Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It’s official. The nightmare has begun…

What do I mean by “nightmare”? Let me tell you. I had to leave work early to start this great adventure and I took the toll road, towards Santiago Canyon Road, something I hardly ever do (because I know it was once someone’s habitat). As I approached the toll booths, I had to decided which one had a live person. I needed to go to the one with a live person because I didn’t know if I had enough change. One lane was empty; the other had a car going through. The one with the car, I thought, had the live person.

…. Um, no.

I pulled up to a meter. The empty one had the live person!

So, I though I'd just reverse and go in that lane. But, just then, someone pulled up behind me. I stood up beside my car and motioned him back but he was too busy listening to something on the radio or whatever. Then, someone pulled up behind him and started to honk, impatiently. Of course. So, I dug through my money and, thankfully, was able to find change.

The whole day was like that.

I was going to Cal State Fullerton to apply for school, something I’d been working on online for months, but nobody had told me that online was absolutely useless. I had to start by getting (yet another) copy of my transcripts from Santiago Canyon College. That wasn’t too hard – easy parking, no lines – but once I got to the counter, the woman started having some kind of breakdown. She’d print on the wrong paper – rip it up – print the wrong thing – rip it up – print on the wrong printer – rip it up… so it took a while. Finally, she had a printout and asked me to check it. “Is it right? Is it right?” she kept asking. I certainly hoped so!

So, off I went to Cal State Fullerton. When I’d called, I was told where to park and where to register. If you imagine the school as a rectangle, I went to one side. One whole side was parking and I was told that was “pay parking” (as opposed to “sticker parking”). Okay, I thought. I’m happy to pay.

… but there were no places to pay.

When I finally found a security guard, he told me, “Yeah, you have to go to the parking building and get a ticket so you can park.” Then, he proceeded to tell me how far inside the campus it was.

“Wouldn’t I have to park my car to get there?” I asked. He didn’t seem to understand my dilemma. So, I went to the drive-up visitor center, which was on the adjacent side of the rectangle, right beside the building where registration was taking place. “Where can I park to register?” I asked. The gent told me about a parking structure on the opposite side of the campus. “But I’m registering right there.” I pointed as I told him, “right there.” “Can’t I park somewhere closer?” He seemed to get it and told me about another parking structure on the next, adjacent side. Okay. So, I drove around to the next side of the campus.

I’d been told that you pay to park at machines but, after circling the structure several times, I could find no machines. And nobody would help me. And, on top of everything else, there were no exit signs! I couldn’t even exit! When someone finally did steer me to the single machine located well outside of the structure, I began to realize I was in for a horrible day.

My first hike was to Admissions. When I walked in, armed with my transcript, I waited in a very short line. The person before me was leaning over the counter to speak with the single person working. Did I mention that I had to be registered yesterday? And that I only found out because the school botched their online admissions? So, I was a tad impatient. The young, asian girl behind the counter kept saying, “But you can alway drop it later. You don’t have to drop it now. I don’t want do that now.” On and on.

Finally, he left – with her phone number, from the looks of it – and I walked up. I explained how many times they’d lost my transcripts online and how I was hand-delivering them.

“You wait until processing to register,” she told me.

“How long will that take?”

“Two to four day.”

“But I’m entering as a junior. This is my only day to register.”

“Oh,” she said. She considered the sealed envelope like her own personal cross. “You do it today, then.”

Now, I had called the school to find out what classes I needed to take (which first, second, and third, for instance) and had been told I’d need to meet with a Department Head to get that information. My Department was Philosophy. I asked the girl, “Where’s the Philosophy department?” I told her why I wanted to go there.

“You want Admission Advisemen. You might not have all your GE.”

GE was General Education. I was almost positive I had my GE, so I told her that. But she was insistent. “You need GE. You go there first.”

“Fine,” I said with a sigh. “where is it?”

“You,” she said. “H-134.”

I thought her speech was just poor. “I should go to H-134?”

“No,” she explained. “You,” she pointed at me. “H-134.”

Maybe I was hearing her wrong. “A-134?”

No!” Now, she was yelling. She even stood up a little. “You.” Again, she pointed at me. “H-134!” She was pausing so much between saying “You” and saying the number, I almost burst out laughing when she wrote in big, bold letters “UH-134” on a piece of paper and pointed. Now, I realized she was pointing behind me. I looked at the building behind me.

“Is that building UH?” I asked.

“No,” she corrected.

I looked at the building next to it. “Is that it?”

“Yes.” Apparently, now I got it – though she had been pointing the other way.

I probably should have expected it. What I didn’t expect was leaving the building, only to find that UH had a fence around it. I started following the fence as it went around and around… Someone left a gate and I asked, “Does this fence encompass the entire building?”

He thought for a minute. “No.”

“Where does it end?” I asked.

“Follow it,” he said. Helpful.

But, yet, it did end. I found UH-134 and it was filled with people in an immense waiting room. “The wait is one hour,” the receptionist told me. Of course, it was. So, I waited. An hour later, sure enough, my name was called, “Kim La Lalle? Le Lelle?” I explained to the poor woman (who had to read my writing) that I just wanted to find out what classes to take. She said, “Well, I can tell you that from your transcripts. Can I see them?”

Patience, Ken. Breathe. “I just gave them to admissions,” I explained.

“Okay,” she said, still expecting something.

I said, “I’ve entered them manually online and had another set sent to you previously, in addition to the one I just provided. Isn’t that enough?”

At this point, she got sore and just started asking me questions. “Did you ever take math? Did you ever take English?” And then, she tried to surmise what I needed.

The way I figure it, they’re bound to enter my transcripts into the system one of these days…

Finally, when we were finished, I asked her where the Philosophy Department was. She said, “Sure. H-421.”

I nearly hit her. “Excuse me?”

“H-421. That’s the Humanities building. You just go out this door, take a right and it’s the first building on your right. You can’t miss it.”

I didn’t believe her for a second. I went out the door. I took a right. There were no buildings ahead of me, no buildings to my right. I turned around and saw an older woman smoking. “Excuse me?” I asked. “Could you tell me where I can find the Humanities building?”

“It’s right there,” she said, pointing straight across from the exit I just took.

“Thank you,” I said, deciding I’d had enough. “And can you do me one more favor?”


“If I give you a dollar, can you give me a cigarette?”

After the smoke, I ascended to H-421. Well, I ascended to the fourth floor. There was no H-421. I found a janitor and asked him but he didn’t know where it was. “I think it’s in H-314,” he said.

Okay…. Off I went. But H-314 was the Latino-Studies Department. And it was closed. I tried not to go crazy. I went back to the elevator and, miracle of miracles, saw the directory. There it was: Philosophy H-211. Down I went. But that was the business office. I was told to go back up to the third floor to H-315 (which was on the opposite side of the building from H-314) but assured that no Department Heads were there. They had all gone home, I was told. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I went to H-315…

… and it was empty.

And I turned around to leave, opened the door, and nearly ran over the Department Head.

It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

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