After the big laugh from the written test, and after almost 3 years in New York, I thought I had experienced basically everything. Wrong! Last time, I told you about the pre-licensing class, this thrilling 5 hour lesson in which I learned that texting and driving is bad and that American actors have crazy white teeth – even the younger ones!
The fun part started with a 1-hour driving lesson, just to show us the tricks to get our driver license. Luis, the instructor, taught us everything, including some weird stuff:
- While turning, you must stay 3ft away from the parked car. Not 2ft, not 4ft, but exactly 3ft. Let me tell you that, for a European person, 3 ft doesn’t really mean anything. Plus the fact that you must keep the distance at all times, even if there is no vehicle parked, because this part of the road may or may not be a park spot. And how can I confirm it is one? Well, I’m not sure, actually!
- When turning into a road, you must do so considering how wide the road is. And keeping in mind that not seeing any parked vehicle means that the spot isn’t potentially a parking spot, and therefore turning the right way (are you following?)
- When stopping, you must keep the distance of a vehicle in between you and the car in front. Even waiting for the green light.
- Some stops are actually doubles. You must then stop at the first one (the one with no visibility whatsoever), then move really slowly to the second one, stop again, then – most of the time – start moving slowly again, since there is no more visibility at the second one (!
- How to parallel park, but always on the same side (right) and without more than “there is no technique, you just have to get in there”. Well, thanks dude! Oh, and the spots can be as big as 2 trucks, or so small you would not even fit a shopping cart.
- When to honk the other drivers
- How to turn left in a 2-lane street from a 1-lane street, how to turn right from a 1 lane street to a 2-lane street, how to…. I think you got it.
Ehhh, let’s say it’s gonna work then. 90 minutes before the test, Luis went back behind the wheel to drive us to the test. Cause in this country, it’s prohibited for the student to drive himself to the test, even accompanied by the instructor (and even if, theoretically, he’s ready to drive by himself.) We arrived at the meeting point, and, at this precise moment, one of the biggest joke I’ve ever experienced in that country started : the driving test, US style.
It’s 1.30 pm – both our tests are scheduled for 3pm – we arrive at the DMV. I was expecting an office, a building, at least a parking, but we park the car in a long line (15 vehicles) and start to wait. Luis tells me that all the people in front of me are the 2pm’s. Around 1.40pm, one of the agents comes to our car, checks our identities, crosses our names on a piece of paper and leaves us. She meets the other 5 examiners, who are done with the 1pm’s. All 6 of them will spend the following 20 minutes leaning against a wall on the other side of the street, doing nothing but chitchatting. “There is no time but the right time” says Luis. “And what about starting with the people that already are there?” I say, which makes him laugh.
And this little joke starts again with the 2pm’s. We are now first in line and, around 2.35 pm, everyone is back from their test. The examiners are therefore back on their little wall, for a 35 minutes break. And a bit after 3pm, all 5 get in a car to start with the next batch. Driving test, here we go!
My guy is pretty quiet and doesn’t seem to get my (desperate) attempts to small talk. I drive half a mile, turn to the left. One stop, two stops, I park the car in a spot where 3 cars and a camel could have fit (but I nailed it, so whatever!). 3-point turn, crosswalk, red light, red turn and… I’m done. I drove 8 minutes, congrats, I got my license. (Wait, what?) The Cher-et-Tendre gets in the car, drives 8 minutes as well, and comes back. We both got it. It’s done.
On our way home, stunned but happy, we voice reasonable doubts about people’s ability to drive after such a short test. No reverse, no driving on the highway… I am really wondering how the State can give a driver license so easily, in less than 10 minutes. But the best is yet to come, and arrives later that day, in this email from my driving school:
I am speechless.