punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

The C Wall

Years ago, when I was about 11, I marvelled at the fact that it was so hard to get good grades in school. I used to chalk it up to the crappy home life I had, the fact I didn't do homework very much, and that I tended to ace through a lot of tests. Total GPA of high school? A mere 2.5, which is like a C .

This was to follow as an adult, however. Driving test? 80%, a C . My test to pass the technical requirements for my first tech support job? 80%. I failed the CCNA, and now the RHCE, but among the breakdown of my tests scores was 80% in the multiple choice quiz. I am not talking about about 80%, 80.00% on the nose. This should have stunned me, because that part was so easy. I mean, Jesus, I *knew* this stuff. It was like taking a test on identifying 20 common barnyard animals. But I knew some of my past, when my dyslexia didn't really read the question. I read one thing when it was asking another. For this test, I took it, and then went back and rechecked my answers, scrutinizing even the simplest of questions. Only a few of them were iffy, so I figured the worst I could get was 90% (based on how many questions the test had). But I still got 80%... Dammit! And they never tell you which ones you got wrong, either, because they don't want you giving out test questions.

Ever since I hit some 80% barrier in my adult life, I have often noticed that my life is also 80%. I mean, I don't really excel at anything. I do "a little better than average" on almost everything. This pisses me off, because I want to do something really well for a change. I often get frustrated when even the best plans, the best attempts fall far short of great achievement. Just a little better than average, like constantly getting the "Honorable mention" award at the science fair.

I am not in despair over not passing the exam, that's what you are thinking. I am bummed and depressed, yes, even frustrated and a little angry, but not wallowing in self-pity. I am sure most did not pass, judging from how people were reacting during the exam. A few didn't show in the morning at all (Ray being one of them, which ticked of my boss). In the beginning, you had to complete 4 basic exercises, and if you didn't pass them, you failed right then and there (although you could continue to take the test for experience purposes). Two people failed that. I think one was a little unfair in a general sense (i.e., not the fault of Red Hat), because she didn't speak English so well. I am sure it was VERY hard for her to go through the lessons. As the test got harder and harder (it's a lab "real world simulated" test with progressing difficulty), I heard the signs of frustration like a vocal grimace ("Just.. just... GNRRR! What the hell?"), as well as people sighing loudly, repeated system beeps of incorrect entries, and tapping commands HARD on the keyboards ("Tap tap tappity tappa tappa tap tap TAP TAP... TAP! [beep!] TAP TAP! [beep!] TAP TAP... TAP! GNRHH! [sigh]"). No one finished early. No people left for good during the lunch break, although our teacher said it's usually pretty common.

No, I am not in despair for two good reasons. One, I learned more about stuff I never would have before. I really did. I mean, my company paid for this, so I spent a week out of my office to really learn some kick-ass stuff. Not just Red Hat specific, but Linux in general. I think the pressure of the exam forced me to learn more than I would have ... ever! So that was good. Two, I got to know my boss a little more. He's a nice guy, and old school computer type who is one of the few people I can talk to who was there and a computer geek during the 1970s. I can mention stuff about punch cards, paper tape, herkle, wumpus, core memory, and the funny little cryptic commands we all had to learn to deal with the hardware back then. A majority of geeks I know are recent; they were either born in the 70s and even 80s, or during that era, didn't pay a scrap of attention to the computer world. Even though they might have owned a Commodore 64, they didn't do anything but play games on it. I am from a generation of mainframes, dumb terminals, and old 8-bit systems for personal computers. I recall a time when grocery stores priced everything by hand, and when the first grocery store in our area got UPC scanners, how half of the goods didn't even have UPC codes yet. So does my boss, and he used to TEACH this stuff back then. He's taught at George Mason University and worked with computers for the Navy. So I got to know him a little better, which was good.

So I guess I could say, I didn't get a 80%, I really got a 64.5%, and that's a D-, which isn't failing per se... and when you couple that with the other bonuses from the experience, I guess it's okay.

Still wish I'd passed...

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000169.html
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