American in Spain

I Remembered How To Drive!

December 18, 2006

Today was my in-car driving test. I got to the driving school at 11:00am, as planned. The instructor and three students were there waiting for me. I got into the back with the two young ones that I met during my last class, and an older (mid-forties) woman took the wheel to finish the last fifteen minutes of her lesson. She drove us to Laredo, where she parked and I took the wheel. I didn't learn much from my lesson, but it was good to practice in the car right before the exam. The instructor spent most of the lesson explaining the things that I was doing correctly to the three never-before-licensed students in the back.

Finally, at noon, we got to the place in Laredo where both of Laredo's driving schools are, and we waited around nervously for the examiner to arrive. There were a half dozen groups of four students, and the instructors talked amongst themselves. I think I was the only one not smoking. Our driving instructor suggested an order for us to go in, and we followed it. The mid-forties woman went first. She was shaking as she got in the car. The rest of us followed her in another car, driven by another instructor. From our vantage point it didn't look like she did much wrong, but about four minutes into the exam, she pulled over and got out, shaking all over and half crying. She'd failed.

The young girl was up next. Meanwhile, the rest of us had to try to stay calm while the first woman sobbed and told us all the other things that were wrong with her life as well. We then went to Santoña, the examiner's home town. Santoña is about 15 minutes away, and I thought the current examinee was pretty lucky to get a bunch of maintain-just-below-the-speed-limit driving during her exam. Upon arrival in Santoña, she parked, and it was time for the next person to go. The other kid said he was feeling nervous and asked if I'd go. I was happy to get on with it.

The examiner was very nice, and politely explained what he wanted me to do. The whole time, he was talking with the instructor. It was quite soothing, really. They talked in calm tones about how much more money driving instructors can make in the south of Spain, and other business-related topics. Before the exam, I was concerned that there would be complete silence in the car, with the examiner watching my every move, and the instructor nervously hoping that I didn't screw up. It wasn't like that at all. I had to be very attentive to the conversation, because between sentences, the examiner would say, "And take the second right here," and then continue with the conversation.

The only mistakes that I noticed me making was that, when I passed from a 70 kph zone to a 40 kph zone, it took me about 50 meters into the 40 kph zone to finally get down to 40 kph. And another time, in the lack of speed limit signs, I assumed that I was in a 50 kph zone when it was really a 70 kph limit.

The only thing about my exam that wasn't really boring was once when the conversation in the back went like:

Instructor: I've got a sister-in-law in Tenerife that's a driving instructor, and she makes double what I do, and works whatever schedule suits her. Whenever she wants to give a class, there's a student available. It's not like that here.

Examiner: So go to Tenerife.

I immediately began looking for a sign to go to Tenerife, since his sentence sounded just like the other "Take the road towards Treto" commands he'd given me. Of course, two seconds later, I realized that Tenerife is the Canary Islands! I told the story when I got back to the other car after my exam, and the other instructor got a kick out of it.

I parked, shortly before having to go over a really narrow bridge that I hate going over, and exchanged places with the young guy. You see, they don't tell you if you passed when you get out of the car. So I and the other girl had to wait until we got back to Laredo before hearing of our fates. The first woman had stopped shaking and sobbing and was just swearing to herself under her breath every minute or so.

Eventually we got back to Laredo, and the instructor and examiner stayed in the car for the longest 5 minutes, and eventually they got out and told us that we had all passed! I was later told that I had zero faults! You're allowed 6 light faults, and only 1 grave fault before you fail. But a grave fault is not stopping completely at a stop sign, so a light fault must be something like not signaling a turn.

It's been 32 days since The Day I Forgot How To Drive, and now I've remembered again! Yay!

Of course I won't be legally allowed to drive for another week when the papers get done. You know how government drones get around the holidays...