GrandmaKnitsB.jpg For weeks I ate, drank and slept insurance. It comes with the territory. All day I'd sit in class and hear my sweet, old teacher drone on and on about coverage and deductibles, limits and hazards. After a while the jargon was running constantly through my head, bouncing around and causing me pin pricks of aching pain. How much can one person take? And, more importantly, could this kind of injury be insured?

When last weekend came I was relieved that the class was over, but the worry about the exam had already set in. After all, the test meant so much. Talk about pressure! Without a license, there is a limit to what an employee can do when it comes to insurance. She can't talk to clients; she can't quote insurance; she can't sign letters. The list goes on. What was I to do? Cindy said, "I learned how to knit. It relaxes me."

I said, "I'll try anything."

Knitting brings to mind gray-haired old ladies in long lavender dresses, a long strand of yarn trailing from a complicated gray sweater on her lap to a ball on the floor.

Now picture this.

Two girls in their early twenties, t-shirts and jeans, hair in ponytails, sitting cross-legged on the floor, awkwardly maneuvering their own long green knitting needles. That's us. Not an ordinary picture to be sure. And the products of our labor aren't terribly good either.

But we certainly were relaxed that day. And for the rest of this week, whenever I'd had as much studying and insurance as I could take, I'd plunk myself down on the couch and take up my knitting, a coffee colored scarf. Disney was intrigued by my new hobby of course. He couldn't understand something else, something fuzzy and odd, in his place on my lap. What was up?

Now he's going along with it. Just humor her , he thinks, she'll get bored and I'll be top lap-sitter again. I don't know, though. There is something soothing about the clicking of the aluminum needles and the easy tug and stretch of the yarn between my fingers. Maybe it's the motion, completely different from anything else I do during the day. We as a generation haven't been taught to be particulary dextrous or nimble with our fingers. Typing gives them a workout, sure, but real skill... winding and twisting, threading something simple into something useful, that's like nothing else I do.

And being relaxed helped me greatly on Thursday. Though I'd stressed and struggled through countless hours of study and memorization, I still didn't feel ready for my exam. On Wednesday I took BART into the city for the last required time to meet with my friends from class. The four of us met at my friend Laura's place to cram. Over pizza we drilled each other on vocabulary, posed potential test questions, guessed pitifully every time we didn't know an answer and threw our hands up at the end of the night.

The next morning Laura and I were up at 6:00am, took a long walk in the chilly city morning air to the nearest bus stop, took the bus to our test site and got off. We were super early! But that's way better than being late. Jamba Juice (including an Energy Boost... I took no chances) woke us up, and we continued to study.

Then we were in the building, waiting in the lobby with the other test-takers, wearing name tags and anxiously clutching our envelopes filled with important paperwork. I felt slightly ill. So much was riding in the test. And I knew it was going to be hard. Laura had begun to panic, claiming to have lost everything we'd ever learned about the subject.

A crazy Philippino woman wearing a tag that read "Proctor" led us into a room to check us in. I was third in line. Oh good, I thought, I'll be at computer #3. Three is my lucky number. Ordinarly I'm not supersticious, but ordinarily I also have more confidence. As I reached into my wallet for my ID, I spilled my collection of business cards and coins all over the floor. My face went red and my heart stopped.

Good start, Audrey.

Laura, ever the dutiful friend, stepped out of line to help me pick everything up. She told me not to worry, but the waver in her own voice left me feeling very much the same way she sounded. Scared. I was placed at computer #4. A very bad number. Oh well, I'm not supposed to be supersticious anyway.

In her very thick accent, the proctor ran us through the very complicated instructions on how to take the test, how to click through the questions, how to flag the ones we weren't sure about, how to unflag them, how to submit the test. She warned us that if we submitted the test with even one question still flagged, we would receive a score of zero. No pressure, though.

A man who had been nervously rattling on about the effects of big government, the establishment, "the man" and "big brother" in the elevator on the way up, raised his hand and asked how we'd know whether we'd passed.

"You submit zee test ond raze yore hand. I take you in zee room. Eef I osk you fore yore en-VAL-ope, you pass." She looked threateningly around the room, making eye contact with each of us. "But!" She hissed. "If I no osk fore yore en-VAL-ope, you no PASS!"

Laura gulped.

Crazy Proctor whirled on her heel and stomped to the entrance of her little glass room where she would be watching us suffer, checking always to see if anyone were to dare to be "cheeeeeting".

"You start now."

Minutes dragged by. We had three hours, and there were two little timers running side by side at the top of my screen. One told how much time I'd taken, the other how much time remained. But I was drowning in the questions themselves, not caring about the time. I flagged many, even when I was confident about my answer, just in case I remembered something important later on. I didn't.

"John holds a Personal Auto Policy with split limits of 30/60/25. His friend Paul holds a Personal Auto Policy with no collision coverage and split limits of 15/60/20. John drives Paul in Paul's car on an errand for Paul's employers, XYZ company. On the way, John is involved in an at-fault accident in the state of Nevada. The minimum Personal Auto Limits in Nevada are 45/90/10. In the accident, John and Paul have each suffered $10,000 in personal injuries and the car is a total loss. Which statement is true?

A. John will collect $2,000 of med pay and Paul will collect nothing.

B. XYZ Company is vicariously liable and will cover all losses.

C. Paul's auto will be covered for Actual Cash Value by John's policy only because Paul does not have collision insurance.

D. You want to run away screaming from this insanely quiet room, never to hear the word insurance again."

Oh, definitely D!

But I flagged it in case I wanted to come back later. I'm kidding. However, the questions were convoluted, even intimidating. Half the time I felt like an idiot with my head spinning in the wake of a drive-by insurancing.

When I click the last answer and saw the "Submit Test Now" button appear on my screen I checked the clock. Only an hour and fifteen minutes had gone by. I blinked. Impossible! This test was outrageously hard. How could I be done so quickly. On my left, Laura was practically hyperventilating. I could hear the Hail Marys essuing from her lips. Impossible!

I stared at the final button. To submit would mean certain failure. No one was that fast at this stuff. I'd obviously answered every singly question wrong. Crazy Proctor Lady would laugh like a hyena and call my mom to tell on me. Five more minutes crawled by. Sweating, I reached out and submitted my test.

Even as I raised my hand I felt the doom crawl over me. Laura shot me a crazed look. If you're done already , her eyes screamed, then I'm going to do worse than fail. I'm going to die! I tried to reassure her silently, but the proctor was next to me, hastening me into her chamber. I was fingerprinted, but I don't remember going through that. My head felt foggy. Perhaps I would faint. Then they'd pass me out of pity. How does one swoon? I surveyed my immediate ground space. I'd have to go to the right, avoid the table leg, stay out of the swing path of the door.

Crazy Proctor mumbled somthing.

"What was that?" I managed.

"Pleece geev me zee en-VAL-ope." She extended her hand and I wanted to scream. Is she toying with me? Why doesn't she say I passed? Why doesn't she congratulate me? Hug me? Pat me on the back? Do adults ever projectile vomit?

"Does that m-m-mean I passed?"

She looked at me like I was nuts. She probably gets this question a zillion times a week.

"Yesssss. Pleece geev me zee en-VAL-ope. You pass."

I floated from that room. Ironically, an hour and a half later, Laura was involved in a photo-finish with the clock. She was the last soul out of the chamber. And she passed, too. We're brokers, at the age of 22. Impossible! I owe much of this to knitting.

Unfortunately the consequences of my learning to knit aren't all good. It's very hard to tear myself away from my current project. I have to finish the row! Occasionally it gets in the way of my blogging. Not that anyone else thinks that's so bad.

I am now a broker who writes and knits in her spare time. And this Christmas I fear many of my loved ones will be receiving various scarves or hats. You know, for all the icy winter weather we experience here in Livermore. No return policy, guys. Sorry. It's my therapy. Be grateful I'm not taking up anvil-making instead.