Driver’s License Woes

by Marlene Fletcher

I spent the last 4+ hours attempting to get my drivers license. If you’re just curious for a taste of how things tend to work around here, here’s how it went down:

7:00 am

Order an Uber driver to pick me up from our villa to take me to the “driving school” (basically the DMV).

7:05 am – 7:17 am

Watch my Uber app in frustration as the little car icon drives in circles around our compound approximately 27 times while trying to locate me.

7:18 am

Get into the Uber car and head off to the driving school.

7:24 am

A few minutes into the trip (after about five wrong turns/closed roads/dead ends/u-turns/construction zones) the driver turns to me and asks, “Excuse me, mam? This driving school? You know where this driving school is?” I look back at him blankly. Um. No. No, I do not know where it is. As a matter of fact, I do not even know what road we are on right now. Nor do I know what direction we are travelling at the moment, nor where we ARE currently, nor where I am in space and time in general, nor have I known ANY of these things, at any given moment, for the past two months straight. In fact, for all I know, we’re in Saudi Arabia right now!

But thanks for asking, dude.

7:49 am

We finally, somehow, miraculously, arrive at the driving school. On the agenda: vision exam, written test, then hopefully they’ll let me do the driving test today, too! (Oh, how naive I was!)

7:50 am

Enter the “ladies only” waiting area. Walk up to the wrong desk. Get sternly redirected to the cashier’s window.

7:56 am

A man finally appears in the window, I tell him I need to have my vision exam done so that I can take the written driving test. He informs me of a few things. The vision testing place is in the “other building” (points elsewhere), oh and also there is no eye doctor in today, so I will have to go to the mall (gesturing elsewhere again) and get my exam done at the vision store and then come back again. Okey-dokey.

7:57 am

Order another Uber driver to pick me up at the driving school and take me to the mall.

8:10 am

Arrive at the mall, only to learn that the vision store doesn’t open until 9:00 am, which is not the worst news because the vision store just happens to be located right next to the Starbucks.

8:15 am – 8:58 am

Wander around the closed mall with my eight-dollar cup of coffee.

8:59 am

Gaze longingly into the windows of the vision place, trying to make eye contact with the employees inside.

9:00 am

They let me in. I pass the test.

9:15 am

I order another Uber driver to go BACK to the driving school.

9:45 am

I walk into the wrong building (twice) and up to the wrong counter (three times), before finally being directed to the test-taking spot, which is located in yet another building that I thought was closed down because, well, there is literally no door, or rather, there is a door, but the stairs leading up to the door are missing. As I’m picturing myself trying to climb the side of the hot concrete building to reach the platform where the door is located, I spot another door that is actually functional and also includes a functional set of stairs leading up to it, so I enter the building this way instead.

10:10 am – 10:15 am

I argue with a guy who keeps telling me I need to enrol in the driving school before I can take the written test. We finally realise that he simply didn’t know I already have my US drivers license, so I don’t need to take the lessons, just the test. (Thanks, Language Barrier.)

10:16 am

I take a number and wait.

10:45 am

My number is called. I go up to the window. (I’m so ready to just get this test over with!)

10:50 am

After a few minutes, the lady hands all my papers back to me and points to a date and time she’s written on the papers—my appointment to come back and take the written test—next Tuesday. I try to explain that I was really hoping/needing to get in and take the test today, but she hears none of that, and I am sternly directed to leave.

10:55 am

Defeated, I plop back down in a chair, put my sunglasses on to hide my stubborn tears (why do I have to cry so much?) and order (another) Uber to take me back home.

11:15 am

Four Ubers (plus tips), 1.5 hours of driving, 45 minutes of walking around a closed mall, one eight-dollar Starbucks iced espresso drink, two hours of waiting in a variety of uncomfortable places, 14 extremely confusing language-challenging interactions and I’m back home again.

One thing I am learning here for certain? PATIENCE. 😊