this relentless rain the day before thanksgiving was not making it easy for people to gather last minute ingredients. not that i'd risk going to market basket today, the craziest time of the year to be there. i did however make short trips to my local star market, to grab some tea and a bag of mussels, and then to return again for another bag when one bag didn't seem like it'd be enough. they only had 2 bags, i basically bought up all their mussels. each time i saw the line of people waiting outside of petsi's pie. a few days ago they were closed in order to make enough pies for today, probably their busiest day of the year. i also grabbed some beers, a 6-pack of munich franziskaner weissbier and a 6-pak of woodchuck hard cider harvest.
since i was basically stuck at home, i also had some time to clean the aquarium once again.
the other thing happening today was the ham radio license exam happening at MIT at 7:30pm. i'd been studying for the amateur extra the past few days, since monday night i've yet to fail a practice exam. i took the practice exam late last night, scored 44 out of 50 (need 37 or above to pass). this morning i took the practice test for the 16th time, passed 44 out of 50. and this afternoon i scored 47 out of 50, my best yet. i wasn't worried so much for myself as i was for my father. i knew he'd been studying, but i don't know if he's been taking the practice exams as well.
i got a ride back to belmont around 3:30pm. my parents had to come anyway to pick up all the flan i made. my father and i would leave for MIT in the evening. i looked up online where to find curbside parking, but also the location of a parking garage if we couldn't find any. i brought a bunch of quarters to feed the meter.
my father spent the next few remaining hours studying. we ate early, around 4pm, some instant noodle my mother had brought back from taiwan. i'd be so focused on the amateur extra exam, i haven't been paying much attention to the general class. in order to take the amateur extra, i first have to pass the general. so i took a general practice exam to refresh my memory. i scored 31 out of 35, a passing score is 26 or above. i thought i could do better, but at this point there was no need worry about it. in all the practice general exams i've taken, i've always passed.
my father and i left for MIT around 6pm. we wanted to get there early in case of traffic, but also to grab seats closer to the front of the classroom, since those people get to take the test first and leave first. we found metered parking on vassal street and grabbed the first one we saw. that turned out to be a mistake, as there was plenty of parking, and we could've parked even closer to the MIT entrance. i pumped the meter with quarters (free parking after 8pm) and we walked to MIT. it was cold and windy and i was freezing. later i saw even more parking directly in front of the MIT building. the day before thanksgiving nobody's around, i should've thought of that.
we got to the testing classroom at 6:30pm. there was nobody around, the classroom was dark, but the door was unlocked so we went inside and found seats. although the schedule said there'd be exams today, how realistic was it on the day before thanksgiving? what if it was cancelled and just we didn't know? i began to worry while my father continued to reviews the exam questions on his phone via the free MIT wifi. if it was cancelled, it'd give my father another month to study, and maybe even study for the general exam as well so he can double upgrade.
i looked outside and there was at least somebody else waiting. "are you here for the exam?" i asked. he was actually here for the commercial license exam, but administrated by the same people. so at least we weren't the only ones. a bit after 7pm one of the coordinators finally showed up, the same guy from last time. i thought he'd remember me but there was no sign of recognition.
as we approached 7:30pm, more people showed up. 3 young men for the technician ham radio license (same one my father was applying for), 2 for commercial licenses, and me for my general license (plus my amateur extra). coordinators showed up as well, including mitchell from last time and 2 other coordinators i didn't recognize.
we each took turns going up to the front of the class to submit our form, show our ID's, and pay the testing fee ($14). commercial license cost a bit more ($50) and there are more questions. one of the older guys was getting something called a "GROL" which i had no idea what that was. he was wearing the sort of cargo pants you'd see someone wear working either on boats or planes. the other commercial license person was a younger guy whom i actually saw last month. he tried to take the exam then but didn't have all his paperwork. not sure what kind of commercial license he was getting (some kind of element), but he wore a shirt that said "harbor islands captain" on the back, so probably a marine license.
my father and i sat next to each other; the test coordinator made him move several seats down to prevent cheating, although he did say, "not that you would." i went ahead with my general license exam. it was actually harder than i thought, and there were a few questions i'd never seen before. i began to get a little nervous. what if i don't pass this exam? all that wasted work i did studying for the next exam! i finished the test and passed it to the front table, anxiously waiting for them to tell me my score.
moments later they announced the result: i passed the general exam, 49 out of 50, just one question wrong. really? i could've sworn i got more wrong than that. i was tempted to ask them which one i got wrong, but decided against it. i had bigger goals in mind, and that was to pass the next and final exam, the amateur extra. they asked if i'd be interested in taking that exam. "sure," i answered casually, not revealing that was the main reason why i came here today. the general was the appetizer; the amateur extra was the main course.
i started my amateur extra exam while my father was still working on his technician exam. later from the corner of my eye i saw him submitting his test to the coordinators. the moment of truth! as for me, the amateur extra exam felt a lot easier than the general exam i just took. if i aced the general thinking i'd failed, i was sure to ace the amateur extra taking it with such confidence.
the coordinator called my father's name: congratulations. you passed the technician license exam with 3 wrong answers. i couldn't believe it! here i was thinking my father might fail the test and he passes 32 out of 35. they asked him if he wanted to try the general exam. he answered no. they insisted. he still said no. moments later they called my father's name again and gave him his certificate of passing. my father left to go outside, with me continuing with my exam. the amateur extra takes longer because instead of 35 questions there are 50 questions. in my practice exams, it normally takes at least 20 minutes to complete this test.
the two commercial license exam takers both passed their exams. they were given the option of continuing: one of them did, but the other didn't. one of the coordinators didn't blame him, as the next level of his exam was exponentially harder than the exam he just took. of the three young men who took the technician exam, 2 of them passed, but 1 didn't. i thought maybe he'd be given the option of retaking it, but the coordinator just told him, "better luck next time." ouch. the 2 other guys continued with the general exam. i don't know their final score as i was done before they announced it.
finally i finished and handed in the exam. i sat back and waited, pretty proud of myself. how many would i get wrong? one? two? zero? after a few minutes the coordinator told me my score, but not without first asking me whether i'd planned on taking the amateur extra. i confessed and said yes. "congratulations. you passed the amateur extra license exam with 6 wrong answers." despite passing, i was actually disappointed. 6 wrong answers? i was so sure i scored perfectly! but a pass is a pass, and moments later i'd get my passing certificate. i thanked the coordinators and left.
i found my father outside. i asked him how he passed the exam. even he was a little surprised. i told him one of the guys had failed his technician license exam. my father said he just got lucky, received an exam where he actually knew most of the questions, or at least had a shot at making an educated guess. buoyed by our shared success, we walked back to the car and my father gave me a ride home. by that point it was 9:30pm.