You’ve just turned sixteen! Happy Birthday! Congratulations! You’re now at that special age where the state of Massachusetts has deemed you eligible to get behind the wheel of an automobile! Within a year you should have your license and be zooming all over, nothing holding you back except absurd gas prices!
I mean, that’s how it’s supposed to work, right?
In most cases, yes, but my experience was a little off-brand for the U.S. white-picket lifestyle. It may have taken a Schrodinger’s cat driving instructor, (if I never actually ask then there will always be two worlds: one in which he is high as a kite, and one where he actually does his job!) a pandemic, and 4 years, but I am proud to say I now have my driver’s license!
Due to the unreliability of my Schrodinger’s Instructor, I decided to take my test through the same driving school that my brother had used. I was asked to arrive promptly at 6:45 am. This is incredibly, horribly early. I hate getting up this early. Most do.
But I did it. I got there on time, early even. I pulled up at 6:40 am, confident and ready to get this done!
Turns out, every single other person taking the test that day decided to get there at 5:45 am. There were twenty-five people.
Here was the game plan: everybody had the chance to take a practice run, there were three cars, and it only took about an hour. Everyone would be tested within an hour or two, and then everybody got to go home. Nice and simple, two to three hours, tops.
(And then I was going to get waffles.)
Let’s set up act one: The Practice Drive.
After waiting 45 minutes and repeatedly trying to get into cars only to be told it was still not my turn, it was finally my turn. This other girl and I got into the car, masks up, her squished in the seat behind me because I’m six feet tall, me having a mild panic attack, and off we went!
I hit a trash can. It sounded like it was just a pothole, but it wasn’t. I should have realized it was an omen for what was about to transpire. Or to put it more appropriately, trash-pire.
After taking my practice drive, they asked us to stay on the sidewalk while we were waiting for our turn. There were seven chairs and twenty-five people, you do the math. Good news, at eight in the morning, there was plenty of shade to be had. Bad news, the tester was an hour and a half late to start.
When I left the house that morning, it was with the belief that I would be a licensed driver by ten, eating all the waffles I wished.
I wore my black combat boots, my black cargo pants, my black shirt, my black bandana, brought my black bag, all very aesthetically pleasing. The aesthetic, however, means jack in ninety degree heat with the sun bearing down directly above me.
The shade, it seemed, did not last long.
(Neither did my sanity, but we’ll get to that.)
The singular thing I had to look forward to during that long, never ending wait was pushing my chair away from the sun every 15 minutes. In between these 15 minute intervals, I had to sit and entertain myself.
Turns out, I do not find myself very entertaining.
I started picking and ripping chunks of grass like a child waiting for the bus. I leaned back in my chair and got scolded for leaning back too far. I tapped my feet and snapped my fingers. I ate stale saltines that I found buried in the bottom of my bag. I attempted slumber. I crossed and uncrossed my legs. I questioned why I did not bring a book. I ALWAYS BRING A BOOK! I wondered why the answer was 42. I tried meditating.
(That’s a lie. I hate meditating)
I became aware of a sound.
It was something akin to a creaky metal see-saw going up……and down……and up……and down. The first few times I heard it, it was kind of nice.
Then it kept happening. Over and over and over again. Occasionally I would become one with the sound. It did not bother me, for we were the same being.
Never in my life have I understood more the effectiveness of water drop torture.
And now, onto act two: The Test.
Finally, it was my turn. All of at once, the boredom was gone and the anxiety was back, front and center. It was now 1:30 pm in the afternoon.
I got into the car with the crankiest tester known to man.
Not to mention the fact that I definitely had heat stroke.
Everything was going fine at first.
Then I was asked to make a three point turn.
I managed to turn to the left, but for some reason the car wouldn’t go back. I kept turning the wheel to the left and the right, slowly backing into the curb, crying a little, because why won’t this stupid car let me turn!!!
The tester finally said “What the hell are you doing?”
Me: “I don’t know why it won’t turn I’m so sorry.”
Tester: “You didn’t put it in reverse.”
I was definitely sure that I had failed. The crying did not help.
As I put the car in park back at the RMV, we sat there quietly for a few minutes as the cranky man scribbled away on his sheet. Then he turned to me and said “You barely passed.”
(He actually said that. Rude.)
The SIX HOURS that I spent at the RMV that day were quite possibly some of the worst hours of my life. Factor in the ninety degree weather, the realization that I am not as entertaining as I thought I was, that freaking noise, the rude, cranky, late tester, and I am finally able to agree with every stereotype I have ever heard about the RMV.
But hey, at least I got my license!
Look at me, livin’ the American dream.