MattB, call them back and *forcefully* tell them to put you on the list for the next available class (i.e., don't take "no" for an answer). If they still refuse, tell them that you are going to lodge a formal complaint against them with the MSF. If that doesn't get you anywhere, let me know via e-mail and I'll help you out (no, I'm not connected, but I love a good fight).
The course costs $120 here in Houston too, so it must be a state thing.
As for not knowing how to ride, and taking the course, well, there were a few people in my class last year who had never ridden before. Some made it through just fine, some failed. But don't let that discourage you. The course is designed with non-riders in mind. Had I not ridden before, here's what I would have done (because I too would have worried about not passing, not to mention my safety). I would try my damnedest to find someone willing to teach me on a dirtbike, or a dual-sport on the dirt. Or, I would look for the cheapest dirtbike to be had, buy it, and ride that for a while until I felt comfortable with my abilities. This might be days, weeks, or months, but it is well worth it in the end. Finding someone who is experienced in the sport to coach you would be invaluable.
I know that there are exceptions (like people who seem to have an innate ability to ride well), but I have a hard time recommending that someone with no experience whatsoever go the route of taking the course, buying a streetbike, and getting out on the road immediately. I just don't think that a couple days worth of instruction (i.e., the MSF Beginners' Course) is enough preparation for riding on the street.
Just my $.02. Hope that helps.
P.S. Matt, on *any* of this, feel free to e-mail me. I'd be glad to help.
"Ultimately, most problems can be solved by applying a large brick to the correct skull. Difficulties arise when you don't have a brick or can't find the the right skull. The Devil is always in the details."
[This message has been edited by Pete (edited July 18, 2000).]