Author : Peter Pincosy

“Accuracy is the primary road to access”

A large white room with banks of computers lined up in rows, was home to Primary English. Sanjay had worked here for three years. He’d won the lottery, the chance to immigrate to the United States. His friends and neighbors were surprised. Sanjay didn’t know any English. The rest of them had taken the entry test, and were certain their scores were better. He couldn’t handle even the most basic conversation. Some of his relatives thought he was an idiot. The day Sanjay stepped on the plane headed for the United States he had laughed at all of them, even his friends. As far as he was concerned by the time they met again he would be a rich man, humility was for the poor.

Three years later his optimism was shaken. For the past few months he’d been wondering when he would move past the testing phase and into the world of freedom that was so lauded in all of the promotional brochures.

Some people had gone. One day they were called to the office of the manager and they didn’t come back to their computer. Their personal belongings back in the immigrant holding camp disappeared before everyone returned from the shift. Some of them had been very bad at transcribing.

Sanjay was shaken, he’d become nervous about the future. Three years of typing in English words from taped transcripts had honed Sanjay’s ability to understand English. He sat with hundreds of people from hundreds of countries at computers and entered the words streaming through their headphones. The manager said the purpose was to teach them English.

“Learn English, learn life.” the manager was fond of saying in words that seemed to soar straight out of the doors and into the blue sky above.

“I worked for a man who had strange items. He sold them. I never saw what they were, just… his hands smelled like chemicals.” In through his headphones the transcript ran, and his fingers slammed out the corresponding words. He was fast. At times he would get completely lost in the words and would work until he felt a finger tap his shoulder. It tapped. He continued. It tapped.

Hands tugged his headphones from his head.

“Sanjay Patel, D-847838?” a red-faced man asked him. He was an American. He lifted the fingers that had touched the headphones and held them out beyond his body. His nose wrinkled up. “The manager would like to see you in his office.”

Sanjay felt himself flush with adrenaline. A few of the others saw him stand and he noticed curiosity and envy in their faces. He walked down the aisle toward the manager’s office. The red-faced man opened the manager’s office and Sanjay stepped inside.

At a desk in the center of a stark room sat the manager. Behind him was another door. The room had two chairs, one held the manager, and the other was empty. Sanjay sat in the chair.

“Sanjay Patel, D-847838,” the manager said. “Congratulations. You’ve graduated. Through the door behind me is the beginning of another set of challenges, a new life, hope, the future.” He was enjoying his words. “Go ahead. Have a good life.”

Nervously Sanjay stood up and walked to the door. He opened it and stepped into a small hallway. At the end of the hallway he went through another door.

Behind the door was a room, full of computers lined up just like in the last room. A sign on the wall read “Primary English Level 2”.


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