However the Ecole de Conduite Française managed to lose all my confidence just as fast as they managed to win me over. It was right as I was punching in my debit card code that I learned that the classes start on the hour and that they don't let people walk in late. Seeing as how I get out of work at 6pm and it takes around 10 minutes to walk to the agency, I see this as sort of a problem. The secretary, we'll call her Ann, told me that I should try and walk faster. Nice. Great solution. I'll be sure to wear my New Balances on days I have to run to class.
Next she asked me if I would stay for the famous "examen blanc" or practice test that night. Seeing as how I had never even taken a class yet, the test seemed like a far reach, but I though eh, what the heck, I'll just observe.
I crammed into a tiny room with chairs all lined up in rows facing a big TV screen. The heat was blasting and I noticed a sign on the wall conveniently stating that the toilet was en panne - broken. Wonderful. I managed to sit in the seat directly in front of the heater that blasted the back of my neck and slowly but surely dried out my contact lenses causing me to blink profusively and feel strangely thirsty.
The girl sitting next to me explained that I needed to get a test paper at the front of the room which announced to everyone around me that this was my first time. Again, the fun never ends here. The kid in front and to my right who I learned was named Isam instantly turned around and in the snidest voice he could muster said - you've just made the biggest mistake of your life - enrolling here!
I tried to take it in stride, shot him a smile and said, "please don't say that, I just paid 300 euros for this class..."
But he persisted - "How long have you been here man?" he asked, addressing the vertically challenged kid next to me.
"Uhhhh, five months," he laughed.
"See," Isam told me, "you're screwed, hahahaha."
Needless to say, I kind of wanted to kick Isam in the teeth - but he did win some points in my book when he asked Christophe, our instructor, to turn off the heat.
My heart started racing as the DVD began - DVD 10, Test number 5.
As you can see, I stopped answering questions after number 12. I couldn't take the stress - something about priorité à droite and I just had to put the pen down. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't a big deal - my first day in class - give yourself a break! But the combination of Isam, the heat, the priorité question - ahhhh. How am I going to DO this??!
Then came the worst.
"Ok class," said Christophe, "end of the DVD, please send your test to the front." Then he proceeded to pass them out so that we could correct our "neighor's" test. WHA??? Oh god. I hid my half-done test in my notebook.
He got to the end of the tests but there wasn't enough for everyone..."OK, who didn't turn in their test?" he asked with raised eyebrows. I tried to flash him my sweetest "I'm a nice foreigner" face, told him it was my first time and somehow I got by without complete and utter embarrassment.
We corrected the questions one by one. Then all the tests were passed forward to Christophe again. Here is where my jaw dropped. Christophe started to call out the name of each student and his or her score:
Short Kid: 32 (followed by, oh la la, you really need to work on that!)
He went through all the tests, inspiring pride in some and complete and utter shame in others. This little charade convinced me that the examen blanc was not for me - not right away at least. I can't submit myself to this sort of humiliation right off the bat - it would ruin any spark of confidence I ever had.
And so - just to really drive the point home - why not call yourselves Everyone Can Fail! Because basically, isn't that what you're teaching kids here?