Monday, July 7, 2014

What the Hell Just Happened?

It's a recent Saturday, on which I've scheduled my exam for the Security+ certificate. For those of you who don't know, Security+ is a certification that one knows Important Stuff<tm> in the IT security realm. It mostly certifies that you test well.  Employers like certifications but I have something better; years of IT experience, which counts for something.  In addition to certifications, I don't have a college degree (because I couldn't pass the drinking exams to get into college).

If you've never tried to get a certification before, it's a very interesting (read: tedious) process. First you have to figure out who gives the test. Then at what location. Then if you have the proper identification (drivers license, something else with your signature and the proper arrangement of blood vessels in your retina).  All of this pales in comparison with Paying for It.  Yes, folks, this cert was going to cost me three hundred dollars, pass or fail.  And this is the cheap cert.

In addition to the rigamarole surrounding signing up, you have an actual Code of Conduct, which largely states that you'll show up, not blow raspberries at other test-takers or make fart noises with your underarm.  Oh yeah, you have to show up at least fifteen minutes early for the test.

For locations, I had the choice of a Korean church and an airport.  Hmmm.... this was going to be tough.  Let's see, a church (I don't go into churches because I always set off the Anti-Christ Detector) or an airport (the classic scenario of the guy with A.D.D. trying to take a test at an airport with planes taking off and landing).  Perhaps because I like a challenge, I chose the airport.  Have I mentioned that I haven't taken a test since.... well... let's call it the eighties.

Stay with me here.... it was my wife's birthday so I told her I'd be getting the certification as a small present.  Off we went, way too early, to the airport.  It was a small airport, which I suppose was a good thing and we watched a few planes land and take off.  It was kind of a nice morning, watching planes. One landed with the insignia of another country on it.  Turns out it belonged to a doctor, who had two.

So it was getting kind of late and the doors were locked.  Another poor slob showed up and we waited together for our test.  Our fifteen minute window came and went.  Then our test time came and went.  We stared quizzically at each other.

Unfortunately,  the test-giver apparently did not have to show up fifteen minutes early.  Or at all.  We didn't entirely know what to do so we did what came naturally; we sat there.  It quickly became an emergency, as my wife was out of coffee (do not pass Dunkin Donuts coffee, do not collect $200).

All of the sudden, we heard a thundering sound.  Looking toward the airfield, we saw nothing.  Then we turned to the parking lot and a humongous vehicle approached, with all the thunder of a 747, and squealed mightily into a parking spot.  If this was Test Guy, he sure knew how to make an entrance. He very slowly got out of the leviathan and it became obvious he had a small problem with one of his legs. I loved that on the back of the truck was a bumper sticker that said, "Don't you feel silly about your Obama sticker now?"

And he was Test Guy.

He let us in, apologized, then started explaining why he was late, what kind of trouble he was having with his leg, which vertebrae were out in his back, how long he has suffered, how he got that way and that one nostril was physically larger than the other.  Not to mention how much of a dick his boss was.

I know this was going to be an interesting test experience.

We all gave up our first-born and blood vessels and marched quietly into the test area.  The test area was replete with some magnificent wood paneling, reminiscent of the 1970's.  In fact, the entire shack looked like my parents' house in 1970.  But it had cable.

There were about six test stations.  The first thing I noticed, superior Security Dood that I am, was that the computers were all running Windows XP.  I decided the better of explaining why this was not a good idea and Test Guy finished logging in.  The other guy taking a test was taking a financial test, which prompted a question from Test Guy about what we should do when the economic system falls in on itself.  The answer, of course, was guns and precious metals (I knew that, securing myself a friend for life).  Unfortunately, finance test-taker just stood there, dumbfounded.

So the test started and informed me I had some ridiculously large amount of time to complete it.  I allowed myself a virtual sneer, as I blew through all of my practice tests in minutes.  In fact, I took practice tests until my eyeballs fell out and threatened to phone the Eyeball Abuse Agency.  There was no way I was not going to pass that test.

Off I went to the first question.  Oddly enough, it was a strange question, both in subject matter and in the fact that I had to 'wire' and complete a wireless system for maximum security.  Also oddly was the fact that neither of these appeared in my study materials.  It was all multiple-choice.

The second question surprised me by also being something that didn't appear in my studies.  It was about this time that I started getting nervous.  Perhaps, I thought, it was just these two questions and I could blast through the other ones quickly.


Nervous was the order of the day.  As it turned out, very few, if any of the questions were in my study materials.  It appeared as if they had given me the wrong test (but I was hesitant to argue with Test Guy) and I figured I would see the test through and deal with the results later.

My many years in IT served me well, as there were things on the test of which I've never heard, as well as things I could answer.

I finished nervously but firm.  The test asked me if I wanted to review any of my answers.  Hell no - if I didn't have any idea the first time, what would be the point of proving that I didn't know it a second time?

I have to admit how difficult it was not to make fart noises with my underarms on the way out of the test area.  I may be an experienced IT guy but we're all still children when it comes to farts.

Test guy was very difficult to find.  I looked everywhere, including behind the paneling, yet he was not there.  Spotting an open door, I launched myself through it.  I wound up in a plane hangar and there was Test Guy.   In an accurate metaphor for the entire experience, he was smoking a cigarette under the NO SMOKING sign whilst examining a fire extinguisher for compliance.  I desperately wanted to take a picture but didn't think it was a good time.

I told him that the stuff on the test was not the stuff I studied.  He laughed and told me that nine out of ten test-takers said the same thing to him.

Alrighty then.

Test Guy performed whatever magic necessary to print out forms, make some copies, then complain about the government.  I watched the ancient printer eat up some paper and my heart sank.  Finally he gave me my results.  I wished him the best of health and left.

Wife was sitting there, watching planes and smoking like a chimney.  I was amazed that the airport didn't ask her to stop smoking, as she was violating local pollution ordinances. I walked out with lowered head and slow gait.  She looked concerned.  She asked.  I didn't meet her gaze but handed her the results.

Passing was 750 out of 900.  I got an 810.  I can now refer to myself as leftystrat, Sec+. I couldn't believe it and was numb.  IT Dood still has it after all these years!  Wife screamed and admitted she thought I blew it when she saw me.

I am such a total bastard.

Speaking of people who aren't bastards, Test Guy went outside for a ciggie and started talking to my wife about pain.  Wife gave him her Complete Course on pain control and some valuable tips.  I felt great that she reached out to him and hopefully he took some of it home with him.  It was a good day all around.


Since it was the wife's birthday, I had a short (and cheap) ride planned.  She knew not where; I just gave her directions.

Halfway there, I got a call from a coworker.  There was a serious problem with one of the systems and it needed to be shut down.  Many calls and emails later, I was no longer needed (thankfully).  I was not relishing having to work on my wife's birthday, although I would have.  We work 24/7/365 on our team. Gotta keep the railways moving.

As we got closer, I had to find ways to block signs advertising our destination.  This consisted of physicallly putting myself between her (she drove) and the signs, as well as distracting her with conversation.  Somehow I succeded.

As we pulled off at the exit and came around the corner, there was much screaming.  There on the left was a Waffle House.

Before you laugh hysterically at me and call me names (other than the normal ones), I beg your indulgence.  We tend to hit a hamfest (electronics flea market for radio) in Maryland a few times per year.  On the way down are three Waffle Houses.  In Philthydelphia, there are no Waffle Houses.  We discovered Waffle House on a trip to Arizona, so it has sentimental value.  It takes about three hours to make it to Waffle House in Maryland.

I went online and discovered a Waffle House about ninety minutes away, which is where I took her.  She was incredibly impressed at my efforts at personalizing her gift. The internal children were screaming WAFFLE HOUSE, WAFFLE HOUSE and everyone was excited.  They love to watch the hustle and bustle of Waffle House operations.

Waffle House has some famous hash browns that you can order with several toppings.  I order ham, onions and cheese but Waffle House has a different designation for this, along the lines of slashed, hashed and mashed (which, coincidentally, is how I like my women).

As things go in large chains, the food was absolutely predictable, whether or not you like it.

Our waitress was a really nice older lady.  The folks sitting next to us, however, were from New Yawk and just a little weird, in that old, retired person way.  Mrs. New Yawk had some meds to take, which started the couple and the waitress talking about people in their families who had died recently from heart attacks.

You're probably wondering how it is that I come upon this Neat Shit every time I leave the house. I can't even begin to explain it to you, largely as I don't understand it myself.  Let it just be my pain and your joy.

Mrs. Yawk was going on about how her relative died at fawty, bless him.  Waitress talked about her uncle, who died at sixty-six; way too young, bless him.  Husband complained that wife spent all of the money, as one would expect.

At this point I can't decide whether to show them my pre-digested breakfast or just laugh.  I decided on the latter, with special consideration as to how I was going to describe it on the blog.  These are the things I do for you, loyal readers.

Eventually the waitress got the Yawkers out of their seats and lavished us with her attention.  As it turned out, there wasn't a single word spoken about death, heart attacks or industrial food.  She was polite, gracious and one of the best waitresses we've ever had.  We tipped generously, as anyone should for this level of service.

People are different outside of Philthydelphia.  On the way out, after our gourmet meal, we noticed a lady starting at us.  Getting into the car, she ran after us and asked if the wife lost a ring.  She figured it was the wife, as the ring was Indian and the wife has rather a large collection of it on her person at all times (she's a lot of fun at airport checkpoints).  I was dumbfounded.


So it was a beautiful Saturday.  And my timing has to be applauded: when I went to work on Monday, I got laid off.


  1. Oh shit man! Please say the laid off part is a joke?

  2. I wish I could, my friend. Looking for a job after MANY years of employment is weird. I'm sure it will make for good stories :P

  3. I'm very sorry to hear that! Just went through it myself recently. It's never easy. Stay positive man. I won't mention prayers. How about I just say I'm rootin' for ya?
    With your credentials it shouldn't take too long.
    My sincere best wishes.
    (So much for commitment, loyalty, and tenure eh?)

  4. Thanks, Buf. Glad to hear you're past it. I'll be back to work shortly.