Rejected from McSweeney's: An Open Letter to a Prometric Test Center

May 4, 2014

Dear Suburban Prometric Test Center,

It’s me, an ARE candidate, who’s visited twice already and expects to be back at least 6 more times.* Let me say straight off that I do appreciate your convenient location near a major highway interchange, although the anonymous office park in which you are located is a bit confusing and makes you hard to find. And let’s be honest, getting to you at 4pm on a weekday can be extremely frustrating, what with crazy traffic, and having to leave work early, and your lack of nearby food choices when I’m going to be visiting you for at least 5 hours and would like to bring some dinner with me. (I’d come see you at a different time, but you never seem to have any other free time available.) But truly, your staff have been nothing if not pleasant while wanding me with the metal detector, and have been practically apologetic when asking me to lift up my pant legs & sleeves and to stick my hands in all my pockets (even in the tiny vestigial one that’s inside another pocket) to make sure I’m not cheating or something. You even have a water cooler that’s actually cold! Good on you!

So with that in mind, let’s come to the heart of the matter. As I mentioned, I’m here to see you to take the Architect Registration Exam. So let’s just say that I’m kind of into design. I’m not an interior designer or anything, but I know something about it. And in my humble, not-yet-licensed-to-practice-architecture opinion, you are the most depressing space inside of which I have ever had the misfortune to anticipate spending at least 45 hours. Your carpet is pocked and sad, your ceiling tiles are dingy, damaged, and sad, your furniture is sad, your lack of decoration is sad, and by extension, everyone inside of you is sad. The few tiny touches of charm that have been added are made unbearably sad by their juxtaposition with the rest of your space. I’m referring to the small canvases arranged on that one wall, the two vases of glass pebbles sitting on the entry shelf, and the two lamps. I know you think they’re helping, but they’re just sad. Without them, you might pull off “minimalist-chic.” With them, it’s merely “we refuse to spend money on any interior improvements-chic.” Your industrial lockers, bizarrely-full coat rack, and piles of empty water jugs from the water cooler do nothing to help. The saddest and strangest part of all is the rear end of the window-unit air conditioner that sticks into the lobby through the wall, facing some mysterious room beyond. Who thought it made sense to cool one room by heating another? What could possibly need a window AC unit in that room so badly as to warrant exhausting heat into the lobby? Why is a window unit installed in a wall in the first place? Did no one consider the noise that the unit would make, or the weird smells, or the fact that it’s a collision hazard (at head height) for people walking by, or that it’s just plain crazy weird? This is what I wonder as I sit on your Ikea chairs, next to your Ikea side tables, munching on gummy bears during my mandatory 15 minute break. The rest of the time I stare out your one window into the parking lot. Hey, at least it’s not a blank wall!

Let’s face it, Suburban Prometric Test Center. You are but one of 10,000, probably all of you outfitted exactly alike, that is, with the bare minimum of furniture necessary to accommodate a few staff members and a bunch of annoyed, nervous people waiting to take computerized tests. You think you have no need of humanizing touches like an unmarred coat of paint, or undamaged floors, or furniture that isn’t threadbare and falling apart. Perhaps you even think you are ensuring a testing environment free from distractions, cheating, and vulgar happiness. But what you are really doing is driving me crazy and making it impossible for me to focus on my exams. I am so busy wondering what kind of idiot installed that air conditioner that I cannot remember the answer to the arbitrary memorization questions I’m being asked. And the more tests I fail, the more I have to come back to retake, creating a vicious cycle. I pass over the suggestion that you are complicit in this cycle in order to extract more testing fees from me - for such a suggestion would be unsympathetic to you. But I digress.

So please, for the sake of all that is good, get some new carpet, and maybe new paint. Consider cheerful posters reminding us of the evils of cheating and of carrying items in one’s pocket-within-a-pocket(s). In fact, take the DMV as a model, with its plethora of signage, bad fonts, and poorly placed apostrophes. For you, my test center friend, fall far below even the DMV in your welcoming aspect and level of comfort. At least at the DMV I can amuse myself by looking for grammar errors on the copious signs. When visiting you, I can only recoil in horror at the many accessibility violations and hope that one day you will install a real trash can instead of the cardboard one you currently have. You know the one I mean, it’s the kind that’s used at outdoor events like tailgates. You can do better.

Suburban Prometric Test Center, I’ll be back. I’ll be back so often that you’ll get tired of seeing me, in fact. So before this gets between us and destroys our fragile friendship, please - please - renovate your space.


A Test Candidate

*In case you think I miscounted, I regret to announce that I have failed my first exam (well, it’s the second exam I’ve taken, the first I’ve failed) so I get to come back at least one extra time! Huzzah! Thanks, Obama.