Ok, you'll like this. Yesterday I did my driving test. And I passed! Which if I'm honest only proved that I can turn left and right and drive in a straight line and then reverse. Oh and I can park too, in a 12ft wide diagonal space!
I still don't own a car here but am very close to deciding to buy or lease one. At the moment I just rent one when I need to, its cheap and I use my UK driving licence to do that. Problem is in the state of Illinois you can only do that for so long and I'm sure the time limit has passed, so this along with the fact that I might get myself a 1970's chevvy or a small Hummer or something has made my mind up that I should go and do the test.
To get your licence, there is a theory test to sit first. You pick up the book, learn the signs, stopping distances, how many bottles of wine you can drink before you are under the influence etc, then go to the government building, talk to a halfwit and do the test.
It was multiple choice and I passed with flying colours. The eye-test consisted of being able to see, or at least saying you could see two very bright lights in a machine. The bloke in front was Chinese and could not speak a damn word of English. The woman asked him 10 times if he could see the lights? He looked at her bemused until she said, "Just say yes."
He did and he passed. Rather disconcerning and I made a mental note to beware the take-away vans around my way.
Next up is the road test, which is a bit misleading because most of the 10 minute exam is done in a car park and not on the road.
Of course I haven't got a car, so had to get some old duffer of a driving instructor to take me out and he insisted on a lesson first. Understandably so when he charges $80 an hour. Inflation eh, when I did my driving lessons with old Ted 22 years ago they were seven quid!
Anyway I amazed myself how I went into complete driving test mode. I held the steering wheel at 10 to 2, I looked in my mirrors exaggeratingly every 50 feet, drove at 28mph with about half a mile between me and the car in front and indicated to go around anything wider than a piece of A4 paper.
Apparentely I was very good and I was allowed to go for my test. This was yesterday and we drove up there, hung around, signed some stuff and then my driving instructor wished me luck and told me I was on my own. Gulp!
Then very bizarrely I had to drive myself to the queue to wait for a test examiner. Even though I hadn't passed my test, there I was, driving. Just lucky that I knew how to, I guess? It was a little embarassing waiting there with the other 'students,' who, were either over 75 or about 16. At 75 you have to take an annual test and in some states you can drive at 15. Illinois is 16 though.
I waited my turn, put the radio on and tried not to think about driving on the right/wrong* (delete as applicable) side of the road and most importantly remembering which way I should turn the wheels if I was parking down a steep hill. This question is the only one you get asked during your test and if you get it wrong it is a straight fail.
Parallel parking, a 3-point turn, driving above 28mph not important, turning your wheels inwards when on a steep hill essential and of course if you have ever been to the northern part of Illinois, then you will realise that the highest point is about 50ft!
Then my instructor got in, she was about 25, I drove, she flirted, I reversed, got my question right, parked the car in a gap the size of a Homebase car park and I passed.
It wasn't quite the feeling that I had when I was 18, but it still felt good, even if I joined a couple of 90-year olds in the office to get my licence, one of which could hardly walk and didn't speak English and the other as death as a post.
Time now for a road trip.