Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Emily's Driving Test

Hey gang,

It's been awhile and there is so much to report, but I am trying to be more organized with my entries.  Now that I am looking for work and networking is so important, and people might check out our blog, I need to create the appearance that I am not flighty and scatterbrained.

Which reminds me-- the other day Adin grabbed Shai's head and twisted it to the side.  Then he announced, "Made you look!!"

Now then, where were we?  Oh- right.  Organized and not scatterbrained....

So anyway, I took my driver's test today!! 

Last year, when we had just arrived, and Ross took his test, and I hadn't even gone to Haifa to take care of the paperwork (because, ironically, I was scared to drive there) I joked that even though I have a whole year ahead of me and I'm not working, I will be taking the test on the last possible day.  Well, guess what!  Next week we leave for Baltimore, and when we return it would have been already too late.  So self-fulfilled prophesy fulfilled!  Well, for the sake of intellectual honesty, I must admit that my test was scheduled for the very day before we leave, but he got me in today because of a cancellation.  So I got to enjoy a little wiggle room....

If you recall what happened with Ross, you will remember that the procedure for new immigrants is that first they have a lesson.  Then the instructor, who makes his living from these lessons, determines how many more of them you need.  Just as happened with Ross, the instructor told me in the first lesson that I am clearly an excellent driver.  Then he scheduled our next meeting.  I let him know my time constraint (to test before we leave for America), and curiously, I needed exactly one lesson per week until the test (including one the day of the test-- a total of 3). 

Today he said he would meet me at 10:00 for a lesson (which are usually a half hour), and the test was scheduled for 12:30.  I planned to do a little shopping in between.  At 10:00 we set out for my lesson.  He reiterated that I am a great driver, but warned me about my weaknesses.  The main thing was that I am too aggressive.  I may be aggressive in football and in grocery lines, but no one has ever called me an aggressive driver.  (OK, no one ever called me aggressive in any of those other things either, as if I have even ever played football...).   He was calling me aggressive, as people were honking at me and flying past me because I was driving so slowly, or not pulling out faster into the circles (Beit Shean does love its circles...).  He berated these other drivers, saying aloud (as if they could hear him), "What is your problem?!  Don't you have any patience?!"  That's when it hit me that, while the rest of the world is hurrying to get to work, he is AT work!   So he has nothing to be in a hurry about!! 

Mind you, we are not talking about speeding.  We are talking about approaching the speed limit.  And with the circles, where he says I pull out too quickly, in Boston I would get smashed if I pulled out slowly, the way he suggests.  Or knowing me, I would just sit at the entrance to the circle until  all the other traffic had gone home and gone to sleep before I pulled out.  Downtown, at the circles near where there is some night life, I would still be there today. 

The instructor told me ahead of time to bring my ID.  In true Israel fashion, he left out the fact that I would need 67 shekels in exact change. 

Some of you may remember when I had to take care of paperwork at the hospital after Adin was born and  he was being released after three weeks, someone warned me that whenever you are dealing with Israeli bureaucracy, you need to find out all the papers you will need to bring ahead of time.  Then you need to add anything else you can think of that they could possible ask for.  Finally, you need to keep all the papers with you, and present them only one at a time..  That way they can keep trying to play "Gotcha" ("...and did you bring his brother's third grade midterm report?"), until they are convinced that they can't stump you.  It totally worked, by the way.  We walked out of that hospital with Adin that same day!

So today, the instructor rode around with me for awhile, and then instructed me to pull up behind a truck that was parked in front a bus stop.  The curb was painted in deep red and orange stripes (which around here means "bus stop-- parking forbidden").   There were several cars parked along the curb.  I asked just to be sure, "You want me to pull up here?!  Right behind this truck?!")  He responded affirmatively.  Could this have been a trick?  I didn't ask, because he was busy explaining to me that I need to go into the post office (which was just past a large and not-at-all-full parking lot) to pay exactly 67 shekels in cash to the teller (which somehow, luckily, I happened to have).  He told me to call him when I am finished and he will meet me back there.  At that point I felt a little better, because it seemed that we were just stopping momentarily, and he was going to drive away.  I was thinking this must be permitted at a bus stop, since you can always pull away if you see a bus coming.   This relief was short-lived, however, as he proceeded to lock the door from the outside, and to announce that he would be going to the bank and taking care of some other errands until he hears from me.

I went into the post office, took a number and sat down.  There were four tellers, but it seemed that the numbers weren't moving at all.  I thought about how my zen driving instructor says I need to relax, and I looked around calmly as I settled into my seat with a smile.  This lasted a few moments, until it hit me that if only he would have warned me about this little expedition, I would have brought my book with me, which was sitting trapped in my car at the testing site.  But no matter-- calm... relaxed....  Where did I have to go in such a hurry anyway?  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

The elderly woman sitting next to me,  wearing one of those long ultra-religious frocks with her hair was tied up in a kerchief, contributed to the atmosphere.  Judging from her aggresiveness, she had clearly not had a driving lesson in years.  She began screaming, "What the hell is going on here?!  Is anybody working back there?!"  She glanced over at me, so I nodded and sighed, pretending like the long wait was bothering me too, as I carried on subtly with my blissful meditation.  After my subtle nodding gesture, we apparently became good friends.  She turned to me again and said, "You always gain weight in the summer, because you drink so much.  Although some people say that you gain weight in the winter because you eat more to stay warm.  But I don't think that's right."  I responded cheerily, "I manage to gain weight in the winter AND the summer."  She nodded seriously.

 Then, picking up on my relaxed laid back-ness, she remarked, "Hey, you're from a kibbutz, aren't you?  Which one are you from?"  I said I'm from Maale Gilboa.  She asked if there are a lot of religious people there and I told her that everyone who lives there is religious.  She asked if the women walk around wearing pants and covering their hair.  I said that yes, a lot of people do  that.  She remarked hostilely that they really need to decide whether they are religious or secular.  I pointed out that many rabbis today say women are permitted to wear pants.  She thought for a moment, and then responded that yes, it's true that it really depends on the situation.  Like if her husband says it's OK then she should do it.  I decided I would wait on referring her to the kibbutz membership committee....

Just after that enlightening exchange, my number was finally called and I paid.  I looked around for a bathroom, but there wasn't any.  I thought about walking over to the nearby city center, but I was afraid my instructor would be waiting for me, so I figured I'd call him, and he'd take me back to the mall to wait for my test.  Unbeknownst to me, the plan was actually to pick up another student, and I was to sit in the back seat and glean more wisdom during her lesson. 

I am aware that if I were a normal person, I would have simply mentioned my need to use the bathroom.  But for better or for worse, I am not a normal person.  I have a tendency to get very shy in front of Israelis-- especially Israelis that are likely to yell at me.  OK, OK, I am shy around anyone who might yell at me.  And their cat....  So I relaxed in my seat and made the best of it, hearing again how you shouldn't go the wrong way on a one way street, and you should stop at a stop sign even if it seems like you really shouldn't need to. 

I did, by the way, get up the nerve to ask him why everyone was parked in the bus lane.  His first response was that in Beit Shean people treat traffic laws more like "suggestions."  Without pointing out that he seemed to be one of those people, I asked how it is that so many people were parked illegally in a BUS ZONE.  I mean, don't buses stop there?!  He said that in fact there is no longer a bus route there.  But then he added that in Beit Shean everyone just parks wherever they feel like it, and no one ever gets ticketed for it.  Then he demonstrated this principle when he stopped for several minutes right at the exit of a circle because he ran into a former student and had to say hi, and she had to share with him pix of her new baby.

To make a long story slightly less long, we eventually made our way back to the mall, and we got a five minute break to go to the bathroom and get a drink (I was getting dizzy from dehydration already).  I saw four bus loads of Americans beginning to pour into the mall (way more than could possibly fit in the building-- raise your hand if you've seen the "mall" in Beit Shean...).  I used my aggressive driving techniques to walk through security before most of them, and I ran to  the handicapped bathroom before the crowd could find it.  By the time I came out of the bathroom, there was no chance of getting a drink  in that building before sundown.  Every restaurant was teeming with American tourists.  So I ran across the street and grabbed a drink, and made it back to the test in the nick (knick?) of time. 

The test was pretty uneventful.  Before the tester entered the car (the test was administered in the car of the instructor), the instructor gave a briefing to the tester.  It seems that he was predetermining the outcome.  He had told me before that I shouldn't worry-- he would tell the guy how long I have been driving and that I drive safely.  For me the test was something of a formality.  I don't think I drove for more than 5 minutes.  It was harder for the other girl because she didn't already have a license.  She was a teenager.  She was so nervous she was shaking (it turns out this was her FIFTH attempt), but the driver was super nice, and tried really hard to calm her down.  And in the end, it seems like we both passed.  I don't know about her for sure, since they didn't tell us right away, but the driving instructor had spoken to the tester again afterwards, and he was very encouraging. 

So one more thing taken care of!!  Now all I have to do is find a job.... 

G'nite!

Love,

Em


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