Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Finally, It Has Happened to Me

We're pulling out all the stops today at The Blythe Spirit, so put on some CeCe Peniston and unscrew the two-liter bottle of wine cooler.

Jeff and Blythe have passed the German driving test.

I've avoided writing about the test because there was no reason to project my sense of impending doom throughout the land. Two weeks ago, at 7:30am, in a room populated by 17-year-old German whiz kids (and one middle-aged Canadian), we made our first attempt at the exam. We had studied the six zillion sample questions, quizzed one another on the formula for braking distances, and made road-sign flashcards. Alas, success eluded us that day. We both scored below the 90% (yes, you read that correctly) required to pass the test.

We were required to wait two weeks before reattempting the exam. In order to justify our failure, I will now go into boring detail about the test itself.
Let me remind you that we were given 1,800 sample questions (yes, I've double-checked that number), 30 of which are on each test, which is different for each test-taker at each administration. And, though the vast majority of questions are multiple-choice, there may be more than one correct answer to each question. Can you tell that I formerly worked in a field where the SAT was a major topic of discussion?

Some of the questions are frighteningly easy for anyone who has possessed a drivers license for more than five minutes:
You have missed the autobahn (freeway) exit. What do you do?
-Drive on to the next exit
-Reverse along the shoulder of the road

These are followed by photos of small children on tricycles next to questions asking if this child is riding his tricycle in your driveway, should you wait until he passes or mow him down because tricycles don't have right-of-way. (You'll be glad to know that, though the Germans have a reputation for unquestioned rule-following, they do allow for tricycle right-of-way in this situation).

Such questions lulled us into believing we might actually pass the test. Then, when we took the exam the first time, we got questions like this:
Which vehicles are you allowed to drive with a driving permit class B when considering the permissible towed load?
Combinations of:
-a car with a permissible total mass of 3500kg and a trailer with a permissible total mass of 750kg
-a car and a trailer if its permissible total mass exceeds the empty mass of the car, as long as the sum of the permissible total masses is not more than 3500kg
-a truck with apermissible total mas of 3500kg and a trailer with a permissible total mass of 750kg

And a few made us worry there might be a surprise urinalysis when we handed in the test paper:
Which drugs can make a person temporarily unfit to drive even when consumed on a single occasion?
-Heroin, cocaine, amphetamines

This past weekend was spent once again quizzing one another on bicycle parking regulations over dinner, and pointing out poorly-parked cars on the way to the grocery store. We did our best to avoid analyzing the test and its questions, to avoid drawing sweeping negative conclusions about an entire country and culture, to avoid criticizing the evil test-writers who attempt to trip up test-takers by trickily switching a single word ("overestimate" and "underestimate") wherever possible. This morning, I worried that it was a bad omen when we were seated at exactly the same desks where we'd failed the test before, the DESKS OF FAILURE. When we received our test papers, everything started out all right. Yes! I've seen these questions before. Yes! I know the answers. But about halfway through, my confidence waned. What is the minimum parking distance behind a bus stop? 15 meters or 5? Or is that at a tram stop? Must a farm vehicle drive on the hard shoulder or in the right lane? When driving in fog, is the braking distance normal or equivalent to evasive braking? AAAAAAAH. I took crazy guesses at the last page of questions. Who knows when the holiday driving ban applies? Who careS? I was sure I'd failed again. Jeff was sure he had failed as well. We were already scheming ways to convert our Oregon licenses to Louisiana so we didn't have to take the damn thing again.

However, miracle of miracles, the glory of the Lord shone down upon us and we were saved. I'm not kidding. I am sure that some divine intervention was involved. Somewhere, someone noticed that we were tired of dealing with grumpy government authorities, tired of snowy days in March, tired of living in a place that still feels strange sometimes. And so, when the smiling test administrator shook our hands in congratulation, I thanked him profusely. He said, in a broken but friendly attempt at English, "It is you who have done this yourselves." But I thanked him anyway. I told him, I am so happy, I must thank someone.

1 comment:

daniela said...

Favorite broken english - spoken by 16 year old spanish foreign exchange student playing pictionary with Blythe in Hoquiam, Washington... "its... its... a baby dog! baby dog! baby dog! don't i win? i don't know the word for baby dog!"