For Part 1, click here.
Soon the college-bound kid and I began phase two. A fresh stack of papers imprinted with “Johnson O’Connor Foundation” sat on our desks. We put on our headphones. An image would appear on the screen for a moment then disappear. After twelve seconds we would hear a sound, at which point we would turn over the first sheet of paper and connect the dots to recreate the image we had seen moments earlier. The image appeared and was gone. I tried to imprint the schematic to memory; what quadrant the shapes and lines were in, the points of intersection, and any other distinctive characteristics that would make it easy to recall. Twelve seconds passed and the notification sounded. I had forgotten the image. I turned over the paper and connected the dots. The instructions said each correct line counted. Maybe I’d get lucky.
While waiting for the next drawing I flipped through the empty pages. To my horror there were nine more sheets. I felt just like my vandal counterpart; “F*$k this test”. The temptation to turn over every sheet and scribble something before seeing the images nearly overtook me.
Any pride accrued during the earlier tests evaporated during the number memorization assessment. The goal was to remember eight numbers, each six digits long. One moment the numbers would be there, the next they’d be gone. Like the “Silograms” test we would have several opportunities to show improvement. And like the image memory each round produced more frustration, though I made slight improvement by the end.
Another quick break and I was brought into another office by the petite blond from that morning. “Some people have a desire to use their physical strength. They aren’t satisfied unless they are doing something, whether it be moving or some form of manual labor.” She handed me what looked like a miniature Speak-n-Spell and asked me to hold it to my side. “Grip as hard as you can.” I wasn’t sure what the score was but felt confident the results would show manual labor wasn’t in the cards.
I sat down while the administrator said the next test was word association. She peppered me with random words to which I replied quickly, like a match of table tennis with words. When she said “ham” I said “water” because of the“Arrested Development” gag about Lindsay’s boiling a ham in water and serving a dish she called Hot Ham Water. “I must seem like a fool to this woman” I thought.
When word association was done the administrator explained my next test. I would be looking at a series of six images. My job was to make a mark as quickly as possible (the mantra for all JOC tests) and move on to the next. There were ten or twelve rows per page and two pages. On the surface the tiny illustrations were random and disconnected. I had to find the connections and move on. Pen in hand and paper unfolded I scanned the first row. Mark. Mark. Mark. Next row. A duck, an umbrella, a pigeon, a mailbox, a pair of trousers, a blue jay. I quickly made a mark on each bird then moved on to the next row.
Once the sheet was complete the administrator clocked my time and reviewed the sheet. One row wrong. “This is great!” I thought. She produced another sheet. I heard Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in the “The Matrix” say “AGAIN” and “CAN’T YOU GO ANY FASTER THAN THAT?” Each new sheet was a little more difficult, the connections less obvious. Some rows sparked immediate recognition while others remained a mystery.
And then the wavy blocks appeared. The premise was simple; reassemble a puzzle with wavy connecting sides. I was told to close my eyes while the puzzle was dismantled. When I opened my eyes the four pieces sat before me. I grabbed two blocks and haphazardly shoved them together. Not a match. I flipped one block over and tried to put them together. Rinse and repeat. In a few minutes I had the puzzle completed. “Not too bad” I thought.
The administrator removed the puzzle and produced a larger one. Six pieces this time. This meant that the center blocks were wavy on three sides. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the block being taken apart and laid out in front of me. “Ok” the administrator said, “you can start.” It took longer than I’d anticipated but the task was complete in a few minutes. “Done” I said. The administrator clicked the stop-watch and removed the puzzle. I agonized as she produced another puzzle with more pieces. “Close your eyes” she said.
After an embarrassing amount of time I completed this puzzle only to be told “You’re going to repeat this one.” She must have anticipated my response because she said “This is part of the assessment. We always repeat this one.” I assumed this would be the last one. But when I completed it she returned the puzzle to its compartment and pulled out a larger one. My heart sank. I closed my eyes and waited until the puzzle was in pieces. A few minutes in and I had one section of the puzzle completed.
But then nothing else fit together. None of the pieces fit in any configuration. There were so many “inside” pieces, several were wavy on all sides. The possibilities seemed endless. The administrator sat patiently, writing something on the clipboard. Her grocery list…comments about how she was going to be stuck here because I couldn’t figure out the puzzle…or worse ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. I felt bad. Not for me, but the administrator.
Minutes later I stopped. I decided to forget the two pieces I’d managed to connect and took them apart. I looked carefully at the scattered wooden waves. Some sides were smooth. Some were well-worn, like they had been slid across a desk many times. Some sides had brown specks where the paint had chipped off. I noticed the sides and the number of curves in a piece. I noted how a piece ended. Was it flat or curved? The solution was to slow down and pay attention to all the information contained in the blocks. I worked. And worked. After what felt like twenty minutes the test was over. I had a complete block. “That’s it, you’re done” she said.
“We have one more assessment to complete. There are no right or wrong answers. Simply look at each page and mark which image you like more.” She opened a three-ring binder to the first page. On the right side was a large square with a hundred lines oriented horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. On the left side was another square with a half-dozen short lines all arranged neatly in one corner. “I’m going to leave the room. When you’re done just bring your test sheet with you to the front.” I flipped through the pages, glanced over the images, and circled my preference. The test ended as enigmatically as it had begun.
There was one final decision before leaving. What time would I return for my results the next day? The answer wasn’t obvious. Because earlier in the day I was asked who could come with me to the consultation meeting. “We find that having someone who knows you well can offer advice and help recall information provided in the meeting. You can also record the consultation if no one can come with you.”
“Can children be in the room?” I asked.
“Three” I said.
“That depends. If you think the child will not be a disruption to you then it’s fine.” the administrator said.
What were the chances Jenn would want to sit in a room for an hour to an hour and a half to listen to my test results while also entertaining Penelope. I called and asked would she be willing to come with me tomorrow. “If Penelope won’t sit still you can always go across the street to Lenox Mall.” I said. Jenn agreed. I set the appointment for 10:30 and walked out, anxious to know what the test would reveal about me.