Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Which I Go to Community College and Knit a Sock.

 Yesterday was a very-eventful-in-a-bad-way day. It all started when I had to get up at 7:30 so that I could go to a two-hour orientation at AB-Tech. I should have known better. No good ever comes of me getting up that early in the morning; I spend the entire day in a state of absent-minded, sleep-deprived discombobulation which can quickly turn ugly when combined with the specialness of others. Yesterday was no exception, even though I brought every bit of it on myself.

My first mistake was taking French instead of Spanish when I was twelve. I decided that French was the way to go because, I kid you not, it was prettier and more romantic than Spanish, and I liked French literature and wanted to read it in the original language. Seriously. "Pretty and romantic" were my criteria for selecting a foreign language to study. I know twelve-year-olds are stupid like that, but yeesh. I still get kind of embarrassed for myself when I think about it, and thank my lucky stars that Twilight wasn't around back then (as it was, I has a similarly embarrassing obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in those days). I like to think of that as the beginning of a series of incredibly poor educational choices that ultimately led to me spending my early to mid twenties waiting tables for a living. Had I devoted the seven years I spent on French to Spanish, yesterday wouldn't have happened.

A little more backstory: when I decided to go into social work, I asked my stepmother (who works for the state) what she thought I should do in addition to the regular coursework in order to ensure that I would find gainful employment upon graduation. She immediately told me that it was very difficult to get a job with any of the providers of social services without having both a master's degree and some degree of fluency in Spanish. People with coursework in medical and professional Spanish were especially desirable. Realizing I'd have to enroll in Spanish classes, I (once again) cursed my twelve-year-old self. I decided to enroll at AB Tech, as driving to Cullowhee from Asheville five days a week (when I only have to be there on Mondays and Tuesdays) was totally unappealing. "It can't be that bad," I told myself, "Matt went there."

Famous last words.

Upon "applying" (which isn't so much asking them to take you as giving them your information so that they can put you in the system), the website informed me that all new students had to attend a two-hour orientation, after which they could pick up their parking passes, obtain a student ID, and, most importantly, register for classes. I, in my infinite wisdom, decided that the 8:30 AM slot was the time for me, so that I could get some housework done afterwards before starting my closing shift at 4:00 PM.

That would be mistake number two.

Dragging myself out of bed that morning was a struggle. Over the last year-ish that I've spent living with Matt, I've become something of a night owl. I have a hard time falling asleep before midnight, and on Monday, I decided that staying up until 2 AM working on a sock was a really good idea. Given that I am one of those people who requires at least eight, but preferably nine, hours of sleep to function, I wasn't in a particularly organized mental state. I managed to throw some clothes on, grab my sock-in-progress, and tumble out the door and arrive (mostly) on time.

I suspected that the orientation would consist of five minutes' worth of useful information and one hour and fifty-five minutes of useless dreck, so I broke out the knitting needles immediately. I wasn't wrong; we spent the vast majority of the session discussing useful things like finding information on the website, why it's important to leave time for sleep, and how to use e-mail. The only thing between me and boredom-induced seppuku via cheap ballpoint pen was my knitting, and I was thankful for it. I finished nearly all of the leg (some fifty rows) while there. I also got a few useful pieces of information: where to go to register for classes, pick up my parking permit, buy my books, and obtain my student ID. As soon as the orientation session ended, I headed over to the student center, hoping to kill all four birds with one stone.

Thinking I could navigate all of the necessary educational bureaucracy in one trip? That would be mistake number three.

I managed to get my book, student ID, and parking permit without incident (though I did have to walk to the parking lot to get my car's license plate number), and was flying high as I set down to wait for an appointment with the registration counselor. My number was called within ten minutes, and I sat down in the cubicle and gave the counselor an abbreviated version of my spiel above: graduate student, want to learn campus, AB Tech is more convenient to my house than Western, etc.

The counselor pulled up my information, and told me that I couldn't register without a "reading credit," and that I needed to have proof that I'd taken some kind of reading or writing class while in college, or else standardized test scores. I pulled up my acceptance letter to Western's graduate school (which you can't get into without having obtained a bachelor's, which you can't earn without being at least kind of literate), but that was no good. I pulled up my scores on the GRE, but those weren't any good, either (despite the fact that the GRE verbal is harder than the SAT's).

Assuming that my bachelor's degree and enrollment in graduate school, along with my perfect/near perfect GRE scores in writing and English, provided evidence that I am, in fact, literate enough to take beginning Spanish was, evidently, mistake number four.

By that point, it was a little after noon. I decided to run to the new house, dig through my boxes of old school crap, and find a copy of my final transcript from Vanderbilt. It was a pain in the ass, no doubt, but there was no way in hell I was going to waste at least two hours of my life taking a placement test to demonstrate that I can read when I have a bachelor's degree in English. While I was there, I would throw my work uniform, filthy after a grueling weekend of non-stop double shifts, into the washer. I was halfway through loading up the washer when I realized that the laundry detergent was nowhere to be seen.

It was there that I encountered my fifth mistake: believing that it's common sense to bring the laundry detergent with you when you move the washer and dryer from one house to another. According to Matt and his entourage, the very idea was just silly.

Off I went to a nearby grocery store to purchase a fresh box of detergent. I added it to the washer, and then I threw my giant pile of dirty stuff back in. I then found my old transcript, put it in my bag, and headed back out to AB Tech.

This time, unfortunately, I found myself waiting in the lobby for over an hour. I finished the leg on my sock and pretty much all of the heel flap while I was waiting. Finally, my number came up again and I found myself in the office of a different counselor. I explained my (apparently unique) situation and produced my transcript. The counselor scanned it briefly, then said, "I don't see any introduction to writing classes."

Mistake number six: hoping that a BA in English from one of the best universities in the country would constitute sufficient proof of literacy to bureaucrats at the local community college.

"I tested out of it. You can see where I took advanced writing, though," I responded.

"Well, I guess that'll do. I'll go make a copy," she said, and headed out the door. Once she got back, she signed me up for the class I needed, and I went back home... discover mistake number seven of the day: I'd accidentally thrown the white towels I'd used to clean the walls of my office in with my black work uniform. End result? Said uniform was coated in a thick layer of white fuzz. I'd have to wash it again, which meant being late to work-- and despite that second washing, I still had to borrow the lint roller.

The only upside to that day was that I got quite a bit of sock done. It's a basic sock pattern using self-striping yarn. I've never used Trekking XXL (color 801) before, but I quite like it. I can tell by the way that it's knitting up that the socks will wear like iron and the colors won't fade. They're pretty damn bright, though, what many of my knitting friends would refer to as "clown barf." I like 'em, though. They're cheerful.


  1. If the picture I found on google is correct, seems like pretty color for socks! Sorry to hear about the trouble you went through, how crazy! You would assume that a degree would be enough but... well... I worked as a TA marking papers for some time in university. Scary.

  2. The whole thing was more than a little ridiculous!

  3. Never, ever, assume that anyone who has an ounce of control over your day is actually in a position to make rational decisions or to give a shit if you are inconvenienced!