Sunday, September 18, 2011

An F is for fabulous, right?

I was all psyched up for my UK driving test on Friday.  I've been doing a lot of practicing on the roads and the lessons with my driving instructor have gone really well.  Other American expats have shared their own personal driving stories, about how it's all just a formality.  I was in the zone, looking around at all the teenage drivers testing at the same time and feeling confident that my years of experience would carry me through.  I have the necessary skills and kept reiterating to myself it was no big deal.  I was more than a bit shocked when the ancient civil servant who looked like he had snuck out of the local nursing home to administer my test told me I had failed!  What?  Me?

Oh sure, I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.  I had worked myself into a fine state of sweaty hands and pounding heart, but I stayed focused the entire time.  My overall driving was fine, with only 3 minor faults for a score of 97.  However, it was the major fault that sunk me.

There are four reversing maneuvers all drivers must be prepared for on the test.  It figures that the most difficult maneuver is the one I was asked to perform.  Below is a diagram of the reversing around a corner move that I was told to do about halfway through the driving test.

There are several rules you have to follow or you will receive an automatic fail.  The first one is that you can't hit the curb.  The second one is that the front of your car can't swing out into the other lane of traffic, even if no traffic is approaching.  The third one is that you must come to a stop as soon as you see cars coming from any of the three directions.  You have to just sit there like a boulder in the road and wait for them to go around you.  Makes perfect sense, right?  It's at this point that you're thinking, no wonder this move is probably illegal in the states since it's really quite dangerous.

So yeah, it was the third rule that got me.  The test administrator told me I did not stop soon enough when a car was approaching from behind me, even though I stopped as soon as I noticed it.  At no time was I in danger of running into the car or the car hitting me.  No matter - the old dude told me it was too close, in his opinion, and thus I failed.  Seriously?  I thought I was gonna get motion sickness from constantly swiveling my head from my blind spot on the right, to my rearview mirror to check for traffic coming up behind me, and then over to my left side mirror to make sure I didn't tap the curb and get an automatic fail.  Of course, he let me take the rest of the test before he gave me the bad news.  Wasn't that thoughtful of him, though I figure he probably has the old timer's disease and just forgot that I failed while making me drive around another 20 minutes to enjoy the scenery.

I went online yesterday (had to spend the rest of Friday pouting about failing the stupid driving test) and have paid another £62 to take the test again on Oct. 10.  I can hardly wait for a bit more fun in the hot seat.  My driving instructor told me that the test administrator can't dictate how long it takes me to complete the above maneuver, so I'm gonna take advantage of that little rule.  I'll roll a couple feet using my side mirror to watch the curb, then stop and check my rearview and blind spot. (insert evil cackle here)  I figure I'll be able to suck up at least 8-10 minutes on this one maneuver of the 40 I'm required to drive as part of the testing process.  

OK, I admit it - I am a bitter woman about this whole situation.  I just hope I don't get Mr. Subjective test administrator on the next go-round.  Maybe the nursing home orderlies will be able to keep better track of him so that he doesn't escape yet again.  

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