The whole thing would be funny if the need wasn’t so crushingly real.

I was at the Monterey Center for Employment, where my social worker sent me as I had to be working in order to be receiving aid. Of course nobody seemed to understand that if I *could* be working, I wouldn’t need the aid in the first place. At that time I was going to grad school full time and my husband D stayed home with the kids. It was impossible to support a family of four on student loans. 

So here I was, meeting with Ms. McKnight to take an aptitude test. What was I good at, anyway? Before guiding me to a glorious career of their choice, the social workers and career councelors had to figure this out. I cannot aptly describe my emotions as I entered the Center.

Ms. McKnight was kind enough to encourage me, saying that I will probably do quite well on the test. It began.

Starting with arithmetic and dwelling on algebra, it moved swiftly through trig and into calculus. Then followed grammar, writing, a personality test, and visual tests. I am ashamed to admit that I could not tell the difference between the three shades of red where I had to pick the darkest, and the sizes of the blocks I was supposed to stack all looked the same to me. And at the end came a mechanics test.

There was a block with bolts and nuts screwed on to them, and I was supposed to unscrew them all off one set of bolts and screw them onto the other set. The timer was set, Ms McKnight reassured me not to worry, and I began. I thought I was doing pretty durn well until my fingers slipped and a nut escaped my grip and fell to the floor, rolling far under the desk. I scrambled to grab it and get it back onto the bolt. The remainder of the test went uneventfully, although I wasn’t too deft with the hand-held hardware manipulator either.

A couple of weeks later I came back to receive and review the results of the test. I had just left a particularly envigorating class where we were simultaneously interpreting a UN speech on nuclear weapons reduction, so the stark difference in the surroundings was all the more poignant.

Ms McKnight called me in and announced, with great excitement, that I had done quite well on the test. Imagine that. Looking at your score, she went on, you could pretty much specialize in any field you’d like! This is really quite impressive. She was thrilled.

I took a closer look at all of the scores, and there was one part that I had scored on particularly low. The mechanics test. Ms McKnight tried to comfort me and say that that’s okay, it is quite tricky…

Yeah, I echoed her, I guess I just wasn’t meant to be a mechanic….

My only regret is that the profound sarcasm of that statement was lost on her.

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