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16 August 2006


Yes, indeed. For those of you who haven't already heard, as of this past Thursday, 10 August, I am a licensed driver. And so is my girlfriend. Also as of Thursday. No, we didn't go together. No, we didn't "conveniently" schedule our appointments back-to-back. It all happened through multiple twists of fate, some of them totally ridiculous.

Back on 24 July, I scheduled my test for 13:15 on 03 August in Meadville, because Erie, as always, was booked weeks out, straight through 17 August, the day I leave for college. On 30 July, my girlfriend proposed a little deal: we wouldn't tell each other when our appointments were. Whoever got their license first would drive both into dinner, the other would pay. So I agreed to this.

I didn't know she hadn't already scheduled her appointment. So on 31 July, she happened to be with me at the computer, and she asked me to log in for her and see what appointments were available. Except she had an extra impetus: her permit was set to expire on 10 August. So Meadville was booked through 11 August. That wouldn't work for her. Erie was booked through 22 August, except for one lone appointment on 09 August at 09:15, left to her by the grace of someone else's cancellation. She resigned herself to the fact that I would know the time of her appointment, and told me to sign her up for it.

So my appointment was for 13:15 on 03 August, and we got there around 12:55. The examiner was talking to some people in a red car. They said they had scheduled a 12:30 appointment. The examiner had no such paperwork and told them to schedule another appointment and come back later. The kid's father looked more angry than the kid himself as they left the Driver's License Center.

Then the examiner took her 13:00 appointment out. By this time it was nearly 13:20. And running behind schedule isn't something that government employees like doing. The girl parallel parked well, so she continued to the stop sign before the road with her right turn signal on. Then she opened the car door, looked out, put her left turn signal on, and came right back into the Driver's License Center. Failure.

She had crossed the stop bar, which legally speaking, is just like running right through the intersection without stopping. Now it was my turn, and it was almost 13:25. The examiner said she had no paperwork on me, either, so she asked for my permit and went inside to check, and sure enough, the other guy had it in his pile. So on with the test.

"May I see the vehicle's insurance, registration, and the license for your licensed driver?"

I handed them to her.

"Okay, but I also need to see your permit."

"Um, you have it, ma'am."

"Oh. (pause) Well, you can tell what kind of a day I've been having."

Great, just what I was hoping for! I'll spare you any further details, but the test didn't go very well. Now, I'm not trying to make excuses, because I did deserve to fail the test. But I don't think the examiner's having had a bad day helped much. I'm thinking it was mostly psychological, because I don't think I have ever performed so poorly in the car as I did that day.

And conveniently enough, after two relatively quick failures, the examiner was within minutes of being back on schedule.

We rushed home and scheduled another appointment for 10 August at 11:45 in Mercer, because there were no graceful cancellations in Erie or Meadville that would let me get in before I left for college. It almost makes me wish I lived in a less populous county. But, my father is familiar with Mercer, so we went down on 06 August to get me familiarized with the streets and to practice parking in the actual slot I'd have to get into. I didn't do too badly.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend had the opportunity to win. I was panicking, knowing that I'm going to need every last cent I have for college expenses, and that every last cent I had (except for a big jar of unsorted coins) was safely deposited in the bank, from which it would be harder for me to justify a withdrawal. Oh, well. Maybe she'd win, but we wouldn't be able to go to dinner before I left, so I'd owe her over Winter Recess.

Right at 09:15 on 09 August, I happened to be waking up, so I said a quick prayer for my girlfriend (because I was actually rooting for her, despite possible financial consequences on my end). Later that day, I got a call that after going all the way into Erie, she couldn't take her test because her mother hadn't signed an important paper. But, due to the continued grace of people who cancel, she got another appointment for 15:00 on 10 August. Apparently she's more "graceful" than I am. Why is she the lucky one?

She told me what went on, and I really didn't want to tell her that my new appointment was a little over three hours before hers, but she insisted that I tell her because she told me when hers was. So what was the point of not telling each other the times in the first place? Anyway, I now had another chance to win.

My father drove me most of the way to Mercer, and I did the last leg, because driving that far right before a driver's test is never a good idea. I caught myself getting nervous again, but this time it was early enough that I could do something about it. I did all the necessary paperwork again, but this time I had to sign a sheet that listed everyone who was taking a test that day. And I saw, in two highlighted columns marked "P" and "F", all of the marks were in the "P" column except the second one. So this guy had only failed one person today, and that was hours ago. Yay!

Once we started the test, I wasn't very sure of how I did on my parallel parking. I used all three back-ups, and when I had finished, I looked in my mirror, and I couldn't see the yellow line from underneath the car. I even muttered, "Probably not," under my breath.

But the guy actually got out and walked around the car. He came back with good news.

"You're tires are just inside the line. If I were downtown, I'd try to do a better job, but that's passable for here."

He was very matter-of-fact, but a bit more lenient than the lady I'd gotten in Meadville a week prior. But not in a bad way. I think that knowing that about my examiner gave me more confidence than butterflies, and I did well. I even got lucky and saw a partially hidden stop sign because a police officer had pulled someone over, and the flashing lights drew my attention in the direction of the sign.

We came back, and that was that. The most stressful part was waiting afterwards for 15 minutes in Room A (the paperwork room) before being seen, only to be told to take my signed permit to Room B (the photo license room), where I had to wait another 10 minutes or so.

But at 12:23, I was handed a little piece of plastic with my name and picture on it. The picture even looked good on the first take. So I don't have to look at something hideous every time I pull out my wallet between now and January 2010.

I called my girlfriend and told her I won, but I tried my hardest not to rub it in. I also wished her good luck on her test. And she passed. As I've already told you.

So now I am officially a licensed driver... not that I'll be able to use that privilege much while I'm at college. Oh, well. A free bus pass is just as fun.


Lexi Elizabeth said...

that was an interesting story. so she's the one that has to pay for a dinner now? or since you got them on the same day, you're even? i'm glad you got your liscense, although laurel wanted to get hers before you, 'cause you were taking forever :-P.

Stephen Lewis said...

our dmv has fairly idiotic people running it. when you go for your driver's exam, people warn you about "larry". be that his real name, i don't know. but anyway, when i went there, he was in the middle of (rather humiliatingly) yelling at some poor guy trying to change his virginia license to a pa license. i watched him, and i'm thinking, what is this man's beef?

and by the glorious wonders that be, he was the man who gave me my test. i passed, but not without him being his usual jerk-o self. i think it didn't matter that i had a new piece of plastic in the wallet so much as i wouldn't have to see that guy for another four years. but hey, that's pennsylvania for ya.

Laurel said...

Congratulations! I'm glad you got your license. And, also, though it may seem mean, I'm kind of glad you didn't pass your first time, because now I know that if I don't pass my first time it's not the end of the world, because my oh so much more talented and smart cousin took two tries as well!

Luv ya all!

Anonymous said...

love you too.i passed my frist time and that should count but you didn't put that in there:/ but and way... thanx for tellin me that u were goin to put me in there cuz ur family came up to me at the end of band camp and said good job and i didn't really know what for!!!!! i still love u but next time tell me. you did before so try to next time.


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