How I Failed My Driving Test
The time has finally arrived: the big day. The day you prove yourself worthy of navigating an automobile in this unforgiving world of blind intersections, LA drivers, and preoccupied teenage girls texting about the latest tweets from their savior, Justin Bieber. You have prepared night and day, through hail and through rain, enough for you to blindfold yourself and drive without running over your neighbor’s cat. Your friends, family, strangers, police, and the Internet have inundated you with a deluge of advice and some questionable wishes to have your fibula broken. But the practice and hard work is over. Everything is on the line. Your permit will expire in a week, and if you fail, there won’t be another test for at least another month. You sign your will, kiss your cat farewell, and start the ignition. You check your mirrors once, then twice. And then, you inch forward, the first steps into the treacherous journey through the depths of Mordor towards your inevitable battle against the formidable Mount DMV.
You encounter no problem, as expected. You leave the house early so that you could practice before the exam. One hour passes, and now your appointment is half an hour away. You enter the DMV, park your car, and head to Window 14. Waiting confidently in line, you can’t help it but overhear others who have just passed the test. “Man, that Hispanic lady is dope! She wrote here that I ‘drove too fast, then too slow, then made too wide of a turn.’ Oh, well. At least I passed!” a beaming teenage Chinese boy announced to his proud father. After showing the proper documents to the secretary, you head back to your vehicle and park it behind the throng of other Toyota Corollas ahead of you. You turn off your ignition and now, you start the waiting game.
Ten minutes pass, maybe fifteen. You count seven cars ahead of you. Suddenly, you see them. The small army of instructors who will decide your fate has arrived. Gulping in excitement, you watch as each car, one by one, is driven away to undergo the test of competence. Your turn arrives. The instructor is not the African American lady that everyone warned you about. Rather, it is a middle-aged, overweight Caucasian male wearing glasses too small for his football-shaped head and a long, dark-blue trench coat that stretches down to his black fisherman boots. Clearing your throat and taking a deep breath, you unleash the Oscar-winning smile you had rehearsed the night before and warmly greet him. He reciprocates with a dull grunt and proceeds to wipe the mucus hanging dangerously from his nose. “Open your windows all the way,” he orders you. “No, problem,” you respond confidently. He dutifully runs the routine check-up that he’s probably repeated thousands of times. You promise to yourself that you wontbe the first person to fail before you even drive. He gets in the car, barely. You feel obliged to squeeze closer to your side of the car, so that you won’t have to feel his pudgy arm jabbing against your ribcage. “What are you waiting for? Start the car already,” he huffs impatiently. Strike one. You nod obediently and start the car.
Maneuvering out of the treacherous parking lot, you receive your first instruction: “Turn right,” the robotic voice utters menacingly. You continue driving. Smooth sailing so far. Nothing wrong, you hope. Then you hear it. Your heart stops and you feel a cold sweat overcome your body. “WHHHHHOOOOOOooooo, WWWHHHOOOooooo, Whoooooooooo!!!
You freeze, uncertain of your next move. You count the seconds before you have the make a decision. You wonder to yourself,“The ambulance is going in the opposite direction that I’m headed. It’s on the other side of the road! Do I really need to pull over to my right and wait for it to disappear from earshot?” Glancing over to your mirrors, you notice that the cars surrounding you are ignoring the ambulance and are not pulling over to the right. Feeling slightly reassured, you continue driving as if nothing had gone wrong.
“Turn right,” the robot hisses. You’re devastated. It’s over! Barely ten minutes had passed, and you are already being directed back to the DMV! Everyone told you that the test would last at least 20 minutes! Your eyes feel out of focus, your mouth is dry. As you make another turn, you realize halfway that you have broken another law: You almost turned your vehicle into the oncoming cars ahead. But, spying from the corner of your eye, you notice that the robot did not take his pen to write something on his clipboard. Disaster averted? “Alright, turn left into the parking lot,” the robot-man says to you. “Park your vehicle near that sign,” he tells you as he raises his chubby arm and points at the sign that reads: End of test parking.
You park the car, kill the ignition, and an unsettling feeling of gloom envelopes you. Without looking up from his clipboard, the overweight robot-man coolly says to you in an accusing tone, “So…. What did you do when you saw that ambulance back on the road?” The question blindsides you like a kick in the groin. Trembling in anticipation and with very few options available, you tremble as you pathetically respond, “I, uhh, continued driving.” You lower your head in disgrace. You think you hear the sound of a judge’s gavel strike as she sentences you to the electric chair, but there is only the sound of the rapid scraping of the fat robot man’s pen as he slashes crudely all over your bleeding report. Another impenetrable minute passes. “Maybe he’s just writing how great I was, and would like me to be his personal driver!” you say to calm your devastated nerves.
At last, he ends the suffocating silence: “I’m sorry. You didn’t pass because you committed a critical error when you didn’t pull over for the ambulance.” He opens the passenger door and departs without another word. You’re shocked. Time begins to tick tock at the speed of dripping syrup. Your trembling hands can barely hold onto the paper detailing the crimes you have committed. You look back now to the robot man who is already eyeing his next victim. Your mom sees you. She sees the robot man. She smiles nicely at him and asks him the question you cannot hear, but know anyways. The robot man shakes his watermelon head in rejection and wobbles away in a huff. Your mom looks back at him, and then her eyes slowly return to you. You feel the cool stare pierce your battered heart, and your appendix. The look of absolute disappointment is in her face, which changes to disgust and then pity. “How could you have failed me?” the face cries. Turning your head away, you gaze across the serene environment that surrounds you. You close your eyes, and begin to count the number of days you’ll have to endure before you can finally retake the test again.