When I worked for one of the world’s wealthiest Russians, I often had the pleasure of being escorted by members of the security team when moving to and from the yacht and villa. They can be a strange bunch but, as highly trained killers go, can be surprisingly sweet at times. Andre, one of my favorites, was a giant. In what I can only assume was a way to speed up the process, he would occasionally pick me up over his shoulder and carry me to the car. His driving was a little reckless, taking small single track lanes at great speed in a way that made you feel like you were in a chase scene from a Bond movie. As it turned out, Andre had never really learnt to drive but had instead used his height and his connections to bribe a driving instructor in the Ukraine for his license. My one request for him to slow down was ignored with a dismissive, “Ha! Why don’t you drive?” But unfortunately for all of us, I was – and still am – without a license.
I have twice tried to obtain a license in the UK through the more traditional and legal method of professional lessons. Both times I sadly failed due to being firstly dangerous and secondly, over cautious. However, now that I’m in the islands I find myself within reach of an actual official license. Which it transpires, on returning to the UK, I may (God willing) be able to trade it in for a UK version. This is very exciting news, and with the prospect of my time here on the rock drawing to an end, I wasted no time getting to the DMV to find out exactly what I had to do.
Upon entering the building my good morning greeting was returned, to be followed by an almost 10 minute silence. The sign on the door clearly stated an opening time of 8.30 am, but in true island fashion, the lady was far too busy to deal with the customer in front of her, choosing instead to turn on computers and generally faff around. At 9 am, she finally approached the counter. I was informed that it would cost $25 for the theory book and the learner’s permit. I would need to take lessons, the theory test, the cone test, and the road test – all with an instructor. Eagerly, I paid the starting fees and inquired as to where I might be able to find an instructor. After a moment’s thought, she decided that she did not know the phone numbers for any instructors but pointed me in the direction of the government building where one of the instructors apparently worked. As I was headed there anyway, this turned out to be surprisingly convenient.
Mr. X, as I shall now refer to him, met with me to discuss driving lessons and my immigration status. Within ten minutes, I was leaving having booked a lesson for the following Saturday where, as well as learning to drive, I would also be gaining some inside knowledge on how to request permission to remain in the territory now that my immigration status had changed. Some things here are very challenging while others seem almost too simple.
Once back at home and settled in with a well-deserved cup of tea, I opened up the driver’s manual to begin my study. Within two of the forty nine pages of absolute drivel, I began to think that this may not be quite as simple as I’d hoped. I’d like to assume that any official test would rely on logic but this manual made no sense and was in fact largely the opposite of everything I had learnt in England. Who uses hand signals to indicate the intended movements of the car? Why do they insist that we attach a handwritten sign to the car, to read “Learner Driver” instead of just adopting the internationally recognisable L-plate? Why do I need to toot my horn at everyone? Must I really rely on my terrible memory to get through this? The thought was almost as concerning as an entire country driving around to rules as questionable as these.