Ta-dah! I am delighted to present my driver’s licence. It even works, and has so far been used three times. As expected, my driving lessons provided little in the way of actual driving skills or road experience so each time I’ve driven, I’ve been terrified for my life. But, I am legal on the road and for that I am very grateful.
After ditching Mr. X, I went in search of a new instructor. There was only one manual instructor on the island, so Mr. P it was. I intended to call him immediately and arrange a lesson but in true me style, I procrastinated until precisely four weeks before my permit was due to expire.
Mr. P had been expecting me so there was plenty of annoyed teeth sucking when I eventually made contact. I apoligised for my tardiness and explained my predicament: that it was of the utmost importance that I obtain a manual licence before departing the island. He was cool with the timeframe – “there’s no problem,” he said. He thought I had excellent clutch control.
Under new instruction, I quickly gained confidence and so I decided to take the theory test. On Monday morning, I arrived at an empty DMV at 8:30 am. I was about to congratulate myself on being first when I was informed that I should come back at 10 am, no explanation given. On my return at 10 am, someone else was sitting the test and I was now third in line. I enquired as to whether it was possible for more than one person to take the test at a time, but apparently it was not. Again, no explanation was given. I was advised to come back the next day. Of course by now I am begining to lose it – Why can they not implement a simple appointment system? Why must we all hang around all day? I was told to come back at 2 pm. You can imagine the rest – the test was silly and convoluted, I wasted a whole day in town, but I passed so, all good.
In comparison, the cone test was rather straight forward: a simple roundabout of cones which tested your skills at driving in a tight circle. Hardly taxing, but seemingly challenging to others. Having opted to go first, I was greeted with gasps of amazement from everyone at the office on my return.
“You did it so fast. Did you touch any cones?”
Of course I didn’t.
Everything seemed to be going well until I was informed that the DMV would close for three weeks, and every test date prior to that was booked. I could do nothing but apply for a second permit and wait. I now had only one month remaining in the territory. Then, a couple of weeks later, Mr. P’s clutch broke. He was going to get it fixed, but his mechanic had buggered off to Santo Domingo and he had no idea when he would return. I suggested hiring someone else, but he only trusted the Santa Domingo guy so he suggested I do the test in an automatic instead.
One week later, Mr. P and I are practising my reversing skills in his automatic car. It’s the morning of my test and he has waited until this moment to go through the test route. I have reversed into the car park four times now and I can’t seem to avoid the curb. I have become a nervous wreck. He decides I’ve had enough practice, and so I drive back to the DMV to pick up the examiner.
We are now three sat in the car, my mouth has become dry and I’m cracking jokes like some deranged moron. I’m told to drive to the mine. I’m remembering Mr. P’s advice on the importance of the horn and accompanying the indicator with hand signals so I’m tooting my horn a lot like a nuisance and my left hand goes in and out of the window like I’m performing some car version of the Hokey Cokey. The pirate says Arrrr!, turn to the right, I think to myself as I make a hook with my left arm.
Twenty minutes later, it’s all over. The examiner says nothing. Mr. P gives me a big squeeze and tells me I was fantastic. I’m so happy I could kiss the man. I go inside and check that I have in fact passed and I am told I must come back tomorrow and collect my licence. Hurrah!
The next morning, I’m back at the DMV and the lady is filling in my paperwork. She keeps peering at me from behind her screen but is being surprisingly pleasant. She has a daughter studying in England so she has become very chatty. I don’t want to risk my licence so I try my best to engage her, waffling on about England. She asks about using my new licence when I get back at home and I explain how unfortunately, it’s mostly manual cars there and only having a licence for an automatic may be a problem.
She looks up from her computer and enquires as to what car I sat my test in. I explain about the clutch breaking on Mr. P’s manual car and how I ended up sitting the test in an automatic car. She alters something on her paperwork and goes back to her screen.
“Did you have me down as manual?” I ask.
“Did I just talk myself out of a manual licence?”
“Yes.” she says, a smile finally appearing on her face.