‘d say they had a rigid preoccupation with blocks and shiny test object, which obviously cluttered their minds and impeded their abilities to test me.

      My grand inquisitor introduced me to yet another block test involving matching solid colors using long sequences of verbal commands. Before we started, the young lady said that the blue block- the one that didn’t look blue, well, it was aqua or some sort of greenish blue- this specific block was actually blue for this test and the gold block with silver streaks showing through ( I assumed from years and years of use and abuse) was actually gold. Despite this explanation, my mind did not cooperate because I trained it to avoid such incongruity. When she included blue as a part of the string I was to duplicate, my mind searched high and low for the blue block to no avail. Similarly so, the gold block didn’t register ether, for after all, it was gold with silver streaks. Disengaged, my mind wandered to thinking about car colors, how a fender bender between a gold car and a greenish blue car might scrape away the gold paint to reveal an undercoating of silver.

    • Anonymous
      February 2, 2008 at 11:49 am

      They gave me mechanical reasoning tests, too, a part of which asked me to identify how a diagram might convert a very small drawing of an architectural structure into reality. Staring at the long list of six point font diagrams that ran down the paper in three columns of forty questions each, trying to discern their true shapes once constructed, I tried to figure out how to convert these tiny diagrams, with such tiny folds like the wings of a fly or the armored thorax of a beetle, into my three dimensional world. So, instead of focusing upon which of the six choices best represented the completed structure, for some reason, I thought of how to build a work station to construct these little architectural wonders; I thought about the tools required to make such minuscule folds and what size of magnifying glass I would need to duplicate the diagram structures as part of an assembly line. I thought of a day when my twelfth year English teacher told me I waisted my former years of education, that I could have been a brilliant surgeon. She pointed out how, at eighteen, I had already limited my choices in life. I thought about how crass my production line of tiny buildings and castles would be when compared to a beautiful piece of origami. I thought how my testers might assess my abilities to discern these diagrams by means of mass replication and make me manufacture this stuff as part of my new vocation. Apparently, my teacher was correct, as I thought about how my career may end up: chief of tiny building duplication services for the State of Ohio.

      As you may have gathered, my mind tends to wonder when presented with what it might assess as silly tasks and questions. So, when an elderly woman presented me with more colorful high gloss cards to sort and process I felt bored and partly suicidal. They shoved ever differing designs into my cerebral cortex, trapezoids and triangles, circles of blue, red, green, faded orange octagons and black rectangles all mixed in differing dolor patters that reminded me of the primitive rainbows I outgrew at the age of four, for my rainbows as I approach fifty years young include millions and millions of colors. They asked me to find errors when comparing these shapes to index cards, to mark a hole in a special place on a sheet of paper trapped in a vice like a vote card ballot on election day. I heard the paper cry out, “Oh, no, another error, please not again…ahhhh”, as I pierced it time and time again.

      Once completed she showed me the results and said with great enthusiasm, “Great ninety seven percent out of three hundred responses”, as if truly impressed, “Now, let’s do it again and see if you can improve your performance”. I asked her to just shoot me now so as to put me out of my eternal misery, for I was not going to work in the factory of colored blocks no matter what the tests reviled. At that moment, the little architectural duplication assembly line seemed far more appealing than I ever expected. I thought during a break that these colors and shapes would most certainly make their way to the bottom of the toilet bowl, but I was mistaken.

      I whizzed through the word association and definition tests like crap through an aqua goose. All along, my mind strayed to form correct responses not included as one of the six choice options. I mean, I read somewhere that a metaphor is an equation where a simile is an approximation, but if reconstitution is recovery, what about the process of adding liquid to a dry powder to make a new solution? It is also an adjustment resulting in additions to and/or deletions from the list of stocks that make up a given index; I craved reconstituted orange juice. What’s more, what about the second draft of our American constitution? Is not that also a re-constitution? As I selected “recovery”, I resented it because my mind doesn’t want to think in such limited terms as a multiple choice query. To me, these tests irrevocably damaged my brain and I truly felt weary!

    • Anonymous
      February 2, 2008 at 11:50 am

      The tricky problem solving questions were even worse that the word association games. You know, if Dan and Bill had retrievers and Jane and Sue had retrievers except Sue also had a few poodles, etc, etc, etc. I am not sure why, but I come to find that Jane could not go to the Park with the others because she did not own a retriever like the rest. Instead, she had to go to the playground with her dogs. Also, so I learned, she was not friends with Dan, who was seemingly popular with the others and the retrievers. And Tom didn’t make it far on the train question because he got off at the first stop, unlike Pete who made it all the way down the line. Yes, Tom ended up thirty six and three quarter miles away from Pete. Come to find, the end of the line is where everyone remaining got off the train, all twelve of them, seemingly happy they made it so far. Poor Tom, the lonely guy standing around as the rest of the crew went on to other destinations, stuck in perpetuity alone. You know, I could have converted the problem to kilometers or centimeters if they only asked.

      There was so much they did not ask of me I wanted to tell them, which might have helped them help me. So, I had to get creative with my responses hoping they would read between the lines. For example, they wanted me to identify the velocity of a piano just before it struck the ground, if dropped from the top of of a three hundred and sixty two foot mine shaft. As I thought about the question, I imagined the piano falling to the Earth and brought to bear the proper equations to solve the problem, but poodles and retrievers kept jumping out of the top of the piano desperately trying to run back up to the top of the mine shaft. I wondered how a frantic pup might effect its own velocity, clawing at the air in desperation like the Coyote in a road runner cartoon. As the piano and the last pup struck the base of the shaft, I thought about the sound it would make since I am musically inclined. I filled in my answer: “A flat Minor”. That’s the ticket, the velocity in such a cramped quarters would most certainly convert to sound and, unfortunately, a miner got squashed in the process. You know, if the shaft were a little deeper that last poodle might have made it to the top because she was showing great promise.

      Not one question about music came up, even though I was waiting for it like a retriever waiting to go to the playground for a change. They asked me about my interest, that I might prefer seeing myself as a vocalist in a rock band as opposed to a tax accountant, but I wanted them to ask me what happens when a B Major Seventh cord is combined with a C flat Seventh cord. They totally avoided this question. Apparently, musician was not a vocation or a career path for anyone except for reality game show participants. I wanted them to play a note and ask me to identify it, or that I might play a Bass solo for them to evaluate, but such questions were fleeting in their evaluation of me. I thought, for that matter, they did not ask me about my debilitating fatigue and depression ether, as if they, too, are not vocational considerations.

      After the last test was given, at the end of the second day, the staff as a group presented me with vocational options compiled from some of the previous tests. The results were a list of potential vocations; thirty five occupations ranging from lawyer to farmer to food processing clerk. They handed me instructions, as well, which I followed with due diligence. I was to highlight what careers interested me, taking into consideration the fact that I must learn the new job listed, identified by me as a potential path to satiation, with the understanding that I “must have the financial resources” to keep me out of the poor house “during this phase of rehabilitation”.

      Understanding these parameters, I dug into the list, making good use of the seven thick volumes of career descriptions. Cross relating them, I referenced every item by reading the qualifications required to preform the associated tasks, the duties and responsibilities, the education preferences and aptitudes to do a good job. They also asked me to fill in any positions I was interested in that did not reveal itself in the series of crap tests that cattle prodded my mind into mush. I wrote, “Dictator of a third world nation”, for which- after thirty years of serving as General in complex real time strategy games and twelve years serving as virtual dictator of a large Internet community and squad leader in numerous team oriented first person shooter computer games- I was quite qualified.

    • Anonymous
      February 2, 2008 at 11:51 am

      After two hours of study and research I narrowed the list to two options, since I did not have ANY money left or resources to keep me afloat while taking up any of these fine career paths. I highlighted “Salesman”. After all, selling is what I have been doing for the past twenty years and “Farmer”, simply because, as I reasoned it, how difficult is it to put a seed in the ground, water it and watch it grow? I could do that, right? I found it ironic that the only crop I wanted to grow was marijuana, a fine mood altering plant forebode to my indulgence during my lengthly job search for gainful employment, for I lived in fear of retribution resulting from peeing into a cup. The truth is that in America much of our vocational options are limited by our urine. I wondered if farmers had to pass a **** test or, for that matter, if it was OK for them to pee on the crops.

      Once completed, I lay my head down upon the table in the testing room- the one that was not covered in evaluation room paper covering for easy clean up. As I waited for the staff to reconvene, I tried not to drool onto the table for reasons mentioned and thought about my choices during this last phase of testing. Once again, I let my mind drift to conjure images of how I would live as a farmer.

      I toiled atop the thick dark sod and nurtured it with Johann Sebastian Bach and Eric Clapton, while moisturizing it with squalls of Stevie Ray Vaughn before planting, tilling the soil with Iron Maiden and Matalica. I planted my seeds of Return To Forever, Chick Corea and Alfonzo Johnson, while all along planting fishes along side like the Indians in days of old. In time, my crops grew into healthy trapezoids of varying shapes and colors, triangles of faded orange and yellow rectangles the hue of New York City taxi cabs. (After all, I was a NYC boy who somehow ended up making good as a trapezoid farmer in Ohio, so went my daydream). My crop circles were brown and black, gray and purple, but they did not impede the growth of my mathematical formulations of high gloss wooden blocks and thick paper cards. It all looked good, my future was glaringly distracting yet bright as the Sun that shone overhead or the test room lighting that penetrated my eye lids.

      Once harvested, I put my crops in the top of a barn filled with aqua cows and golden zebras with silver stripes. I loaded my cart with the irregular shaped wheels and toted my crops down a greenish blue dirt road to the highway, to sell in my dilapidated wayside store that looked like a greenhouse, but was not at all green. I played my guitar out front to entice cars to stop and buy my wears, but they sped along heading for the jazz clubs in the cities, seemingly enticed by what lay ahead. I tended to wander closer to the trucks than one might think safe, hoping a semi packed with lawyers and advertising executives and food clerks would not strike me dead. A train filled with test subjects passed by my stand and waived as they rapidly moved along the track. That instant, I realized I was not at all cut out to be a farmer, I thought in retrospect, for I never received the correct training for such a venture. I was forced into this vocation by test results, I thought in self fulfilling rage. Besides, the cars and trucks had no chance to slow down in time to visit me even if they were in great need of trapezoids. My anger passed quickly and left me with a general sense of melancholia.

      I felt sad, thinking about how I might not feed my many differing colored animals, that I might still starve by the side of the road. But, more than myself, I thought about poor Sue left alone out in the playground with her poodles, never to visit the park. I thought about Tom standing around the train station with no one to share how he was first out of the train- shoved onto the platform by Pete- he was excluded from the fun going on at the end of the line. These two seemed so right for each other, yet forever separated by a few pages of test questions. Poor Tom and lonely Sue, left there never to meet, isolated from everything as if representing the cornerstone of a Twilight Zone episode. I decided to send each of them what was left of my trapezoid crop, before I returned to the city to continue with my career as a depressed , fatigued salesman; me with the heart and soul of a musician and the hands and mind of a surgeon that testing never revealed.

      The END:o

    • Anonymous
      February 9, 2008 at 4:07 pm

      Rocker ~ this was a really good read. It brought tears to my eyes with the reality of it all. Thanks for sharing!