Monday, May 23, 2005

Learning to Drive III

So, we shuffled days so I wouldn't have to use vacation time to take the driving tests, and then the principal left and the BoE tried to take my vacation time anyway. It's sorted out now, but we'll see how long it lasts. Sigh.

Anyway, here's what happened on the 2nd try:

First of all, don't take the test on a Friday! It was crazy busy! The short couple-hour wait of the previous Wednesday test would have been luxury! This time took probably six hours total. Sigh.

Now, I had been practicing since the 1st failure, and I can say two things with certainty:
  1. I deserved to fail the first time.
  2. I was a much better driver by the time I took the second test
Practicing all week, I found that I really did make a lot of mistakes. A LOT a lot. Many. A bunch.

However, by the time I took the second test, I was driving smooth. Much more aware of my surroundings, much more careful about distance and lane usage and turning. Mentally checking off the list of things to do each turn (just like they tell you to in the book, but I never actually did it before). Actually, I got in the habit of pointing to each mirror as I looked at it, and saying what I was doing out-loud (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn), and it really stuck.

I was ready to kick ass.

I started out really smooth. No stalling, no jerking start, just pure refined smoothness. During the first loop, I accelerated and slowed down just right, changed lanes to avoid mock-construction (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn). I changed back (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn) and went around the curve. Time to change lanes (again) to prepare to turn at the intersection (rear, blinker, side...) slow down for crosswalk (...shoulder...) intersection! Turn! Turn! Turn!


I just turned across another lane to make it into the intersection in time. I didn't change lanes fast enough. I got confused when I slowed down for the crosswalk.

I had failed, AGAIN! And I was just starting out! When I asked if I should stop, he said, "No, finish the course." So I did, reasoning that it would be good practice for the 3rd try later. Rats.

Actually, I drove the rest of the course even (if possible) smoother than the start. Now that there was no pressure, I completely relaxed. I still counted off each action as I was doing it (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn), whipped through the "difficult" close-quarters turns, and came back to the testing center. Flawless. And the whole time, I berated myself for screwing up the start. Ah, well.

He told me I had done pretty good (yeah, except for where I pulled across traffic, sure), and asked me to wait in the lobby while he ran through the other test takers.

I was so bummed, but I remembered to say thank you. I went inside and waited.

I pulled out my course-map and studied where I had made my mistake. My stupid, stupid mistake. I just had to make that lane-change a little swifter next time. Although, there really isn't a lot of time between the last corner and the intersection. But, I knew it was possible.

A guy from the license section came over and asked me if I had passed. Grr. Way to rub it in. No, I had failed. I shouldn't be mad at him, he just wanted to shut down for the day (it was close to 4 or 5pm at this point), and was just asking if there were any more people who needed to get their license. Alas.

While I was waiting, I chatted with another testee. He didn't speak much English (I think he was from Brazil), but we managed to communicate a bit. He was trying to tell me something important, and was very excited by it, but I wasn't getting it. When his friend finished her test and came through the lobby, he grabbed her and brought her over and tried to explain again.
See her paperwork?
Uh, yeah?
Where's your paperwork?
The tester still has it. I guess that's why I'm waiting; he'll give me my paperwork when he's done testing everyone.
She has her paperwork. She failed the test.
You don't have your paperwork. You PASSED the test.

I couldn't believe it. First of all, it was only my second try, and second of all, I had made such a big mistake! The instructor later told me that, yeah, I had made a pretty big mistake, but the rest of my driving was so good that he passed me anyway. Also, I had recognized my mistake right away (before I had even left the intersection).

Wow. I passed. I spent maybe another hour going through the eye and color test. I was a bit worried about that, as I'm near-sighted and color-blind. As for the vision test, it was really REALLY easy, even with my poor eyes. Really. You can apparently be quite blind and still be OK to drive in Japan (which may explain a lot about the other drivers I see on the road). As for the color test...I messed up again. You see a light, you say what color it is.

The first light looked orange to me. But that's not an option. I guessed red. The next light was clearly green. So far, so good.

The third light was red. Not the same orange (maybe red) as before, but red-red. So, I knew I has messed up that first one, and said so. The last light was orange (apparently, it was really yellow). Now I know. And just as a hint, it looks like a little traffic light, but each light can be any color, so watch it. Anyway, it turned out to be no big deal. I passed.

But...I still don't have my license. The guy had closed that section.

I have my results, and can go get my license any time (there's a center somewhat near my house, even), but only during work hours. So I don't have it yet. And if I don't want to take vacation to do it, I'll have to wait until Summer. That's OK with me, I'd rather look nice for my picture anyway, since I doubt I'm going to get another one while I'm here.

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