Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Show Must Go On

I am a person who has been lucky to encounter very little disappointment in life. In general, my disappointments result from inordinately high expectations involving my own abilities, specifically where the ratio of work needed to achieve a desired result is concerned. Things are usually ridiculously easy for me without much effort at all. There are rare exceptions. Case in point: last Monday I fell short of the 70-point passing mark on my Level IV Wyoming Water Treatment Certification examination by 5 measly points. This is without a doubt because I didn't study.

I have an alarmingly short career attention span. Three years is all I can give pretty much anything, even things I like, and I like water treatment. A lot. But by the time I realized I could squeeze in a quick correspondence course -- which I finished the day before the deadline -- to earn the hours required to take my Level IV this spring instead of this fall or next year, I only had six weeks to study. And I found I couldn't. This spring I didn't care about much of anything, let alone van der Waals force or the Langelier index. I was too busy trying to work up the enthusiasm to stay alive.

And I figured that since last year's test was a cakewalk (I got an 85 without studying very hard at all), this year's couldn't be that bad. It's multiple choice. 100 questions. How bad could it be? It kicked my butt. But I found, after the initial shock and subsequent regret, that it didn't matter much. I've already moved on. My heart isn't in this anymore. I'm six months overdue for a new occupation, or at least a new location.

It's not like me not to finish important things. But I only needed a Level II to qualify for the next position up, to which I cannot advance for some time anyhow, and the III and IV were just things to achieve because, well, they were there. And I test well. ("A 65! That's a great score for your first time." How many people said that to me? Four? It was humiliating. But I deserved it.)

Bud didn't believe me. I called him from the cemetery in Rock Springs, sitting on Dad's granite headstone (one BIG disappointment in my life: my father's death at the age of 62 three years ago last month), catching faded polyester blossoms that rolled by like tumbleweeds on the wind and piling them on Grandma's headstone. "I flunked." "Bulls--t." "No, seriously. I got a 65." He'd had some wine already, so it took him a while, and his disbelief was gratifying. He was very kind and consoling. I don't think Bud's got it in him to reproach me even when I deserve it. I did tell him a few weeks ago I was having a hard time studying; "It's like nothing else will go in there." He was reading me Isaac Asimov Super Quizzes off the Internet, questions about theater and geography and World War II. He didn't seem concerned. He's retiring soon anyway.

And after I drove home, passing all the ponderous RVs swaying over the badlands, which look like the back side of the moon, I didn't think much about it all. The next day began with a crisis and continued with a conundrum, neither of which had to do with my failure, and my shame (which had never really been very strong to begin with) got lost in the muddle. T didn't have time to gloat, and in fact seemed genuinely sympathetic after he got over what was obviously genuine surprise.

Jeff I never worried about. He was the first one I called, and he could have said absolutely nothing and I still would have known that he was not disappointed in me. He had a hard enough time getting his Level IV twenty-some-odd years ago. The Sunday before the test, while I was cramming from the two-inch-thick Level II book, he said, "Let's take a walkabout, Ade." He said it just when my brain was about to explode. I must have been twisting my hair for all it was worth. He knows the signs.

So that's that, and I really hadn't thought about it again all week until I realized that I hadn't told you. So there you have it. If, God forbid, I'm not out of here by September, I'll take it again, and this time I'll be prepared. And in the meantime, on with the show.

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