Today marks the day that I…

… passed my driving test!

(It would be incorrect to say ‘today’ in my title since this happened a few months ago but who’s counting?)

I’m ecstatic! It’s almost unreal and clutching the piece of paper that is my temporary license feels surreal. I can’t believe that after three weeks of fretting and being let down and crying about the unfair tester who clearly had some issues, I’ve got my license.

This was my third time taking the test so it was do or die. Okay, not as dramatic but it would have been a hassle to go through taking the written test again, scheduling all those DMV appointments, paying the retest fees and troubling people to borrow their car for the test. Trust me, that’s a lot of stress right there. And besides, I really didn’t see why I couldn’t pass the first two times.

My motto is: Get in, feel safe. Because my mom is a safe driver and having been a passenger in her car more than my dad’s car, my stomach is conditioned to know when we are going above 40mph. I’m not joking. I can feel it in my stomach if we’re going faster than I’m used to.

Thus, going above 40mph always makes me feel like we’re going too fast. Holla at this super-grandma driver right here lol. Actually I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think some old folks actually drive faster than I do.

You can be sure that I don’t make wild turns or cut into lanes like a maniac or tailgate you like an a-hole. I will turn on my lights and I will check all lanes before making a turn.

The first time I failed, the tester told me it was because I didn’t look over my shoulder when changing lanes. K. The second time around was when I felt like the same tester had something against me. I was failed for going too slow. Um, the only reason I was going slow was because it was half a block’s distance to the next corner so obviously I couldn’t reach the speed limit without having to brake hard at the corner… And I was also told that I didn’t speed up at corners. Thaaat’s new. I didn’t know people had to speed up at corners.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m effing nervous about driving tests. I drive just fine but it’s the tests that sets me on the edge. I haven’t told you about the traumatizing time I took the driving test back home? Yeah, that one time left a bad impression on me and since then I’ve been nervous about driving tests even though I know they’re in completely different styles.

Anyway, by this third time, I tried to tell myself that if I fail, I’ll just take the written test again no big deal. I tried telling myself that tons of people fail the test every day too, not just me; that old grandmas and grandpas (I saw so many at the DMV) are determined to get their license so I shouldn’t let the failures get to me; that Fukuyama Jun took years to get his license too (completely irrelevant to so many people but whatever); that one of my friends took 6 tries to pass. Did that make me feel better? Sort of… not really. I’d forgotten all that by the time it was my turn for the test.

The first two times I borrowed a friend of a friend’s car. The third time, my sister’s host family actually told us it was fine to use their car for the test so they met us at the DMV. We arrived early and waited 20 minutes for them to arrive. I went up to the window that the person at the front told me to but it was closed so I had to wait in the line next to it and there was this lady in front… who took forever to get her business done. She and the DMV person kept chatting and I was behind like, I’M A NERVOUS WRECK HERE, HURRY UP AND LET ME TAKE THE TEST ALREADY.

But nope, she even had to get her eyes checked because she couldn’t read the lines out on the vision testing board and that held the line up even longer. Just as I was about to flip, another lady opened the first counter again and called me over. I went over, handed her all my documents and she processed it. I had to pay the retest fee again. The lady told me she would hang onto my documents and told me to wait until I was called.

A few minutes of awkward and stilted conversation between me and my sister’s host family, my name was called. Um, what?! The two other times I took the test, I waited at least 45 minutes for my turn. I jumped up and hurried over to the tester who asked me to read the paper and sign it. I took the keys and led the tester out to the car (which I almost couldn’t recognize because I had only driven it once and it looks like any other car). She told me to get in and show her all the signals and stuff which was fine because I’d already done it twice.

But here’s the thing. Once I got into the car, I found myself lying on a freaking beach chair – the seat was reclined and pushed sooo far back. My sister’s host dad is about 6 feet tall and I’m like 3/4 of a foot shorter so the pedals were WAY out of reach. Before I could adjust the seat, the tester was telling me to roll down the windows and turn on the left signal. And I was so nervous and eager not to make any mistakes or piss the tester off that I fumbled around a bit. While she was walking around the car, I quickly tugged the seat a whole foot forwards and yanked the lever to straighten the back. Then I didn’t have time to adjust the back anymore so I drove with the seat almost vertical ahaha.

Then the tester got into the car and told me to start the engine. I am so used to engines starting with a low rumble or something that I almost freaked out when I didn’t hear the engine start. But it had started. Engines just start really quietly here which is not a bad thing. And it was a hybrid car so I guess that was another reason.

“Any questions before we pull out?” the tester asked me.

Previously, when the other tester asked me this, I was like, what questions…? Is there something I need to ask them? So I just said no. This time I decided to take a chance so I asked (at the risk of sounding stupid which was fine since I was already a quivering bunch of nerves), “Er, if the speed limit is 40mph, I can go 5 above or below the speed limit, right?” You know, in case I’m TOO slow again which I wasn’t.

And she looked at me funny. “That’s right.”

Okay, glad we got that cleared up. Also glad I managed to sound like a fool to my tester. Oh well.

“Okay, we’re going to pull out of this spot and you’re going to turn right over there,” the tester said when we were set to go.

Guess what? I forgot where the indicators were. LOL. I nearly hit the wipers. Thank goodness I didn’t. Did I mention that in my nervous state I didn’t know how to turn on the A/C? Yeah. I didn’t. So I left the windows partially rolled down. She must have been like, are you trying to roast us in the car dammit? Just kidding. The weather was lovely.

I prayed and hoped that the test wouldn’t involve one of those traffic lights at which you have to wait for the cars going straight to pass before turning. It didn’t. I had to cross a major intersection but after that, it was just small roads and housing areas. I made sure to glance at the speed limit signs to make sure I was within the limit. The good thing about the car was the digital display of the speed so I could see the exact mph I was going at. I thought to myself as I was driving, this function is awesome… we should get this car. Afterwards I found out that the car costs $27,000 -____-

During the test, I kept wanting to glance at the tester to see if her expression betrayed any kind of distaste for my driving. All I can say is that the lady’s got an amazing poker face. You couldn’t tell what she was thinking… The DMV probably conducts ‘poker face’ classes. On the other hand, seeing no expression on her face and not knowing what she was crossing out on the sheet on her lap made me uneasy. The previous tester kept striking/circling stuff on the sheet and in the end I failed twice so of course I had to wonder if this tester was failing me.

The timing I picked for the test was somehow really nice since there was barely any traffic on the roads. With no cars in front of behind me, I could change lanes smoothly. Except for the one lane she asked me to change to. There was a car in the next lane coming from waaay behind and I gauged that I was able to change lanes so I flicked on the indicator and began to merge… and that’s when the guy started to speed up (what a jerk). I swear I couldn’t hear over the sound of my heart thumping inside my chest once I had changed lanes. I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that the guy was actually still about 3 cars behind and had slowed down again but all I could think was, DID SHE SEE THAT?

Coming from a place where dangerous drivers are a dime a dozen, I’m used to seeing stupid and selfish driving like speeding up when others want to merge or squeezing between two cars in a freaking rush hour traffic jam where everyone is already crammed up on the highway or pressuring drivers who are backing out. I just didn’t expect it to happen to me during a driving test here. T_T

I finally pulled into the DMV lot again. I don’t really remember what happened between the time I pulled into the parking lot and the moment when the tester turned to me and said, “Congratulations, you passed! You got zero errors.” I felt NOTHING. I was numb from being nervous and at the same time hearing the words ‘congratulations’ and ‘passed’ rendered me completely speechless.

I think I might have asked in utter disbelief: ‘I… passed?’ Of course completely not knowing how to respond to the ‘you got zero errors’ part. Me? Zero errors? Omg.

She handed me the sheet on which she had scrawled in huge writing: Great job! I clutched the piece of paper and stumbled out of the car. She pointed me in the direction of the door but in my disoriented state, I went to the wrong door and tugged on it. Fail lol. I burst through the right door, jelly legs and all, and into the waiting area where my mom, sister and host family were waiting.

They stared back at me, waiting for me to say something. Apparently later on I was told that my face had ‘I FAILED’ written all over it. Need to work on that poker face… and expressing joy at passing tests.

“So?!” My mom stood.

“I passed!” I breathed out, finally getting a grip of myself and realizing that it was over. I had passed. I was getting my license. Holy crap.

And then there was lots of hugging… in front of other people (and some parents) waiting their turn for the test. It was… embarrassing, come to think of it, but at that point I couldn’t have cared less.

Even the lady at the counter whom I had to see to get my temporary license couldn’t help smiling at the embarrassing display of joy. I’m sorry, folks, you have no idea how big a deal it is to me to finally have my license haha. If you know me, you’ll know that when I was younger, I was set on getting my license and being an awesome driver like my mom. When I got older, that idea began to be replaced with ‘omg, I don’t want to drive’. Then I was told by a friend that in order to hire a driver, I have to have a license. That put me right back into gear haha! Just kidding. I had to get my license. I just had to.

So here I am now, with a California driver’s license. I’m not going to lie, it was worth all the effort/stressing/nervousness.

Did you pass on the first try? Any driving test stories to share with me?

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