I just woke up from a dream that took me back to college and high school days. The dreaded standardized testing was about to take place.
There were hundreds of us students in a large gymnasium. It was not a specific gym that I recall because it was larger than any gym I have been in. There were rows and rows of desks. Sitting at those desks were students, some I recognized from college, some I recognized from high school, most filtered into the “generic crowd” that I didn’t know.
I was seated in the back row, only a few aisles from the right-hand wall. I spotted my now-wife (when was the dream’s setting?) across the room, a few aisles from the left-hand wall and also closer to the front.
Testing proctors, whom I did not recognize, were milling about up and down the row. They handed out booklets and golf pencils. I could tell this was going to be fun… I thought to myself if we were going to be taking a test I should turn off my phone, so I removed it from my pocket and began holding the button down to turn it off. The head proctor walked up to me and made snarky comments that my phone needed to be turned off, put away, and he had better not hear it. I stammered out an objection that I was doing just that already but he walked away.
At this point, those of us in the back two rows were rotated to face the left-hand wall so that the front/stage was to our right. The room actually had a little wing off to its side in the back-right corner and it was also filled with desks. Rotating the desks put all of us in the same row. The guy now in front of me had actually rotated his desk so that we were now facing each other. He was a guy from high school that I never really interacted with and had not thought about since. We exchanged a little small talk about how unpleasant this was going to be and that was it.
Along with our exam booklets and exams, we were also given a sewing needle with a piece of silver thread through it. While I was waiting for things, I used the thread and needle to sew up a small hole in the left knee of my jeans, leaving the thread and needle dangling from that spot after the hole was stitched closed.
The head proctor walked towards our newly formed rows and said “I have 10 full-size pencils with erasers here. Only 10. Who would like one?” Almost everybody in our row raised our hand since we were some of the few that could hear his offer. He looked around, saw me, and turned to walk the row back towards the front, handing out the full-size pencils as he went.
It was at this point that one of the assistants handed out pillows down the rows. Apparently, the exam would keep going until we completed it and we would sleep in the desks over night. My small school desk was filled with the pillow and beneath it the exam booklet, a scan tron, a scratch sheet of paper, and my golf pencil sat in the pencil indent. One benefit of being in the back row and rotated was that a cabinet was to my immediate left now, trapping me in the desk, but at least it provided a spot to put my pillow, I thought to myself.
I looked down at the exam booklet but don’t remember what I read. I noticed that as I leaned forward to read the booklet and certainly as I would sit to fill out the scantron, my shadow was cast over the top of the desk. The shadow was so dark that I could not read any of the text. I leaned forward and leaned back testing the shadow confirming that this test was going to be quite a miserable experience.
I was about to ask if something could be done about the lighting when another proctor assistant worked his way up our row. He dropped a handful of dry but mold-fuzz-covered vegetables on each of our desk. Right on top of the booklet and anything else on the desks. I was glad I had set my pillow aside. I looked down in disbelief and saw carrot slices and other vegetables covered with the white fuzz of mold. We were told we would need this for a part of the exam. Don’t worry! We were given a separate mold-fuzz-covered golf pencil for this part of the exam as well. I looked around in disbelief but only remember recognizing more people as I looked. They were happy, chatting with others around them and their experience didn’t seem as miserable as mine.
That is when I woke up and escaped the dream. I don’t know what it means but I certainly see a pattern of having the deck stacked against me. As an adult, I think I was at my breaking point and would have called BS on this ridiculous scenario. I’m conflict-avoidance, so it takes a lot to get me to complain and if this was as my younger, fall-in-line self, I may not have spoken up.