Friday, May 13, 2011

Playing Russian Roulette




That's how my friend described the lottery as we waited for it to begin.

The placement of students in different clinical sites begins in September, but since our college is in Toronto, most of the students in our class live in the GTA. That invariably causes a bottleneck, since there aren't as many clinical sites in Toronto as there are students. As a result, some unlucky people have to go somewhere else.

This year, the other option was Peterborough, which is something like two and a half hours away. I suppose it could have been worse. In previous years, it was New Brunswick. Either way, though, someone would have to move to another city for five months, and none of us wanted to do so.

We all had good reasons for staying in Toronto, but the placement administrators made it clear that they couldn't consider anything other than 1. children 2. some kind of disability or special need that required therapy/treatment which could only be provided in Toronto. Since none of us qualified on those grounds, the administrators asked if there were any volunteers for the exile.

Needless to say, no one threw themselves on that grenade. So the administrators said they would hold a lottery.

On Thursday, at lunchtime, they assembled us before a table on which were a glass and a juice pitcher, both of which contained tiny folded strips of paper. The glass contained our student numbers, all 42 of them. The pitcher contained 39 strips of paper with Toronto on them, and three black spots strips marked Peterborough.

Cake or death, basically.

I was so nervous that I hadn't been able to eat lunch, so I sat rigidly on my chair as the lottery began. "112450." *rustle* "Toronto." "118831." *rustle* "Toronto." One of my friends got Toronto early on (she said her family had prayed and fasted about it last week), but the first ticket to Peterborough was drawn five numbers in. Shortly after that they called out my student number. I clenched my fists on my knees and waited.

"Toronto."

For a moment I thought I hadn't heard correctly, mostly because I'd wanted it to be Toronto so badly. They'd moved on by then, though, and someone ate the second Peterborough bullet about half-way through. The third remained in the pitcher and was drawn last, which made the lottery a nerve-wracking experience right up till the end. And after it was all over, I went to the admins to confirm that yes, I was staying in Toronto. I'd been worrying about it for so long that the good news took a little time to sink in.

I don't know where in the GTA they'll send me, but I can handle that kind of curveball. Especially since I'll have my apartment and my friends in Toronto and my job.

And I'll never have to play Russian Roulette again.

6 comments:

ralfast said...

Excellent. Have you read "The Lottery"? It's a chilling short story that read in HS and remember to this day.

JH said...

Man, this Peterborough place sounds like a real dump.

Maria Zannini said...

If you heard a cheer go up, that was me. So glad you got to stay in your home town.

Marian Perera said...

Ralfast - I love that story. So subtle and disturbing.

JH - I've never been to Peterborough, but I'm sure it's a very nice place.

It's just that Toronto is the only home I have in Canada, the only place where everything is familiar. I can see myself leaving for warmer climes some day, but only after I have enough money and a permanent home waiting for me elsewhere.

Maria - Thanks. :) Some of us are thinking of taking up a collection from the rest of the class to buy a gift for the Peterborough Posse, as they're being called.

We just have to find out who they are now.

gypsyscarlett said...

Am happy for you that you get to stay where you wish.

Like Ralfast, I also thought of, "The Lottery". Athough I'm sure Petersborough would have been better than what the woman in that story won. ;)

Marian Perera said...

Thanks, Tasha!

Lotteries are normally good things, where you get a prize of some sort if you're picked. It's an interesting reversal to have the kind of lottery where everyone is desperately hoping they don't get picked. No wonder that's the basis of a horror story. :)