Lesson #K-1: How to properly fail the CPA Exam

As I walked in the front door of the testing center, I already knew it was a bad idea.  But, I couldn’t really back out now.  There was six hundred dollars on the line.  This was quite a large sum of money for a recent college graduate.  After checking in at the front desk, I was escorted to a computer workstation right next to a 5th floor window.  I purposely kept my head down to avoid looking out the nearby window.  I needed to concentrate.  I had spent the last 4 years of my life in college preparing to take this one exam.

The CPA exam had a reputation of being incredibly difficult and that reputation is well-deserved.  In previous years, the exam was 19.5 hours long and spread over a 3 day period.  When I applied, the exam structure had recently changed and now allowed testers to take each section separately on different days.  So, I completed the test application choosing to take Taxation and Auditing on the same day.  I included the required check for six hundred dollars and mailed it in.  I received my confirmation and testing date shortly after.

Once the exam began, I quickly realized just how bad of a decision I had made.  Where in the hell are these questions even coming from?  I’ve never even heard of half this shit.  Why can’t I just concentrate?  The last 4 years of my life flashed before my eyes: countless college courses, exam review classes, hours spent studying and then answering hundreds of sample exam questions weren’t really going to help me at this point.  I was going to fail this exam on an epic proportion.  Actually, I already knew it when I walked in the front door.

As I sat back in my chair, the only thought going through my mind was why couldn’t they have just re-scheduled this shit?  There’s so much I still have to do.  I have to pack, get cash, get gas, organize files, backup all data, take a shower, go to the pharmacy, get food, contact family and friends, make hotel reservations, possibly sleep and about 20 other things that I needed to get done in the next 8-10 hours.  Shit, fuck, shit.

As I slowly turned my head towards the 5th floor window my heart sank.  One side of the interstate was bumper to bumper traffic and not even moving.  The other side was empty.  There was nothing.  Not one car.  It had been closed by city officials hours ago.

It was Saturday, August 27th, 2005 and Hurricane Katrina was a massive Category 3 hurricane gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico.  The storm was predicted to increase to a Category 4 (130mph-156mph sustained winds) or possible Category 5 (over 157mph sustained winds).  The forecasted track had recently been updated and Hurricane Katrina was now predicted to make landfall at or near New Orleans, LA in about 36 hours.  Mandatory evacuations had been issued.  The state of Louisiana was now under a State of Emergency.

As the entire Gulf Coast was preparing for Category 4 or possible Category 5 hurricane conditions, here I was sitting in a testing center located in the city of New Orleans staring at the fucking ceiling.  How am I supposed to finish this?  I can’t even concentrate.  Plus, I still had over 3 hours to go.

Something out of the window suddenly caught my attention below.  There were trucks driving on the closed side of the interstate.  Oh look, how wonderful.  The United States Military had arrived.  This is so completely ridiculous.  I did the only rational thing I could think of:  I quickly answered “C” for every multiple choice question.  Once I finally got to the essay portion of the exam, I quickly typed: Hurricane Katrina – Government issued evacuations have been ordered.  Kindly request an opportunity to re-schedule exam.  I appreciate your understanding.

Nine hours later, in the very early morning hours of August 28, we were finally all packed up and sitting in the parking lot previously known as Interstate 10 on our way out of town with the rest of the Gulf Coast.  Needless to say, it was a very long trip.

As we approached the city, it resembled a mix between the desert and a 3rd world country.  The closer we got to the city, the worse it became.  But, we were way too excited to feel sad.  We were finally going home!!  After we finished unpacking the car, I checked the mailbox.  Mail delivery had just resumed a few days earlier.  In between bank statements and junk mail sat an envelope with my CPA exam test results.  I now had written confirmation of my failure.  Even though I already knew I had failed, it still hurt just a little bit.  After reading over my test results I noticed there was an official form attached allowing me to re-schedule both tests at no charge.  A huge smile spread across my face.  I then started to giggle which led to a full-blown laughing fit.

It was just a test.  Nothing more than a collection of random questions entered into a computer.  I was finally home!  My family and friends were slowly returning home.  Everyone was alive, healthy and safe.  Testing results were the last thing on earth I was worried about at the moment.  I was just happy to be alive and surrounded by family and friends.  The city may have looked like a disaster zone, but I was finally home.  That’s all that really mattered.

While putting the envelope on my desk I noticed the postmark: October 9, 2005.  This letter had been mailed only two days ago and I have already received it.  Mail service is finally back!!  As I looked over at my calendar I immediately started counting the days since we left.

6 weeks or 45 Days, to be exact.  We were kicked out of our city, homes and jobs for 6 weeks. Those were the longest and hardest weeks of my life.

But, we finally made it! And, my only thought at that point was “There truly is no place like home..”

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17 Replies to “Lesson #K-1: How to properly fail the CPA Exam”

  1. mharris127

    Lacey, going through Katrina in 2005 must have been a horrible experience even though you and your family were smart enough to get out of town before the storm arrived. Being forced to botch your CPA exam in order to have time to get out of town only added to your misery. Be glad you got out, there were at least a couple hundred thousand that did not and were flooded and forced to wait on their roofs for rescue, wait in the hellhole that the local sports arena became or even killed due to drowning and looting (we will probably never know the true death toll from Katrina but I would guess it is at least one hundred thousand, easily making 9/11/01 look like a cakewalk). I will probably never forget seeing the news reports on CNN after the levees gave way and allowed almost the whole area to flood. That is an experience I hope to never live through myself.

    However, now that Katrina is long past someday I hope to get to New Orleans and eat some gumbo, jambalaya and alligator. I don’t drink alcohol anymore but I would probably make an exception if I ever get to Mardi Gras.

  2. Lacey Blake

    @mharris –
    You know THAT sports arena, the Superdome, was NEVER supposed to be an evacuation location. The city actually made many announcements before the storm that the Superdome would NOT be opened. Residents were told to get out… and they should have gotten their shit and got the fuck out… (Sorry, that shit pisses me off horribly) Hurricane evacuations are no game. If the city and state, literally, kick you out there’s a really good fucking reason and the reason is what you saw play out on TV.

    No one mentions the fact that the city provided buses to evacuate the sick and elderly before the storm. People had a chance to leave if they had no car or required medical assistance.

    What happens then is as the hurricane gets stronger, people freak out and don’t want to stay, but they don’t know where to go… so they just show up at the Superdome expecting to get let in… As I said before, the Superdome was NEVER supposed to be used as an evacuation center. They explained this several times and the reasons why: if the city is going to open up a sports arena to evacuees then they would need food, water, law enforcement, medical personnel, medical equipment, fire services, bathroom facilities, janitors, cooks, cleaners, people who know how to “operate” the entire arena, places to sleep and the list goes on and on and on….

    We’re not talking about a sleepover here… a storm with “sustained” 150mph winds that actually ripped part of the superdome roof off are not something to fuck around with… You had rival gang members, drug dealers, child molesters, criminals, rapists mixed in with everyone else…. a living fucking nightmare. The city knew this which is why they basically said “get the fuck out, we’re not opening evacuation centers, there are buses to take the sick & elderly or anyone who is not physically able to leave out of town.
    Other than that… get the fuck out.
    And they had every right to do so… it’s not the governments job to ensure your safety 24/7. During natural disasters *sometimes* you actually have to take care of yourself.

    Anyway, THIS is why the sports arena became a hell hole. Basically, enough people showed up there (in the thousands) and stood around outside the doors until the city had no choice but to let them in… remember, there were barely any personnel, law enforcement, medics or even that many supplies available to handle that many people. Because they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place!!!!

    Fucking pisses me off… I had numerous friends in various police depts. who stayed for the storm to protect the city and worked their fucking asses off for DAYS because just by those individuals staying put added pressure on police, fire and medical. It was just a complete clusterfuck of epic proportions.

    The city can issue “mandatory evacuations” meaning you must leave the area immediately. The city cannot FORCE you to leave. Anyone who’s lived on the Gulf Coast for any period of time during hurricane season should know this… I actually had a few people I knew who DID stay during Katrina, but they knew the drill all too well…
    During hurricane conditions:
    1.You’re basically under “Marshall Law.” You better have guns and ammunition and be perfectly willing to kill someone to protect yourself and your property.
    2. There will be no access to police, fire or medical services. NONE.
    3. You will almost certainly have no electricity, A/C, internet, phone service, etc.
    4. There will almost certainly be flooding (anywhere from say 1ft. to, as you saw, 8-9ft.
    5. You better have something to break your roof, if need to be. That water can rise in the matter of minutes depending on where you are or, as you saw, if a levee fails or a body of water “tops” the levees (meaning the storm surge gets so high that the rivers, lakes, etc. will pour over the top and into “the bowl” of New Orleans proper and surrounding areas)
    6. If the water rises, you break through the roof and hope the water doesn’t get high enough to cover your whole house… (You must also remember that it’s water… you now have electrical wires, gas wells, oil, chemicals, animals, bugs and a ton of other shit all in that water.)
    7. You better have enough food and water to last you because water service to your home can be shut off as well as gas.
    8. Trees will be uprooted, windows will be blown out of something will crash into them to break them, a regular stop sign will become something that could very easily kill you..

    I’ll stop there because I could make a list up to 50 if I tried. There are so many things to consider.., but you’ll always have the hard core defenders who choose to stay knowing all of these rules very well… and not one of them were in the Superdome.

    Ever since I was little my parents used to tell me that for major hurricanes, you need to write your name and date of birth in black permanent marker on both arms in case of death. It always scared the hell out of me and as I got older, I honestly thought they were just trying to scare me. Katrina was the first time I ever heard the government recommend the “black marker” precaution. Severe hurricanes are nothing to take lightly. A category 1 or possibly a 2 is bad, but could possibly be manageable… anything above a Category 2 and I’m fucking leaving…

    Although, I have to admit that I’m a huge pussy when it comes to going through an actual hurricane. They’re not quick like a tornado. It’s these sustained winds that howl and never stop for HOURS… it could drive you insane. This means that if I’m staying for any kind of storm there will be mixture of drugs and alcohol somewhere close… haha. 🙂

    Damn, that was long.. sorry.

  3. Lacey Blake

    Oh, and I couldn’t live without gumbo or Jambalaya, but the alligator I could do without… lol.
    The “Mardi Gras season” just began. You still have about 2 weeks to get down here… hahahaha…. 🙂

  4. LurkingReader

    Again your attention to details paints a literal picture.

    a few weeks ago we were in NOLA for the first time and it brought chills up my spine approaching the Dome and the raised bridge we’d seen so many times on the news.

    Growing up in NJ we had a few ugly storms but mostly it taught me to love the angry ocean. Even Gloria on Cape Cod was ‘cool’ seeing mattresses and debris fly.

    Moving to Florida we took storm prep for granted, even storing custom window covers for the ‘next time’ but still weren’t too scared…until six or seven hours into holding our terrified children barricaded in the laundry room…then I knew the grown ups weren’t so crazy after all with the sharpie markers by the candles. BTW in 15 years the worst we had was a 1″ scratch on soffit when a tree fell during the Storm of the Century in 1994? and sold that house 8 months before the roof blew off landing in neighbors pool and glass roof in MB shower imploded in 2004.

  5. laura

    I was in Baja CA., 8 months pregnant, in a tiny fishing village when Hurricane Nora (Category 4) hit shore….scared me to death…evacuated behind the only government built building (Thank God)….My water heater burst while sleeping and flooded my whole house the night the Katrina Levees failed….spent the week watching news coverage from my hotel room…really feeling for everyone and relating in my small way….

  6. Lacey Blake

    All I can remember from previous years were Cat. 1, possibly a small Cat. 2 and my friends and I would go play in the rain outside, ripping the shit out of umbrellas (as if an umbrella was actually going to save us or something? lol) and then run around the neighborhood. .. high school kids are so fucking stupid…. 😀

  7. Lacey Blake

    Hell yes!! We’re actually talking about meeting up in NOLA at Internext, an adult trade show of some sort.. at end of May… you’re more than welcome to join us for dinner and stuff… NOLA is a fun little place!

  8. LurkingReader

    🙁 its not looking good with 30th Wedding anniversary June 2nd unless we plan something the following weekend to say we really made it lol.

  9. mharris127

    I can’t make it this year but hopefully someday I will get to Mardi Gras. I have friends that have been there and they all say it is a fun time. Enjoy the festivities yourself, though and may you be safe and sound while you are doing so.

    As for the hurricanes, if I lived down there I would get the fuck out of town whenever one was forecast to hit the area I was in (after boarding the windows and shutting off the gas and electric of course). Fortunately the last hurricane to hit Michigan was in 1946 so it doesn’t happen very often here. We have to worry about blizzards and torrential rain but no hurricanes here (in fact we are expecting heavy rain followed by cold temps and snow starting tomorrow and into the next day).

  10. mharris127

    Yup. Astute observation. I don’t remember anything but certainly heard about it many times over and read a National Geographic in the late 70’s with the route that storm took into the state. We also had a really bad storm in 1956 that caused a tornado to strike very near my grandmother’s house (fortunately no damage was done to her home) but from what I remember that was not from a hurricane. Fortunately my parents lived in another town so our home wasn’t affected either.

    BTW how did you get my first name? I don’t recall using it on a forum and don’t remember meeting a Hop Sing. Oh well, maybe the guy that thought I was Michael Whiteacre (a porn producer and pro-porn speaker) will see this comment and believe me when I said I am not. My name is probably easy enough to find on Google anyway, I really did not make an attempt to hide it (although there is another Matt Harris living in my county.that is much younger than I which causes confusion at the pharmacy and doctor’s office when I pick up a prescription/show up for an appointment).

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