Over the weekend, I was reeducated about what it means to be a true control freak. The key word there is "freak." As in one who is so over-the-top that it's very near impossible to consider that one human. I'm not even close to kidding.

As fortune would have it, I had to take the GRE on Saturday. I can't tell you how much of a privilege that was. I got to take it at a special testing center, believe it or not. (The one good thing I have to say is that it was on the computer, which is way better than having to fill in those dreadful bubble sheets.)

These days, testing is considered so important that you practically have to test naked to comply with all the regulations they have. You're not allowed to have anything in your pockets. You can't bring food. You can't bring a jacket just in case it gets cold (you have to wear it throughout the duration of the test or not wear it at all). You can't wear a digital watch. You can't even bring your own pencil or pen to write with.

But what takes the cake, I learned, was that you can't even bring your own tissues. I've been suffering a lot from allergies lately, and so naturally I've been carrying around some Kleenex brand tissues with me everywhere I go. I knew that the Test Nazis wouldn't like me digging in my pockets (they were scrutinizing my every move by way of the camera placed above my little work station), and so I did the only sensible thing I could: I removed the tissues from my pocket and placed them on the desk.

Clearly, I thought, having them in plain view would tell the people that I suffer from allergies, and that I was not, in any way, shape, or form, trying to cheat. But, as always seems the case when reason and common sense is involved, I thought wrong.

In the middle of my test, one of the "proctors" approached me, having spotted my little pile of new and used Kleenexes:

Him: You're not allowed to have your own tissues.

Me: You have got to be kidding me.

Him: Nope. If you need tissue, you have to ask us permission, and we'll let you use our own testing-approved tissues. Oh, and you're only allowed to have three of them.

Me: [Silent in utter disbelief.]

I mean really, what possible harm could come from my using my own tissues? And why on earth are you only allowed three? But it gets worse. After having put said tissues to use, I was not allowed to throw them away in normal trash can. Oh no, I had to place them in the tiny black bin approved for use by the testing center.

Naturally, my mind springs into action and thinks up possible scenarios for exactly why such ridiculous rules exist:

  • They think someone will shove the answers up their nose somehow, and they extract whatever medium it is they used by blowing their nose. Or using the tissue to pick their nose and pull it out.
  • They think mucous (a.k.a. snot) can be instrumental in telling answers to the randomly selected questions on the computer.
  • By analyzing exactly how much snot covers the tissue, and how dry said snot is, they can figure out if you're cheating.

These are but a few possibilities. And we may never know the real answer (odds are we don't want to, either). But the next time you think someone is being anal retentive, just think of this story. You'll be glad you did.