Test papers, and the end of life

29 May

Today ends another cruise, and a new one begins. If you ignore the endless ranting of our psychotic manager the last cruise was actually very nice. The working conditions are still horrendous, but the sights along that Norway venture were spectacular. Today the ABC RypMeOff starts to travel to another part of Northern Europe that I have not visited before – Iceland. However, before we can focus on the new scenery our department has to undertake a monthly examination.

low tide at the port of Invergordon, Scotland

I know how to shoot a photo; I just don’t want the sight of people to ruin it.

At the end of every month our manager hands out a test paper to all photographers who have not yet been promoted to rank 1. Supposedly the test is provided by our masters in Geneva, and evaluates our abilities, thus serving as a potential resource to deny us promotions. Every test paper consists of three or four questions, and while every paper is a bit different, there are only about ten different questions total to draw from. Some of the questions ponder general issues of photography, such as “Which f-stop gives more light – f5.6 or f4.5”, or “What is sync speed?” Others are more cruise-oriented, like “How do you prepare for an event?”, or “Where are you safer at sea – in a life raft or a life west?”

One month ago, when I took my first test, I had no idea what its purpose was, and answered “Since I tend to keep my wits about me, I am generally well prepared for any event. But even if events of emergency fail to arise, it is always comforting to carry an extra set of undergarments.” Following my tenuous revelations I was then privately informed about the importance these tests carry, and that the “event” was to be understood as a scheduled photo shooting. It’s always a good sign when the meaning of test and questions have to be explained after you already took it.

Inquiries like those of the relative light-intensity at specific apertures invite a more straight-forward answer, but even here reality bears a weird costume. As Manager Mihai explained: “Of course f4.5 lets more light through the lens … Under normal conditions! But in a dark room they are both the same!” Similarly, a life raft as protective measure is just as useless as a life west “… when you are hit by a meteor.”

I do believe that a meteor impact would cause difficulties beyond eliminating any visual distinction between life raft and life vest. And the probability of any of our guests requesting a photo shooting in a dark room is insignificantly small. Silly me. In my youthful naivety I assumed that the exam paper was supposed to have some practical use! But what, then, is the point of this monthly quiz, if the questions are mere distractions, and the answers don’t matter? It seems to be built on the same premise as those quizzes in Women’s magazines. They are to distract you from the money you spent upfront, and challenge you to provide creative answers for non-sensical questions; i.e. provoke any kind of reaction from the test subject.

Botanical garden in Tromso, Norway

Flowers and snow in late May are a much more realistic sight than the background of any of the questions in our monthly photography test.

If such is the case, then our answers should reflect the meaning that we find in this job, while also distracting from our deficient performance as car salesmen. Next month I will be better prepared, with answers that truly rattle the flimsy cage of cruise photography. For next month’s test I will prepare answers like this one:

What is sync speed? – A measure of the relative passage of time between distinctive events, such as the accession of physical and mental work effort, and the monetary gratitude expressed by the company. The speed of account synchronisation is very often judged as “too slow” by cruise photographers, and “too fast” by their employers.

Which f-stop gives more light? – No F has ever been reported to stop for the sole purpose of giving light, for such charity is not in its nature. In a cruel twist of latent irony the common f-stop is terminally enlightened by any meteor it encounters directly, be it in the dark room, or any other space where photo managers fail to acknowledge the existence of reality.

After tonight’s written examination I am gathering new hopes that ABC Cruises will soon reach the clarity of mind that allows it to envision my full potential as a member of their prosperous slave force. And I am proud to not have inserted a single mark of punctuation into that sentence. That alone should make you understand that I am perturbed beyond reason, and ready to yell at any official ABC representative for ignoring the mental deficiencies that dominate this department. This idiotic test and its non-existent solution prove once more that the ignorance and the mechanic subjugation that this department are built on are exaggerated by our manager, but are in themselves merely part of a systemic effort to minimise critical discussion, while maximising the amount of symbolic grounds for evaluation.

And I don’t even get paid!

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