American in Spain

Hanged by the Loophole

November 23, 2006

The driver's license saga continues... Good news first. I passed the theory exam. Yay. As I expected, I had to call several times, talk to four people, and deal with them not knowing how to enter an immigrant's national ID number into the computer.

So I went directly to the local autoescuela (driving school). The dialog went something like this:

Me: Okay, I've passed the theory test. What do I have to do to take the in-car test? I'd like to make an appointment to do that as soon as possible.

Her: Well, you have to enroll as a student at the driving school, and take some classes first.

Me: No, I already know how to drive. I just want to take the test.

Her: Well, no driving instructor is going to get in a vehicle with you without giving you some classes first.

Me: [fibbing only slightly] Why not? I can legally drive in Spain!

Her: Imagine that he gets in the car, and you go through a stop sign.

Me: But that's ridiculous. I've never gone through a stop sign in the thirteen years that I've been legally driving!

Marga later had a much better response to this stupidity: "But that's what the instructor has a brake pedal for!!!"

Her: I'm just telling you how it is.

Me: Well, I don't really have a choice, do I? How much does it cost?

Her: The matriculation is 150€.

Me: [shaking my head in disbelief] What a robbery...

Her: I'm just telling you what it costs.

Suddenly, out of a side office, pops a man, who we'll call Señor Cabrón1.

Sr. Cabrón: It's not a fucking robbery! Look, pal, if you wanna go somewhere else, then, by all means, get the hell out!

Me: [taken aback for obvious reasons] It's a robbery on the part of the government, not on your part.

Of course, that's not true. It is a robbery on the autoescuela's part! But I was trying to calm him down...

Sr. Cabrón: When I think that someone is charging me too much for something, I go somewhere else. How dare you come in here with that kind of attitude!

Her: [with an apologetic look on her face] So can I get your telephone number?

Sr. Cabrón retreats to his office, but continues to mumble stuff about jerks coming in and accusing him of robbery.

Me: [with a "what's wrong with that guy?" look] Sure, it's [my number here].

Her: Okay, I'll try to find an instructor for you and give you a call. You can pay me when you come for your first lesson.

Me: Okay. When will that be? I'd like to do it as soon as possible.

Her: [thumbing through a calendar] Well, let's see... Maybe as early as the, that's impossible. It would have to be...

Sr. Cabrón: [shouting from his office] If it's fucking impossible, then don't fucking say it! God, I'm surrounded by idiots!

He continued to personally insult her for about thirty seconds, while she looked at me, partially rolling her eyes and partially wincing.

Her: Anyway, it might be December. The whole process could take three weeks.

Me: Okay. You've been very helpful, even though I think what you've told me is absolutely insane and unfair. I'll await your call, but I hope you'll understand if I look for other alternatives.

And I walked out, all my happiness from having passed the exam replaced with anger at the stupid bureaucracy. This afternoon, I think I'll go to Laredo to ask around in some other driving schools. Surely there's a driving instructor somewhere that will trust me not to kill him. I'll be the least dangerous exam he gives all year, for christ sake!

I'm not a professional psychologist, but I suspect that reactions like that seen by our friend, Sr. Cabrón, are far more likely to occur when they are reacting to comments that have a high level of veracity. I was reminded of this article about societal taboos.

1"Cabrón" is the Spanish equivalent to "asshole". Funnily (to me, anyway), it literally means "big male goat". Personally, I'd rather be compared to a large billy goat than an anus.