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.