On the July 27 this year, two things happened to me. The first is that I entered my so-called “Jesus Year” since it was my 33rd birthday. The second is that my US driver’s license expired.
I’m fine with the first one – getting older is sort of fun. Or it least it is while I still look younger than my age. Ask me again when I’m 50 or 60. The second one is an inconvenience. And not just a “darn, now I have to ride the bus until I can get into the DMV” sort of inconvenience. It’s an expensive, hassle-laden inconvenience.
First, there’s the principle of the matter. I’ve been driving more years than not at this point, so not being able to just grab the car keys and go has sent me back in time to my early-teen-but-pre-driving years. This morning, I moved the cars around in the driveway so that Peter will be able to pull his dad’s car in when they return from their outing. It was a huge thrill – backing the big car up with careful precision. It was, in fact, the first time I’d ever sat behind the wheel of “our” Irish car.
Then, there’s the matter of replacement. Until I can get to Ohio, I’m going to have to pursue a license from the Irish system. The Irish system is expensive, convoluted and time-consuming. When I moved from Ohio to Illinois, I took my Ohio license and five or ten bucks down to the DMV. I waited for 3 hours because the computers were down – I used the time to read the road rules book from cover to cover. When the computers were finally operational, I had an eye test, took the written test, smiled for the camera and walked out with a freshly laminated bad picture of myself that also gave me the right to drive.
In Ireland, I have to start from the very beginning – I have to get a learner’s permit, which is called a provisional license. It means I can only drive with a licensed driver in the car with me and I have to display a large red L on my front and rear windows. Yup, L for loser. I mean learner.
Getting the provisional license is no simple feat. Much like in Illinois, I have to get an eye test and pass a written exam. Unlike Illinois, it’s not one-stop shopping. Any licensed doctor or optometrist can perform the eye test. The doctor down the road charges 55 euro. The Specsavers (think For Eyes but with less clever advertising) charges 10 euro. Guess where I’m going to go. The eye test report is good for four weeks.
Two offices in Dublin provide the theory test. I called the central number to schedule my test. Yes, you can’t just show up, you have to book an exam time. The cost of this is 34 euro and the earliest they could get me in was 30 August, 2 weeks away. Goodbye to my dream of having a provisional license by the end of this week.
When I have these two reports, two passport-sized photographs, a completed application and 15 euro, then I can go down to the Motor Tax Office, which is where they deal with these sorts of things. From the brief visit Peter and I had when we picked up our forms, I will have to wait in line for approximately 3 days. At the end of that, if all my paperwork is present and correct, I should have a provisional driver’s license.
I plan to take a couple of driving lessons to learn how to pass the Irish test. It’s rigorous, but not really in the right sort of ways. The trouble, it seems to me, with a lot of Irish drivers, is that they learn how to pass the test, not how to drive safely. So they can reverse around the corner, can frequently check their mirrors, and can operate the windshield wipers, but they can’t properly drive around blind turns on narrow country roads.
No matter, I have plenty of time to practice. The average wait to take the driving test in Ireland is 48 weeks. Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t mean 4 to 8 weeks, which is how long it will take for your collect-em-trade-em-race-em-be-the-first-kid-on-your-block-to-collect-the-whole-set free cereal prize toy to arrive. I mean it will take nearly a year before I can take the test.
In the mean time, I will have to do the things I did as a teenager. Get the learner’s permit. Have Peter take me for practice drives. Move cars around in the driveway. Volunteer to drive on every trip to the shop. And count the days until I can return to the land of the grown-ups.