Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Big Day - My Driving Test (insert laughter here)

Today was the day... my driving test.  And I was more nervous than I think I was when I was 16 taking it for the first time.  Why?  I have no idea.  The idea of failing something I've been doing for over 20 years would certainly be a kick in the pants to my ego, but seriously, would it be that big of a deal to fail it?  Probably not.  More of an inconvenience than anything.

Yesterday I did my last driving class.  One of the things they do here is announce to the driving schools which of the 7 routes the DGT (Spain's version of the RMV) will be doing the exams on the day before the actual exam.  Thereby, you can practice your route the day before you take the test.  Great idea.  And so yesterday, during the strike, I set out to meet my instructor to do my last practice lesson.

Only the automatic wasn't actually in the city, but "10 minutes" outside the city.  An hour later we finally found the car.  Thankfully he extended my lesson accordingly and more thankfully I didn't have any specific commitments for the afternoon (other than work I should have been doing) that interfered with this change of plans.

The class went fine.  I made one or two decent sized errors (like almost entering a do not enter street and almost taking out a pedestrian) but both of which I committed to memory and knew with confidence I wouldn't do again.  But overall, I'd been driving all week and felt pretty good about my ability to do what needed to be done to ace this test.

This morning I hit the road at 9:30 with a belly full of butterflies - my exam was at 11 in Pedrables, about an hour away via public transit, probably less than 4 miles from me in actuality.  I got to the driving exam area around 10:45.  Now, it's been over 20 years since I took my last driving test but I don't remember a line of drivers ed cars lined up out on the road.  If I recall you were called from inside the RMV and then went out to your car.  You did not have to have an instructor from a school, just someone over the age of 18 with you.  Here the cars lined an entire side of a street, all with their school "helmets" on top of the cars.  Cars were parallel parking, doing practice runs, etc.

11AM came and went.  My instructor said there was a long line ahead of me.  How I wish they had a bench or something but no, standing it is.  I did at least have a book with me.  By the time 12:30 came and I had been waiting close to 2 hours, I no longer had butterflies but just wanted to get the exam done and overwith so I could move along with my day.

And so at 12:30 I got my opportunity, about 20 minutes earlier than I had anticipated.  Exams are supposed to last 25-40 minutes.  The girl in front of me was back within 10 (supposedly she passed too!) and so my instructor and I went over to the car to start my exam.  We handed him my passport and NIE info (good thing I thought to bring that with me as the instructor never told me to) and he told me to get the car ready to go (adjust mirrors, seatbelts, etc).  Then there was a rapid fire exchange in Spanish that went something like this...
            Examiner:  The information on my card doesn't match up with this car
            Instructor:  What do you mean?  She is registered to drive an automatic.
            Examiner:  I have her down for a manual
            Instructor:  No, she is supposed to be in an automatic
            Examiner:  This information is not correct and so I cannot do the exam

He looked to me and told me that my instructor would explain the issue.  But my Spanish is often better than I realize, at least from a comprehension standpoint - I knew exactly what just happened.  Someone messed up and I wasn't taking my exam today.

Oh, let me back up for a moment... here in Spain, you have to register if you are taking the exam on either a manual or an automatic.  I think, but am not positive, that this information also is reflected on your drivers license (once said license is actually attained) - so you are only allowed to drive a manual if you have a manual license.  No, it makes no sense, I agree.  But in order to reinforce this, the driving school needs to submit the license plates of the vehicle each student will be driving.  So my license plate of the automatic I was driving did not match up with the license plate of the manual that the examiner had on his sheet.

There was another instructor nearby that had just done his exam with his student in the same car.  They talked with the examiner and then the examiner gave me an I'm sorry kind of look and just walked away in a rush.  There's one way to catch up when you are behind, just find an excuse not to give an exam!!  My instructor apologized and told me to wait for him, he was going to sort this out, after his next exam... so just wait.  But then 2 seconds later the other instructor told me to go with him to the "end point".  I have no idea what the "end point" was but got in the car, mad as hell and on the verge of tears from said anger.  All this waiting....and nothing.

I asked him what happened and I was right, someone messed up.  Of course he and my instructor denied it was the school that messed up and honestly, I don't care who did it.  I just want it fixed so I can take the exam.  It would have been much better had they fixed it on the spot but alas, no, this is Spain and nothing happens that fast.  In the end, he drove me back to the driving school which is exactly the area I did not need to be in and so had to take a taxi rather than the metro to my next destination - Volkswagon.

Just a quick note on VW here.  They have been awesome to a degree.  For some reason they keep lowering the cost of my car despite the fact that we have agreed to each price they have given us (this it the awesome part).  They get new inventory in, they lower the cost of our car by 1000 euros.  Sure, I'll take it.  But seriously folks, not to say I won't take the money, I will, but this is not a profitable practice and helps to explain the economic issues here.  I would be none the wiser that you got new inventory in and was happy to pay the original price you quoted me.  Not to say I'm not thrilled at my new price because I am... just saying I wouldn't have known there was a lower price to be had if you hadn't brought it up.  But with the lower price means new contracts and so now we've signed them something like 3 times.  And when I went to drop off the contract after my failed license attempt, I just had to laugh.

Why?  Josh had printed out the contract double sided.  Well, apparently that's just not allowed in VW contract world.  My contact had to call her superior to see if it could be accepted the way it was.  And no, it had to be single sided.  Seriously.  Yes, I had to bring home yet another contract and my car is now delayed yet again.  But since I have no license, I suppose it's not the end of the world.

So my exam has been rescheduled for next week, fingers crossed this time it actually happens.  I suppose at least I now know how the system works and will be semi prepared for what will happen.  Of course, I would have preferred a one and done deal today but I should know better by now... ahhh Spain.


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