I passed my driving test today. Those of you that regularly read my blog know that I have been driving for a very long time, 28 years in fact (yes, yes, I’m old). Granted, most of that time was in the United States, but regardless, I’ve been on the road for a very long time and I’ve yet to run a car into a living room window (I’m saving that up till I’m super old and they can’t hold me accountable). As I live in the United Kingdom – and eventually we want to a get a car one day soon - I had to take lessons, study like a demon and take my practical exam all over again. So today was the practical exam, and as expected I was nervous as hell. That’s the funny thing, no matter how long one has been driving if you tell them they are going to have an exceedingly grumpy stickler beside them with a clipboard judging your every move, well, nerves are bound to be a factor. Coupled with that, the pass rate in this country is extremely low and it’s getting lower all the time. The infuriating part is that there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it (when you talk to the instructors who teach driving). Some examiners are known to be hardcore when it comes to the rules (and will fail you for the most minute of discretions) and some are more relaxed and well, human about the whole thing. I don’t have to tell you how hard I was praying for someone with Valium running through his or her veins.
So for anyone that has not taken this exam for decades, you get to the test center and you sit in this little room with really bad wall color and wait for your examiner to come out. The instructors (who come with you as you can use your driving instructor’s car to take the test) all look calm and sit on their phones joyfully knowing that no one is going to judge them in the next 40 minutes. In my case, my instructor – god love him - was literally selling stuff on eBay as we sat there. The prospective victims – that’s us driving students – on the contrary all looked positively ill. As each person in front of me got called and their examiner came out, I of course was trying to judge who looked the most human and understanding. And trust me, this isn’t easy, as this polite blond woman I was hoping to get turned out to be a real stickler and someone I wanted to stay as far away from as possible.
So alas, after far too many minutes of pacing the room, telling myself to be calm and wise like a driving Yoda, my instructor came out. She was an elderly lady who at first seemed kind of stern. Trust me, I was reading her body language in hopes of getting any clue I could. But after she forgot something and kind of laughed it off, I took it as a good sign. Then again, I was taking the fact that it hadn’t rained and I still had a pulse as a good sign. We went outside and the first thing they do is ask you to read a license plate kind of far off in the distance. I of course went into panic mode as heck, a 5 can certainly look like an S to my 44 year old eyes. Thankfully they didn’t fail me and we walked to the car (which my instructor and I had strategically parked so that no one could park in front of me and I had an easy exit) and low and behold, some shmuck and sandwiched me in to the point that no amount of car grease was getting this car out of the space. After finding the guy and making him move the car, we got in and started the test.
At this point all you’re thinking of is, STAY CALM and remember every sodding thing the instructor told you to do in your lessons (even though I had been driving for decades, there are things they want you to do over here in the test that just seem, well, pointless). The other thing that passes through your head is please don’t let this be the day when people are diving into the road trying to off themselves cause I really wouldn’t know how to handle that. Needless to say, after answering a few ‘inside car’ questions (how do you tell the power steering is working bla bla bla), we set off. I was warned by my husband (who I quizzed within an inch of his life) that the examiner will not make chit chat and it’s to be 40 minutes spent in silence. Which, considering I’m supposed to be concentrating is a good thing. I swear, I’ve never looked in my mirrors more diligently in my life (center mirror, side mirror, signal, ebrake…). I felt like I had eyeball Tourette’s as I glanced in my mirrors, to my blind spot, back to my mirrors, don’t forget your blind spot! Ahhhhhhhhh!
All was going fine until my examiner asked me what I did for a living. My first thought was that she was challenging my concentration skills to see if I could talk and chat. Then when she then started asking me 20 questions about the minutiae of writing, I started to wonder if I had already failed and she was now just in it for the conversation. Or, in fact, if the inner writer in her was dying to get out and being a driving examiner was not her life’s quest. It got to the point where she was so curious (and talkative!) I was starting to ponder asking her to button it so I could focus on parallel parking.
Trying to lean on the positive side of the street, I told her that only the extremely persistent (who are great drivers!) are crazy enough to take on screenwriting as we spun around mini roundabout after roundabout until low and behold we were making our way back to the test center (definitely the most nerve wracking 40 minutes of the last year).
By the time we parked up, I’m pretty sure I had broken out in hives on my face from the sheer adrenaline of following directions for forty long minutes. Then of course you have that moment where they toy with you, and they pause….before telling you if you passed or failed. I won’t lie, when she said the word PASS I about hugged her talkative little body. And then you realize, OH MY GOD I don’t have to do this again until I’m so old and grey that I probably won’t want to drive anyway (taxi!!).
Gooooood riddance and give me that license lady!