Yo, Adrian, I Did It ...'
Some of you might remember the 1976 movie "Rocky" in which the main character, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), was a two-bit boxer from Philadelphia whose life was going nowhere. The fact is, Rocky's life was of no interest to anyone until World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) offers him an unexpected shot at the title.
Well, I recently got "in the ring" with the CAPP (Certified Administrator of Public Parking) certification exam, and the whole experience reminded me of Rocky.
Although my initial training for the CAPP exam started almost seven years ago, when I attended my first two-day session, this article will focus more on the weeks before the exam, because that's when the training gets tough.
My first study/training session began in mid-November 2004. I gathered all of my notes together and started a list of who I could call on who had either taken the exam or was currently enrolled the CAPP program. Then I found a trainer. Although mine wasn't old like Rocky's trainer, Mickey (Burgess Meredith), she was much prettier and had more parking experience.
After making all my phone calls and laying out the information for the exam, I found I had two big binders (the two-week sessions everyone must attend); six little binders (the two-day sessions I attended or got the notes for); and more than 75 pages of my own handwritten notes. I also had some practice exam questions.
In my first study session, Nov. 14, I addressed the top of the folder: Facility, Maintenance and Design. I then copied all the information I had highlighted onto the four sides of a letter-size file folder.
I used this method for every section I was to study. In the end, I had compiled all my study information into six file folders; each was 90% to 100% full, with writing on all four sides.
This method not only works best for me for retaining information, but each section was easily available to carry around to study.
With the exam set for Dec. 14, I took my trainer's advice and did not study the weekend before. Fortunately, our Executive Director believes not only in training his staff, but also in providing them with the right learning tools. This allowed me to take the advice of a current CAPP who had suggested I drive down a day early, turn off my cellphone, lock myself in a hotel room and spend a half day/evening studying.
Everything was going good until I decided to check my work e-mail. After figuring out that the high-speed computer component wasn't working in the room, I called the front desk and was asked to stop by to pick up a new box. As luck would have it, once back at the room, I realized I had locked myself out and had to go back to the front desk.
Later in the evening, I went to the car to retrieve a binder, which I couldn't seem to locate in the room. The binder wasn't in the car, either. It contained information from a two-day session I had recently attended on Parking Facility Design, Rehabilitation, and Maintenance.
Here I was, three hours from home (where the binder must have been), and this material was worth 10% of the exam. I thought, what to do ... what to do? It was then that I noticed a bright restaurant sign across the hotel parking lot. I know what I did, just like when I got injured when I was a kid: I went to that restaurant and got the biggest hot fudge sundae they had.
After about a 25-minute session indulging in ice cream, it was back to the task at hand and the reality of still not having that binder. Back in the training room (aka hotel room), I proceeded to write down everything I could remember from the two-day session. Much to my surprise, I felt I was still in good shape. The downside to this was it was now almost midnight, and the exam was scheduled for 9 in the morning.
I decided it was time to retire for the night, so I set the alarm and called the front desk for a 5 a.m. wake-up call. Call me over-cautious, but I do strongly believe in both the alarm clock and the wake-up call as protection when on the road.
After a quick shower and shave, I proceeded to the local I-Hop located across the conference center. Unlike my training days, I decided to have the pigs-in-a-blanket combo. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of energy, just in case I had to go the full five hours with the exam. And once again, I referred to those trusty letter-size file folders.
Upon entering IPI headquarters for the exam, I found the staff most helpful and friendly. They even offered some study time before the exam. (I kind of felt like Rocky at this point; there was nothing left to do but "get in the ring and do it." I was ready!)
After the introductions and instructions, I was handed the exam and Round 1 began. Actually, I must admit that Rounds 1 through 3 went smoothly. It wasn't until Rounds 4 and 5 that I began to sweat. Time during this part of the exam was never a factor; I had more than an hour left to answer these final questions. It just seemed these required me to think more than the others had, and I kept debating my chosen responses. After taking a minute's breather, I proceeded with a plan and answered the questions the best I could.
On finishing Part One of the exam, lunch was served, and then it was on to Rounds 6 through 10 -- the dreaded essays! While I would never complain that the essay questions were difficult, I honestly believe the worst part is knowing they are "open book." Trying to decide which notes to use while answering the questions only confuses you and uses too much valuable time.
OK, back to the exam, Rounds 6 through 10 were broken down to one essay question per round, with a maximum time of two hours to answer all the questions. I thought Round 6 was going good, until I realized I had used up almost an hour of my allotted time. This resulted in leaving me with only an hour to answer the remaining essay questions. I now knew how Rocky had felt after being knocked down with devastating blows.
While I finished all the questions with no time to spare, I pitied the person who had to grade this part of the exam. I say this, because to this day whatever words and writing style I used to answer those remaining questions, I am 100% confident that I butchered the English language so badly, I should probably never be allowed to write another article again.
A big difference at the end of the fight was that Rocky got the decision minutes after it was over. I, on the other hand, had to wait until the exam was sent to the University of Virginia to be graded. While I had to wait only four days for the results, it felt like a week. And then the call came. Actually, it was in the form of an e-mail, which said to relax and enjoy the holidays, I had passed the CAPP exam.
My wait was over. A small-town boy with no dream of ever being in the parking industry now had its most prestigious credentials after his name. Only in America -- ain't it sweet!
Robert Milner, CAPP, is Director of Parking and Transportation Services at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.