Bloody. That’s how my journey from driving newbie to smooth SUV sojourner has been. It’s taken bloody long enough. Congratulate me now. Because after almost a year of careful analysis of the didactic DMV materials and mastering the various intricacies of American road travel, I have finally earned and acquired my first-ever driver’s license.
Sure, I took lessons in Manila before emigrating. 10 hours worth of lessons which got me up to speed with the basic rules of physics and friction, steady acceleration and easy braking.
The writing exam itself was arduous. I got it on my third try. Never mind the details about that.
So I took the first actual driving test in July 07 after having practised a few weeks. Agnes coached me on the fine points of difference between Manila and California driving (note: everything’s faster and traffic fines are in dollars, baby). And I felt pretty good. I got a critical error however when I actually slowed down at a 2-way stop where I had the right of way. (My tester said: “That was a very dangerous move that could’ve caused an accident if there had been cars behind you. You had right of way!”)
So more practice. A month later, in August 07, I returned to Fremont (where Agnes works) to retake the driving test. In a single word, FAIL.
And yet, somewhere around July or August 07, we took a long drive to California City, which is 8 hours away from where we live, and I drove all the way there and back, using my learner’s permit.
Third time around, I decided to take the test in my own city of Hayward, whose streets I was slightly more familiar with. Everything seemed fine this time around, but I was still super nervous and couldn’t relax. No critical errors but a whole lot of minor mistakes that added up. More errors than was acceptable. Mostly from NOT scanning both ways before crossing an intersection, and for wide turns. Glumly, I conceded defeat. Goodbye learner’s permit (valid for only 3 driving tests, after which you have to take the written test AGAIN to get a new learner’s permit.)
And then September 07 came around. Agnes had a high school class reunion in Vegas which we were attending. Because I didn’t want her to drive all the way there on her own, I got up off my posterior and took the written test again, passed it, got my learner’s permit, and helped to drive the long, dusty highways to Vegas.
And that was it for a long time. I just lost interest (and hope) in trying to take the test a fourth time. God bless my wife though for encouraging me to tuck in my pride and call in the professionals. The professional driving schools, that is. I took a 2-hour lesson from a funny Sikh wearing a turban, who drilled me on the fine points of unassisted left turns (the ones without green left arrows at stoplights, where one must yield to oncoming traffic). And then I finally scheduled the FOURTH driving test for yesterday.
Now, finally, I have the privilege of burning rubber on these blessed asphalted freeways. Talk about a long arduous process I don’t EVER EVER EVER want to repeat.
So… how long did it take YOU to get your license?