Yeah, it looks the same everywhere:
I was due to renew my driver’s license. When I’d gotten the notice from the DMV a month earlier, it advised renewing would include taking a written test.
If you saw me that day at the DMV I may have appeared normal, but I was living in a state of barely controlled panic. I HATE taking tests.
It had been years since I’d taken a DMV written test, and my stomach clenched every time I thought of it. So I started preparing way ahead of my appointment. (Sidebar: If you have to do something at the DMV, make an appointment. You’ll still be treated like a third-class citizen, but you’ll spend less time being treated that way.)
I went to the DMV and got their 104-page publication entitled “California Driver Handbook,” subtitled, “Let’s See How Many Ways We Can Baffle and Befuddle You.” I read that sucker from cover to cover. I highlighted obscure items I thought might appear on a test, like that thing about “center left turn lanes” and “California Vehicle Code 21460.5 (c).”
I also went online and took the sample driving tests. There are five of them and I not only did each test twice, I printed them out and reviewed them. There’s also an online Driving Knowledge Tutorial which I took. And took again. And again.
As I drive to my appointment I’m so nervous my sweaty hands are slippery on the steering wheel. Oh, great, I think, lose control of the car and crash on my way to the DMV. Instead, I arrive early and spend the time in my car doing guess what – studying some more. I’m sure I spent 20 hours studying for (and obsessing over) this thing. Now, finally it’s time. I’m as ready as I can be.
After waiting an amazingly few minutes I step to the first counter. Paperwork, write a check, a quick eye exam, and I’m given a tag with “F013” – the number they’ll call when it’s time for my next step.
Before I even sit down, I hear my number. Different DMV person, paperwork, thumb print, waiting while the slowest printer I’ve ever seen produces multiple forms. My palms are still sweating. My stomach is still clenching.
And then, “Here’s your temporary driver’s license. Go over there and get your picture taken.”
Wait. What? What am I not getting here? I’ve just been handed my temporary license with no written test? I say, “Don’t I have to take a test?” She looks at me like I’m crazy and applying for a job there. “No,” she snarls, and points me toward the camera.
I don’t know why and I never will. But all that studying, sweating – and obsessing – all for nothing.
Well, maybe not for nothing.