oh and wait wait wait!

i got my drivers license yesterday. turns out, since my CA license expired only a few years ago, this counted as a renewal. meaning, i had to take the photo, but only half of the written test.

obviously, any trip to the dmv is an adventure. but apparently at the culver city dmv, it is ok, nay even encouraged, to argue with the lady who grades your tests. and yes, these tests are given on long sheets of paper, with pens atttached to the study carrols, like at the bank. the lady who grades your tests holds them against a template on her desk and marks them wrong, with a blue felt pen, right in front of you. i'm not sure if i'm getting this to sound as accurately fourth grade as it was, but it was really fourth grade feeling.

anyway, the person before the person before me was arguing the "turn right on a red light" issue, stating "you're not allowed to go anywhere on a red light. you have to stop!" and the grading lady (ok, her name was clara) kept stating firmly, "you are allowed, when its safe, to make a right hand turn." and the other lady said, "on a red light? nuh-uh!" this went back and forth.

then, the next man needed to take the test in arabic. clara handed him a test paper in arabic. "no, i can't read arabic," he said, in clear english, "i need the arabic tapes". clara told him that she didn't have arabic tapes, that she only had spanish tapes. she did have, however, written tests in many languages. "but i need the arabic tapes" he said, and clearly, really, hardly a discernable accent. so clara pointed out that he was speaking english to her, and he seemingly understood, would be like the english tapes? "no." and not the english test? "no." and not the arabic test? "no." "do you speak arabic?" she asked. "yes." "do you speak english?" she asked. "yes." "do you understand english?" she asked. "yes." "do you understand arabic?" she asked. "yes. but i don't read either."

"well, ok," clara said, "which language do you read?"

he was quiet.

"i'm only asking, cause the street signs, they're written down. in english most places. some places in chinese, probably some places in arabic. but you're gonna have a hard time finding where you're going if you can't read them. if i were you, i'd start with the reading and THEN do the driving".

this, of course, started a catastrophe.

meanwhile, my mom keeps poking her head over the carrol wall and gesturing to me, like, how much longer? now, there are signs posted EVERYWHERE that you are not allowed to communicate with outsiders while taking the written test. so i keep shaking my head at her and looking in the opposite direction. doesn't really work with evelyn, as you can imagine, so she begins calling out my name in that mom-stage-whisper that the whole dmv can likely hear. i refuse to look at her, imagining the dmv lady yanking me out of the test section and transporting me to some padded isolation cell to take the stupid test again, stripping me of any surface i could write the answers on, and then later, getting a license with CHEATER stamped in read over my photo.

also meanwhile, this time in my head, i am obsessing over what the legal alchohol limit is and other things, and i keep running back to change my answers.

finally clara takes my test. keep in mind i am allowed to miss three.

when she marks the fourth one wrong i grunt, "oh".

"what?" she asks. "do i have to wait three weeks to come back?" i ask. "why would you want to do that?" clara asks. "because i didn't pass" i say (what i learned in college: you never fail, you only don't pass). "what makes you think that?" clara asks. "well, i missed four" i say. clara looks at me. "and it says i can only miss three". clara looks at me. she looks down at the test, she looks back at me. i do the same. and i count. one, two, three, four. i am positive i missed four. clara is still looking at me.

finally: "why do you think its ok to turn your hazard lights on when your car is in the right hand lane of traffic to run into a store?"

"is that one wrong?" i ask.

"yes, why do you think that's ok?"

"um, i'm not sure. i think it sounded the most right of the three".

"you turn your hazard lights on to warn people of an accident that you can see but they can't"

"you DO?!" i have never seen this. i have been driving for 15 years. i saw two accidents on the highway the day before and NO ONE turned their hazards on. and yet, right in front of the dmv, there was someone who double parked, turned their hazards on, and ran inside. i don't tell clara this. instead i say, "oh. that's really good to know."

then she says "why did you say that the legal blood alcohol content is .05?"

"is it .08?" i ask, "i kept going back and forth about that one".

"but why did you say it was .05?" she asked.

see, i thought i had already kind of answered this one, albeit indirectly, and flustered as i was at this point, i said the very first thing that popped into my head, which was:

"because i'm an optimist?"

clara looks at me.

and then seriously, she asks me to sign something, which by this time i was thinking, i swear to god, was an agreement to never drive in california again, if not a direct deportation out of the state. i sign it and then ask, "what do i do now?"

and she looks at me LIKE I'M THE CRAZY ONE and says "go home. your license will come in the mail in three weeks." and waves me away.

ah, california.

Comments

sue said…
i failed my first driver's test in louisiana at the tender age of 15. i took it again 3 weeks later scoring perfectly. the folks at the dmv were hesitant to give me my licence because i cheated - "no one gets 100 percent!" after getting harassed, i was able to take the driving part of the test, which was something i was unable to do the first time due to failure of the written test. with proctor to my right, i was told to drive around the block (that's right - only 4 right turns to cover all the bases of driving) while he took notes silently. upon the final right turn into the parking lot, i was told to get out of the car so he could park the car for me.

ah, louisiana.

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