Today was a good day

I'll drink to that!
I’ll drink to that!

When I opened the letter with the State of Maine letterhead 10 days ago, I was nervous.

After all the bureaucratic hoops I’ve jumped through over the last two months – green card interviews, chasing my Social Security Number, trying to figure out what the hell all the employment paperwork I signed was – this one seemed to have a lot more riding on it. Not just for me, but for at least five of my co-workers.

January 14, 3:00pm: Learner permit written test day.

As has been well documented here, I’m unable to buy a car until a bank gives me a few grand to help out. A bank won’t give me that few grand until I’ve got full comprehensive insurance. An insurance company won’t cover my foreign ass until I have a driver’s license. And while I don’t have a car, I have to rely on the absolute kindness of colleagues I’ve barely known for a month. Thankfully, they’ve been extremely good about it.

So it’s safe to say I had a hell of a lot of hopes (and gas tanks) riding on my success today. And the result was simple: I had 10 days to study the Maine Motorist Handbook and Study Guide. Once those 10 days were up, I had to sit a multiple-choice test with 30 questions, 24 of which I had to get correct to pass.

The catch, of course, is that the last time I applied my understanding of road rules (on paper) was 12 years ago. And even then, it took me an embarrassing number of times (which I won’t mention here) to finally pass. To be fair, I was missing the pass mark by one or two questions every time, but this still didn’t fill me with confidence.

So I crammed. I spent almost every night after work for the last week and a half running through online practice tests, reading the handbook on the exercise bike at the gym (when I wasn’t half-assing blog posts of course) and hoping to all that is good and holy that I’d pass first time so I wouldn’t have to go through the Augusta BMV’s excruciating waiting schedule again.

And at 3:01pm, 11 minutes after I sat down at the computer terminal to do the test, I walked out of the BMV a happy man with a learner permit in hand. Brilliant.

Now I’ve gotta play the waiting game again. I’ve mailed off my card to apply for a driving test date, because scheduling such things in a way that fits with 21st-century technology would be ridiculous. Between now and whenever the test is, I’ll most likely book a driving lesson just to make sure I’m doing everything right, although my stint in the rental Dodge in December actually felt pretty natural and comfortable. No “OH SHIT I’M ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD” moments at all.

The good day wasn’t over there though, oh no! I also got confirmation from my editors that my very own column, “Maine Walkabout”, will be in print and online on the third Sunday of every month. This should be fun.

And then, after I got home from work, I discovered in the mailbox my very first US photo ID. It’s not my green card (which, frankly, may never actually show up) and it’s not my license, but it’s the third best option at this stage, and it’s pretty cool. It makes me feel like a real live ‘MURICAN. It even has a moose on it!

So I figured all of that good news called for a celebratory drink. I’ve been off the booze (!) for caloric reasons since New Year’s Day, and intended to be until my trip to Boston in two weekends’ time, but I can make one sneaky little exception for a good cause. And it’ll literally be one exception, because one Jameson and soda has me feeling like I might float away at any point.

Lucky I don’t have my license yet. I know all about Operating Under the Influence fines, and I can’t afford any of them.


7 thoughts on “Today was a good day

  1. Up until I obtained my USA drivers license back in 2003, I kept my rental vehicle. I needed a vehicle for work, so I had no option. It’s rather silly driving up to a DMV in your rental vehicle to apply for a license to drive in the good old USA. The only good thing is that once you have it, you won’t have to go through the same pain again if you move to another state as it’s transferable within the USA.

  2. As for the Bank loan, I’m not sure if it’s changed since 2005, but here’s my experience. I was going to pay cash for a car, but I thought that I’d take advantage of 0 interest for xx months or whatever it was. Anyway, I was declined because of no credit rating. That’s right, my excellent credit rating back in Australia wasn’t worth a pinch of (you know what) here in the good ole US of A, so I had to get a bank check drawn from my US bank account to pay for the full amount of the car. I always had a debit visa card through my bank, but of course you’re using your own money, and that does diddly squat for your credit rating/score. I now needed to get a credit rating in the USA. I couldn’t even get a credit card until I had some sort of credit rating, so the bank manager set me up with a loan using my own money to pay back to myself. That’s right !! use my own money that’s in my savings account to loan to myself to see if I can pay it back to myself on time every month (I think it was like $3k over 6 months or something). This is absolutely ridiculous !!!. Anyway, I needed to get a credit card with a USA bank, so I’ll just go with the flow, and follow what the bank manager says. I did this for 6 months, and then I passed the test, and then I received my USA bank issued credit card ($1k limit I think). The rest is history. USA Green Card…..check !!, USA Drivers License…..check !!, USA Bank issued Credit Card…..check !!. Finally a fully fledged American without being a citizen.

    1. Yeah I don’t have a credit score of course, which I knew going into the financing discussion. It just means the credit union hits me with a bit higher of an interest rate. But in turn making the repayments on time will help build a credit score anyway without needing to get a credit card.

  3. I didn’t know that about credit unions, and how they will loan money without any credit rating……probably because I’ve never had an account with one. Still, having and using a credit card is one of the fastest ways to increase your credit rating/score. This is good info for other people visiting this website so they can see the different options here in the good ole US of A.

  4. Her Crawf, I got on to your site from your link at the forum. I’ve been living in the states for a few years now, and recently got my GC through marriage. Just on the issue of a credit score, discussed above… Here’s something that helped me big time.
    American Express have something called a “Global Transfer” program. Basically, if you have an Australian issued AmEx, you can call up American Express in the US and they will do a quick check on your Australian AmEx, to make sure you’re in good standing etc, and then, if all is good, they will issue you a US AmEx. Before I did this, I was getting denied for credit left, right and centre, despite having excellent credit in Australia. Obviously, I had no US credit history, so they obviously wouldn’t give me a card. But this AmEx program is great for ex-pats, as they will actually look at your overseas credit history. I’m using it by charging around 10% of my limit each month, then paying off in full before the due date. After doing this for a few months, apparently I should start getting a decent credit score.

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