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Emily Frankel. All rights reserved.

Karen- page 2
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There was already a line, a dozen bodies ahead of hers standing around, scratching, gabbing, checking watches. There were signs on the walls: RESTROOM, NO SMOKING. Some of the kids were smoking. Others were sitting cross-legged, heads bent over test preparation booklets. A pack of Kents was passed up and down the line. A boy in a two-piece tweed suit lit up. It was 11:26. No official, no ticket-taker was at the door marked 101.

karen_qyote2bMrs. K rooted in her purse, checking that she had the pencils, pencil sharpener, and driver's license with the photo ID. Eavesdropping on the what's the best law school discussion between the people behind her and in front of her, she re-read the instruction sheet that came with the ticket: "Seats will be assigned; number-2 pencils only; five 35 minute sections to the test; supervisor announces when to start and stop; no eating and drinking; break after section III."

...Should I go to the restroom? As Mrs. K asked herself that, a skinny girl with glasses who'd been visiting with friends up and down the line, turned to Mrs. K and said, "Wonder where the john is?"

Glad to be included, delighted to be able to do something, Mrs. K pointed to the sign. "I think the arrow means turn left—it's the 2nd door. I don't really need to go. I'll hold your place in the line."

The skinny girl said very distinctly, "I think this is the line for the 'L SATS."

"Yes." Mrs. K nodded, thinking that poor girl is more nervous than I am. The skinny girl said very politely, emphasizing each word: "I think the Senior Citizen Forum is on the second floor."

"Oh?" It took a second to figure out what the girl meant. Two heartbeats to muster a smile. Two more to hold up the ticket and prove that she belonged there.

The boy standing directly behind Mrs. K said, "Hey lady," and pointed. The line was moving toward an official-looking young man in white shirt, dark tie and pants who had appeared. Near the door, he'd set up a table with a sign-in sheet and inkpad for the required thumb print.

Mrs. K was ready for him. Handing him the ticket and photo ID, she was hotly ready to say, "Yes, I am taking the test," say it loud and clear and hit him with her social security number, show her passport if need be.

The official-looking young man said, "Last name 'Kaye.' First name 'Karen E.?' Right thumb please." He pressed her thumb on the inkpad, delivered it onto the ticket, and pressed it, made a print.

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