What’s that piece of spaghetti doing on the wall?

Many people who know me know that I don’t drive in the UK, though I have been a US driver for many years. (American licenses can’t transfer to Europe, though European licenses are inter-transferrable as a rule. UK and Dutch ones certainly are.)

A smaller and less fortunate group of people have been around me at the time of one or both of my British driving tests (both, coincidentally, in October, which is too close to winter for sanity), and have seen how badly I react to failing them. If this isn’t you, dear reader, count your blessings. Seriously.

While we were in California at Easter this year, I did all the driving and really enjoyed it. So when we got back M and I agreed that I should do one more test before we left the UK. It would be like throwing spaghetti at the wall – if it sticks, great. If not, the Dutch test is reputed to be easier, even if all the road signs are in Dutch.

Accordingly, I’ve been taking lessons from the very patient Gareth of Euan’s School of Motoring. My competence as a driver has never been in question, but my nerves were pretty iffy after two failures. Along the way, Gareth and I have discussed the move to the Netherlands, various gems of classical scholarship, the comparative values of swear words between Battlestar Galactica and real life, and of course the odd bit of driving lore. (I talk when I’m nervous.)

I didn’t tell anyone about this, apart from two conversations where it was, for specific reasons, relevant. I simply didn’t want any expectations, didn’t want to tell anyone I’d failed again. It would just sink without a ripple, unnoticed.

And I did everything differently that I could – different test centre (Currie instead of Joppa), had the instructor in the car for the test, every change I could manage. Not to break any “jinx”, but to persuade myself to relax.

And still I was still sure I had failed. I was promising myself that entire bag of Hershey’s Kisses that’s stashed under my bed, with an afternoon of junk TV after the inevitable bad news. I saw the examiner marking minor points against me over and over again (you fail if you get 15 or more, even if all of your major behaviours are acceptable). By the time we pulled into the parking bay at the test centre, I was feeling deeply gloomy.

Well, the fact that you’re reading this means that I was wrong to feel glum. I got 11 minor marks (all due to nerves…you try to do 40 minutes’ drive perfectly error free while shaking like a leaf!) and no majors. I passed. I am now a licensed British driver.

I can use my UK license to drive in the Netherlands (or exchange it for a Dutch one, or use it to get a Dutch one – not sure). This will make logistics a lot easier, particularly if we don’t have childcare in Oostzaan. And I don’t have to sit any more tests, or do any driving lessons!


12 thoughts on “What’s that piece of spaghetti doing on the wall?”

  1. Huzzah, Abi!

    By the way, what did you think of my driving style when I gave you and David Goldfarb a ride back to your respective residences after that encounter at The Other Change of Hobbit? Go ahead. Give me the unvarnished truth.

  2. Hurrah abi! Congratulations and felicitations.

    I received marks off for posture, I’m sure all your little marks were even more frivolous than that.

  3. Serge,

    Your driving was fine. You managed the Harrison & Oakland cross-merge, which is not easy.

    Would you have passed the British test? Maybe not. Most current British drivers admit that they wouldn’t pass if retested. It requires a degree of formality in driving that experienced drivers don’t necessarily have. It’s one of the reasons I’ve had so much trouble passing.

  4. Tania,

    My favourite part? I got one mark off for signalling too early in one case, and one mark off for signalling too late in another. I reckon they cancel out, in a larger sense.

    My instructor was sure I’d fail when I cut the speed on the Edinburgh bypass back to 50 (the limit on the road is usually 70). He didn’t see the temporary speed limit signs left over from the violent rains in the morning. I did – and would have failed had I not.

    And I’m proud to say that the manoeuvre that I had the most trouble with on former tests – reversing round a corner – earned me not even a minor mark. That was despite the fact that I had to stop the move, pull forward, and start it all over again because a car came along the street I was reversing onto.

    (Got a minor for the other manoeuvre, a reverse park, for missing one blind spot check when cutting the wheels in.)

  5. Congratulations abi! Good on you for breaking the “jinx”.

    That test sounds grueling; the last time I took a driving test for a license, cashing in a California license for Oregon, the total time was less than 15 minutes, and we never got further than a quarter mile from the DMV office, nor got on a high-speed road. So your handling of that much longer UK test is even more impressive.

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