Today I had to go to the courthouse–again–because my license had expired. It had, in fact, expired so long ago that I had to take the written test again. I was nervous about it. I haven’t thought about the rules of driving since I was 16, OK? And this time I had to stand in front of a computer terminal (a touch screen, shudder) and log my answers for everyone to see. The only other person taking the test today was a teenager who had failed once before. Lord, please don’t let me be the 34-year-old who fails the test after 18 years of driving…
Well, I passed. The cops who processed my test were very nice and the whole thing was pretty painless. But then I heard the following:
Cop: So, you’re from where, ma’am?
Young woman: India, sir.
Cop: And is this an international driver’s license you have here?
Young woman: Yes…I think so.
Cop: Where’s the license you got from your country? Can I see it please? Because I can’t issue you an American license if you don’t have one from your country.
Young woman: I have this paper. I don’t have another license. It’s not here with me.
Cop: So you don’t have another license?
Young woman: I have pan card (Indian I.D.)
Cop: But where is the other license you must have in order to have been issued an international license?
Young woman: I…
At this point, I had stepped up to the counter. I handed the cop my paperwork and smiled at the young woman. I asked her if she was Indian. When she said ‘yes’ I told her that we’d lived in India for three years. I began speaking to her in Hindi and her face lit up. She seemed to relax. I asked her if she’d ever driven in India. She told me that, no, she had never driven. I knew immediately that she had been issued a bogus piece of paper from her home country and that the US would never allow her to drive without proper training.
I turned to the pleasant cops, who just wanted a straight answer. I told them that this woman has an Indian ID card, like a social security card, but that she’d never driven in India, does not have a license here or anywhere, but needs a US one. They smiled sympathetically and then broke the “bad” news.
“Ma’am, you’ll have to take the written test and then come back in 30 days. Then you’ll take your driver’s test. Is that ok? Thirty days?” He seemed to expect some sort of pouting or anger. A whole month of waiting.
“Ok, yes. Ok. Thirty days? Ok, no problem.” She was delighted. Thirty days and then a real American driver’s permit! Easy.
Because (not to beat a dead horse) it would have been a different story–one with many, many more hassles, in her country.
But then, oddly, it felt very much like India when we walked out of the DMV into the main hall and saw a long trail of dog poop (?) leading out to the metal detectors. It was very strange and very unpleasant. Husband and I joined everyone else and covered our noses. But while everyone else looked disgusted and a little outraged, Husband and I could not stop laughing.
Life is never boring, no matter where you live.