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..”