One of my favorite films is "Election". Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, an overachieving high school senior bent on success at all costs, sitting in the front row of every class with hand shooting like an arrow into the air every two minutes, annoyingly knowing the correct answer to every question.
My inner Tracy Flick was brought to the surface yesterday when I went to sign up for French lessons. I asked if I could take the placement test and something in me came alive as I was handed a blank test and shown to the testing room. My stomach immediately calmed, my nerves were quelled and my mind suddenly focused with the single thought...YOU WILL ACE THIS TEST. YOU WILL DO BETTER THAN ANYONE HAS EVER ACHIEVED ON THIS TEST, PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE. IT'S GO TIME!"
I have aced tests my whole life and this would not be an exception. Confidently marching past the other testers, feeling sorry for them because I was about to outdo ALL of them, I sat down at a table and opened the test. OK, name. Easy. Date of birth. Even easier. Passport number. "CHILD'S PLAY", I think as I roll my eyes.
SECTION A: Reading comprehension
Some dumb multiple choice questions about a hotel room and the cost.
"DUH", I snort to myself. Check B, C, A. Done.
SECTION B: Verb conjugation.
Hmmmm, usually I just speak in the present tense with either "yesterday" or "tomorrow" attached. I suddenly remember that I don't actually know French, quickly scan rest of test and realize that this might be a little harder than I thought. Palms starting to sweat, I nervously dart my eyes back and forth as I see my A+ quickly falling to a B, then a C, and a possible dreaded D-. NOOOOOOOOO, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
And then I hear it. A beeping and clicking sound coming from behind me. I turn around to see another tester looking up words on a portable electronic translator.
I AM ENGULFED WITH RAAAAGE. THERE IS A CHEATER RIGHT BEHIND ME. A FULL BLOWN CHEATER! My eyes bulge out of my head as I drill a look of death into his skull but he doesn't even notice me as he is too busy cheating his way to the top. Conveniently forgetting all about my own test, I am now dead set on bringing justice to the world and outing this blatant cheater for exactly what he is. A LYING AND CONNIVING SCUM OF THE EARTH WHO IS TRYING TO STEAL MY GLORY. BY CHEATING! I sigh loudly and audibly while tapping my pen on the desk and staring at the electronic translator. Nothing. I clear my throat and shift myself further around to look him directly in the face. Nothing. I angrily try and catch an administrator's eye so I can motion to them that there is a traitor and a thief amongst us. Nothing. They are too busy laughing about something in French. Damnit, if ONLY I knew French!
I now know it is my duty and it is up to me alone to deliver a swift and harsh punishment on this empty shell of a student. I look him in the eye and I say quietly but firmly "Excuse me but this is a TEST." Expecting some sort of recognition from him, I am shocked when he simply laughs quietly and goes right back to cheating.
BEEP BEEP, CLICK CLICK, BEEP BEEP.
I wheel around again and say louder.."This is a TEST, you are NOT supposed be looking up WORDS on THAT THING." This time he looks at me with utter disdain as if I were an aggressive fly annoying HIM and then he goes RIGHT BACK TO IT. I suddenly hate him and the world. LIFE IS SO UNFAIR!!!
I turn back to my own test, grudgingly accept defeat and try desperately to remember the Latin roots of the gibberish in front of me. Thankfully there is a creative writing section where I could really shine, as I write a pretend letter to friend filled with misspelled lies and wrongly conjugated tales of the glorious Parisian winter sun. I am suddenly reminded of my science class in college on earthquakes where I asked the professor if I could do a dramatic interpretation of an earthquake victim instead of actually taking the mid-term. He said no and looked at me like I had flown into class from Mars.
As my administrator marked up my test with giant red lines, I died a million silent deaths inside. But she laughed at my ironic letter and proceeded to place me in the advanced beginner class. As I left, I shot a last nasty look at BEEP BEEP CHEATER and memorized his face so I could knock his books out of his hands the next time I see him in the cafeteria.