In Colorado, you need to first pass the practical. For mine, I. Practically. Died.
Ultimately, I felt as prepared as I could be, with a few questions I hoped would be answered. All I needed to do was drive into Denver, sit for the exam, check-in, pass it, and leave. Simple right? How much could go wrong?
The Drive to Denver
Technically, the exam wasn't held in Denver, but a smaller town outside of Denver equally as far to get to. The route to get there is currently under massive construction. The number of lanes and how many barriers are set up along them changes daily, and the number of pot holes and speed bumps is on a slow and steady incline. By the time I arrived, albeit about 45 minutes earlier than when I was supposed to be there, I was still stressed and could feel what I can only imagine was TMJ.
Sit for the Exam
The building the exam was held in was having some difficulties with their AC. The room that the exam was in was at least 100 degrees...which may be an exaggeration. As a desert rat, I was mostly okay with that. However, it meant that the door to the previous exam was left open, so I could see it all go down. Mind you, it was a hairstylist practical, so I wasn't cheating or gaining any valuable information I wouldn't have in normal circumstances. What developed from the situation was just excess perspiration and a little nausea.
Thank GOD there was a wonderful man there to distract me. He ran security on the exams, checking the security cameras for any cheaters, one of which he'd encountered earlier. Someone was trying to cheat for the written manicurist exam! The girl was using the provided scratch paper (strike one...who needs scratch paper for a manicurist exam?!) to hide a separate sheet she'd snuck in (strike two) to write down the exam's questions and presumably share with her friends later (strike three). She was obviously disqualified. I hope she really loved those friends.
Back to the gentleman though. I loved him because he distracted me from my fate with small talk, telling me about his day, the cheater, previous experiences, and anything else that seemed interesting to him. I'll never be able to thank him enough for distracting me, because what was yet to come was the most nerve-wracking thing yet.
Check-in was easy. I brought my two forms of ID (I actually brought three...just in case) and sat pleasantly for my photo, beaming with the smile I'd practiced in the mirror days prior. I'm not sure if the AC issues I mentioned earlier had an effect on the computers, but they were technologically not up for the tasks of the day. So the proctor took a quick picture before it malfunctioned...and this was the result.
The photo meant to signify my new career in the beauty industry comes out looking like a convict. Great.
Finally, it's time to take the exam. The hairstylists have come out, cried a little, postulated how they did, and wished me luck on mine. That's when it hit me. This group of 7 or so stylists had just finished their exam, and besides the security guy...I was the only one in the room.
I was literally the only nail tech student there to take the exam for the day! Bricks were shat.
At this point, the beads of sweat on my forehead turned into tiny running streams. But I didn't have much time to think about it as I was beckoned into the exam room.
I tried to make it lighthearted, mostly for myself, but also in a sorry attempt to shmooze the proctors. But it's not easy to shmooze SIX PROCTORS. Six women, monitoring your every...single...move. Six. They assured me that this wasn't routine, and that three of them were actually just there to shadow the others. As if that would make the extra three just disappear from my line of sight and it would be all peaches and god damn rainbows.
Then the test began. I asked my questions, to which they respectfully replied, in their scripted speech, something along the lines of "Sorry, you're shit out of luck and you should have learned this better." (I may be exaggerating the tone a bit.)
Then the test finished. In the blink of an eye, I was done. I'd performed a manicure, tip application, acrylic overlay, and acrylic overlay using a form, in the span of 60 minutes. I don't know how long it actually took, or how frequently I made mistakes, but if the whispers between the three shadows behind me was any indication, it was pretty often.
They excused me, and I melted into a pool of sweat and more sweat in the lobby of the exam area. I waited
I left, unfolded the note, and saw the word we all wait to see when we open our college admissions letters - "Congratulations". I'd passed! Amidst every cosmic attempt to sabotage me, the manicure gods smiled down upon me and gave me a passing grade.
It was at that point that I noticed my picture, and really had nothing left to do but laugh.