“Virgin, Mobile” – the promotional and default ringtone of my cheap pay-as-you-go phone sings through the room. I look at the name displayed on the blinking screen: Redrik.
The date is March 13th. The road-test is scheduled today at 1pm. I’m confident Redrik is flying-colors-ready (FCR). I glance at the time displayed on the phone before picking up and entoning wishfully:
In the back of my mind though: it’s only 1:25pm. That was awfully quick, especially considering the DMV’s legendary efficiency. No answer. I try again:
“So how’d it go? You got it… right?”
The voice on the other end of the phone is muffled:
“Look, I’ve got some bad news.”
“No way… you failed?” Suspension, disbelief.
All these hours spent driving, waiting for this, for nothing?
“No I didn’t fail,” says Redrik. “It’s worse than that.”
Worse? What could possibly be worse? A few scenarios flash by, all undermined by an Occam Razor.
“I’m really sorry.” He is, I can hear it in his voice. “I can’t pass the road-test today,” says Redrik, mournfully.
What had happened?
Redrik: What happened was that my mother, who took me to the road test, has a German license, with a picture making her look like she just got off the boat at Ellis about a century ago. It did not make things any easier that the information on the license was, naturally, in German. The person accompanying me being required to have a valid driver’s license, the DMV employee “kindly” asked to forget about the road test today (I wouldn’t).
“No way… isn’t there anything you can do to pass it today? What if I drove out there now?”
“How long would it take you?”
“About an hour and half… make that an hour.”
I hear Redrik ask the DMV clerk, and the grumpy voice of the latter pronounce with unruly fatality: “You’ve got fifteen minutes and that’s it!”
Why but of course, I’ll just drive out in my helicopter.
Redrik apologizes again, crestfallen.
“Any way you could get someone from the driving school, or pay someone on the street? Whatever it takes.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Call you back.”
Digital clock needles turned.
If he’s not to get his license, what are the consequences? Aside the time already wasted delaying the departure, it would lead to two unpleasant prospects:
– he would not legally be able to drive during the road-trip, or may do so with the risks…
– this would settle the decision in favor of the good ol’ minivan, Fanta, whose current condition is far from reassuring.
I take in the news gravely, though matter-of-factly. S. is there to make things easier, give me kind words of comfort. Time passes.
There’s still hope. Or is there? We go out to buy S. a camera, she’ll be leaving on travels soon too, better to keep my mind off these things. For now.
As I accelerate hard enough to leave skidmarks upon leaving the road test site, I am heartbroken. The (re)discovery of America seems very far off now. I cannot let it go this easy. I make a sharp U-turn, and return to the test site. I offer a stranger money to accompany me, who declines. It’s not an everyday request after all. I call driving schools around town. None have available people. Probably because he’s sick of me sticking around, the ‘amiable’ DMV man, probably on some kind of power trip up to this point, asks to see my mom’s driver’s license again. I proceed to translate German for him, a language I have never spoken, but he was none the wiser. Miraculously, I end up in driver’s seat about to start the test. A couple of left turns later, a perfect parallel parking after, I zoom off into the Long Island sunset, driver’s license in hand. America, here I come.
Ready we are, then? I’ll take (un)due credit for the parallel parking skills. The departure date is set tomorrow. We will start off with a journey to the radio studios of The Welding Room, part of GasHouseRadio.com, thanks to a wonderful invitation by host Rik Johnson. We’ll explain more about this trip and the approach to ooamerica, live from 10pm to midnight. Exciting and nerve-wracking! I will post more about this tomorrow morning. Thanks to all! And… share the road!