Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Purgatory...Otherwise Known as Weekend 1 of Drivers Ed

After all the back and forth on do I or don't I get a drivers license here in Spain, I finally got off the pot and signed up a few weeks ago.  40 hours of intensive classes - 8 hours a day for 5 days over the course of 2 weekends.  All about learning to drive (because apparently after more than 20 years I need this).  This past weekend was my first intensive weekend and it was just that - intense!!  Class started at 10 on Friday morning and we were thankfully let out at 5:30 instead of 6 that evening with about an hour break for lunch at, oh 3... late even for Spain.  You can imagine how American Julie was faring with not eating for that long... not so well.

Anyways, as I said, class started at 10 on Friday and we jumped right into instruction in the book.  With the exception of one 18 year old, our class of 5 students had all driven before and were just looking to be able to drive here in Spain.  Just goes to show a little bit of how little Spain is willing to bend to allow reciprocity with other countries - it's a money making deal and incredibly annoying that I could drive for 20 years and not be able to take some shorted, less costly, version of this class and tests to show that yes, I can actually drive.  But no, doesn't work like that.  So here I am... in purgatory, not quite hell yet... my guess that will be when we start the actual driving.

I will give kudos to our instructor, Edu.  For a topic that is quite honestly dull, he knows how to liven it up and certainly was able to keep me awake.  He expected us to participate and nerd that I am, I spoke up quite a lot.  It was that or fall asleep at my desk.  And in all honesty, I had to pay attention.  It's not that I don't know how to drive, but seriously when was the last time you were asked a question about how many km/hr you can legally drive to pass another car?  Exactly.  A lot of details that I haven't had to think about in a LONG time.  And so I jotted down notes in my book and just hoped some of it would stick.  Day 1 was long but manageable.

I went out Friday night, perhaps a mistake given I had to get up the next morning, but class didn't start til 10 and seriously, it's drivers ed, I can take it.  Let's just say it's good that I wasn't hung over because I barely made it through class alive.  Again, he's interesting but there is just only so much you can learn about driving that you either already know about or really just don't care about.  On Saturday, as a "break" we each took a few exams online just to see how we would do.  We all failed (one person passed one test of the three we each took).  I suppose there should be some comfort in numbers but instead it instilled panic in me.  How in the world am I going to pass something that I already passed 20 years ago and have very little recollection of?

And let's just add in that the English translation is crap.  For instance "what would "benefit" fatigue in a driver?".  For those native English speaker, the word "benefit" means to improve / help.  What would help a driver with fatigue?  Well, rest of course!!  But no, that's not the answer because in this case, "benefit" means to increase... yes, increase.  You didn't know that definition of benefit either??  Explains why I got that question wrong because if it's increasing fatigue than taking a rest is certainly not the right answer but instead driving along monotonous roads would be.  Right?  Yup, you get the idea.

But I was determined to not let those 3 tests get to me.  We were only 3/4 of the way thru the book and some of the questions covered topics we hadn't gone over yet.  I figured I had 3 full days of class dedicated to ONLY taking tests.  Repetition is a beautiful thing and I know that once I repeat these questions over and over and over again, it will only get easier.  And so I went out again on Saturday night because Sunday was just going to be taking the exam over and over again... ALL DAY.

I walked into class on Sunday ready to take on the exam.  I'm a college educated woman with over 20 years of driving experience.  I.CAN.DO.THIS.  Hahahaha - how wrong I was!!  There were computers (that date back to probably the early 90s) on each of our desktops ready to go.  I dove right in.  Fail.  Fail.  Fail.  Fail... FUCK!!  Are you serious?  One after another.  Fail.  How is this possible?  No I hadn't cracked a book since class but given the 16 hrs of instruction I'd already had the last 2 days I was saving opening the book to study when I was not in class this week rather than after my brain was already dead of exhaustion and too much information.  I'm a firm believer in walking away, taking a break and going back to it rather than pushing thru - I think we all need to take a break and revisit things with a fresh and open mind.

Even still, over the course of the EIGHT hour day, I took the test 32 times.  I passed only 4.  I left class on Sunday feeling defeated - how could I already be failing by significant numbers?  On the exam you are allowed to get only 3 questions wrong out of the 30.  That's 10% which seems reasonable when you think, do you really want a 50% failure person out on the roads?  Certainly not!!  My theory, right or not, is that when you take the practice exam you know right away if the question you answered is right or wrong.  So after you have 4 wrong ones you almost kind of give up, not putting in as much effort as you might have if you didn't know how many you had gotten right/wrong.  This explains the tests where I got 9, 10 or even 13 wrong.  Yes, that many.  Most of the time it was around 5, but that's still 2 questions too many.

Regardless this means I've got to put my nose to the grindstone and focus.  I have this coming Sat and Sun with 8 hours each day of more test taking.  And in the meantime, I'm doing the online practice test through the government hoping that pure memorization will play a big role in my passing of this exam.  So far I've passed every single one and might I note that you don't know if you pass until after you've answered all 30 questions - like I said, there's something to be said about not knowing that makes you put in that much more effort.  I take theoretical test next Monday, Oct 8 and most definitely am concerned...though admittedly, more concerned about passing the driving test.  Part of me just wants to throw in the towel and call it a day and the other part is determined to make this happen.  Stay tuned....


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