The Saga, part 1
I’m going to tell you a story that’s been ongoing for the past 7 months, so be prepared to read; it may get depressing, but don’t worry, the story ended today.
Getting a drivers’ license in the UK takes a little determination and practice, but it can be done. The reason why people hate it is because it’s a complete and total pain in the *** for months on end. It is the classic example of British paperwork and bureaucracy; there are ten gazillion steps and they take forever. Here are the two main prerequisites before you can take the test:
1. Send them your passport. Wait 3 weeks. They send you a ‘provisional driving license’. Cost: £50, a few minutes, and the stress of not having your passport for a couple of weeks.
2. Book online for your ‘theory and hazard perception test’. Wait 3 weeks for your appointment. Warning: if you don’t study for this, you will fail. Cost: £31, a couple of hours studying, and a fair amount of anxiety and emotional stress.
---- Sample test question: You are towing a trailer on a motorway. What is your maximum speed limit? (There are no speed limit signs, you’re just supposed to know what speed you should be traveling.)
Okay, so at this point, you’re £81 in the hole and you’ve had a little stress, but nothing too terrible. That’s how I was feeling about the whole thing this summer, a little bothered, but positive. I passed my theory test in August, and the soonest possible driving test was two months away, October 19. Cost: £62, a lot of emotional stress, and a two-month wait!
Fast forward two months to October. I spent the better part of four days preparing for the test: taking a driving lesson from an instructor (cost: £50), borrowing a manual transmission car (an automatic will only get you a limited license), making sure the insurance was okay for me to drive it during the test, practicing all the maneuvers they might ask me to do.
I arrive at the test center, and the instructor begins by asking two ‘security questions’ about the car. “Show me how would you check to make sure the engine coolant level was correct?” I popped the hood, showed him the coolant reservoir, and explained. Next question, “Show me how you would check to make sure your brake lights were working?” They get to choose from over twenty questions to ask about your car, and he chose that one.
At that moment, after 5 months of preparation, £193 (about $300), and huge amounts of effort to make sure I passed on the first try, my test ended… I had a brake light out. I would never have thought to check them in a million years, but there it was. Something so simple a spare bulb would have fixed it, but the car isn’t legal if it doesn’t have both lights, so I couldn’t take the test.
The test examiner and I just stood there looking at the back of the car. I was dumbfounded. Then he says, “Well… then… I guess… I’ll just leave you with that.” And he walked off. Nothing you can do; just go home, book another test, pay another £62, and wallow another two months in self-pity.
End of part 1.