So I finally got my California driver license. Exciting, right? Except it wasn’t… It was much more exciting the first time. Not that I’m “one of those silly people” who has to take the same darn test several times… It was only three times… One for every country I decided to move to. An adventure in itself.
I went through the whole driver license shebang for the first time in Connecticut when I was 16 – like every normal American High School student (except I’m German, and in Germany, you get to drive when you’re 18… and drink… coincidence?). You pay about 1,500 Euros, take driving lessons for months and usually fail the first time. And I did, but more on that later.
In America, I took two (?) lessons of drunk driving education, and remember that during the never-ending video they showed us, the driver looked down briefly at his radio to change the station, looked back up and saw… a camel on the road. A CAMEL! Yes, this was obviously to make a point… but…a camel!
I signed up for the test and called it a day. The written one was a piece of cake, behind-the-wheel not so much. At the time, us teenage girls were of the clueless misconception that if you dressed accordingly (i.e. short skirt, cute top), the examiner will let you pass. He may have, except I ran a stop sign and sort of drove in the middle of both lanes on Main Street. I still see my mom’s face at the DMV – buried in her hands, shaking her head. Poor mom.
The second time around, I left the stop signs in peace and made sure to drive in the correct lane while maintaining an appropriate speed and skirt length. I even managed to back up into a parking spot. The examiner signed the test, I finally passed and was an official CT driver – no way out. He peeled himself out of the passenger seat and looked behind the car when he saw that I had given the DMV parking sign behind the car a new direction. He politely asked me to pull up a tad and pushed the sign back into its original position. He had already signed the paper. Yeih, skirt!
I passed my second license the second time around in Germany. We’re not as strict a country as everyone thinks, but we do like our driving. And we do like to make rules. So naturally, a CT driver license was worth more than one from Kentucky, but less than NY. Makes sense. I did not have to suffer through the behind-the-wheel torture again, but the written part… Some answers were worth 5 points, others 3, the easiest 1. You can have 1 or 2 wrong answers and then you failed. I was done. The second time, I was ok.
They kept my CT driver license because, of course, why would I ever need a US driver license again?
Well, right about frickin’ now!
The DMV in Santa Monica is somewhat accommodating… especially if you come prepared with ALL your paper work… that has EVER been issued… to you or a person close to you: Passport, birth certificate, translation of birth certificate, certification of translation of birth certificate, and a legitimate reason as to what the he** you’re doing in this g*dforsaken DMV. I’m always prepared though… plus, I’m a translator :D… That saved me.
As you may have read in the previous article (Me no speak DMV Americano), I had to make several trips nonetheless. Since the rest of the world writes a birth date in the form of “Day/Month/Year”, the DMV guy didn’t give a crap. So he just switched my entire birth date around, changed me from a Virgo to a Libra and cost me another hour and a half, and the first picture they took of me (which I actually liked) had to be retaken and switched out for one waaayyyyy less attractive. Maybe that was the purpose of the whole thing. Guy KNEW that I would have a gorgeous first take and just thought to himself ‘let me screw up the birth dates so that her picture will look as shitty as the rest of the country’s drivers’. Sure enough…
I passed the written test, had another picture taken, and made an appointment for the behind-the-wheel test (for the third license of my life… let’s hope it’s the last time I’ll ever have to do this). I still don’t own a car, so I rented one. The rental car place of my choice was awesome and helpful as usual, except the car had a nail in one of its tires… minor detail. I had a tiny inside-freak-out, but they switched the car immediately and explained all the gadgets and thingamajiggies (that’s the official name, btw) (signal, defroster, emergency break, etc.). I took their advice… I was prepared… I had watched the ten reasons why people fail driving tests on YouTube. I would not be one of them. I swear! If it’s the last thing I do! I’m German, and if I know how to do ONE THING, it’s how to drive a masterpiece of a car. They gave me a Toyota. At least I’ll get far…
I pulled my rental up to the spot at the DMV where I was supposed to be. I adjusted my rear- view mirror and saw that the person behind me decided to do her test in a Hummer. I’ll let that sink in for a second.
Only in America…
Anyway, the examiner (a woman who reminded me of someone I very much dislike… and I don’t dislike a lot of people tbh), stepped up to the car, made me point out my signal, my defroster, my emergency break, and my windshield wiper. I almost showed her my very own windshield wiper.
Anyway, she asked me for hand signs (I know for you Cali drivers, this is normal, but for everyone else, it just doesn’t make any sense at all). Here’s how it goes: When your break lights and signals fail, you (the driver) hold your left arm upward out the window in a 90 degree angle when you want to turn right. You straighten your arm out the window when you want to turn left (or high-five an oncoming car) and turn it downward in a 90 degree angle if you intend to stop. Now, if you manage not to break your own arm in that maneuver, your first thought should be: take your piece of crap car to the next mechanic and forget about your arms! How did you get it through the Smog-Check anyway? But no, obviously, this is very important in California.
I was in the car and thought that not even my German perfectionism and alleged inherent driving skills and road dominance could stop me. I kept it down though. Low key and everything…
The examiner made sure to point out using vivid gestures what she would like me to do. I felt like the biggest retard (I wonder what would happen if I did that at work – do people feel respected or is this where a loss in self-esteem originates?). I realize that a majority of people (especially women) may have a left-right-confusion, nay, disability… I’m not one of those… at least when I’m driving. If lady says “take a right at the light”, I do not need her to point at the light that she was referring to and vigorously bend her arm to the right in front of me. But maybe she was just trying to help. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.
I have to admit, I prepared very well… for 15 years. In several countries. On many roads. This lady accused me of not having stopped completely at a light, turning off the signal too early one time, and in general, being underway a bit “briskly”… YES! I still had my German driving genes. I love it!
I passed… not flawlessly, but I passed. I should receive my license within the next “couple of weeks”… This is when I realized that beside the fact that it is “required” (whatever that means) for a Cali resident to have a driver license/ID, I only did this so that I wouldn’t have to show my passport every time I buy booze. Can’t wait to see if it was worth it. But I committed… and I stuck with it. Cheers to Cali living!