Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of course, I can still only drive one car at a time.

Anyone want more driver's permit's stories? No? Tough, it's all I got.

When I converted my Quebec driver's permit for a French one in 2007, it was a straight exchange - I marched into the prefecture with the appropriate documents and a photo, handed them over, and a week later I received a cheap-looking piece of pink paper granting me leave me to drive the roads of La Republique.

When I returned to North America, things were not so simple, but since I had a Canadian permit on record, I didn't need to turn in my French one. So, now I have a Canadian and a French permit.

California doesn't exchange permits with any jurisdiction, so when you show up from out of state you have to, at a minimum, take a written test. If you're from out of country, you have to do a road test as well.

Mine was Monday. I showed up bright and early, taking my place near the head of line. An employee came out, and demanded my registration and insurance information, then told me to wait for the guy who would be testing me. I sat in my little Honda, looking up at the approach of… the same guy who had the confrontation with the far-sighted Russian the month before.

He turned out to be very nice when not defending the integrity of the DMV eye charts, and I did fine, but it was strange being re-tested for something I’ve been doing for half my life. I felt like I was being judged by my composure. Should I make small talk, or would he mark me down for being inattentive? If I’m too quiet, will he think I’m too nervous? All in all, it was a little like being on a date, complete with the concerns about being seen as “too fast.”

That said, I really had nothing to worry about. They can’t confiscate the permit issued by Nova Scotia (let alone my back-up permit from France): If I flunked, I’d simply have driven home.

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