Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I am here to share a cautionary tale.

Once upon a time, there was a reasonably intelligent writer-type who happened to have grown up in New York City (Manhattan, to be precise), where driving is unnecessary, and owning a car -- let alone trying to park the damn thing -- is actually a burden. Once, when this writer-type was a child, someone asked her what color her family's car was, and after some thought, she replied "Yellow." Neither of her parents had a license, and her mother had never learned how to drive.

And still, there came a time in this young writer's life when driving seemed like a Thing To Do. A universally-required Life Skill To Be Learned, even. So, she bravely went down to the RMV to obtain a learner's permit. This permit would be granted upon the correct answering of 18 out of 25 multiple choice questions, most of which were insulting to said writer-type's intelligence. For example, "What color is a stop sign?" The writer-type additionally has a history of handling standardized testing quite well (see, e.g., SAT, LSAT, NY bar exam, MA bar exam).

HOWEVER. This writer-type is also 36. Therefore, when preparing for this exam she thoughtlessly skipped the section on Junior Operator Licenses and the rules governing the drivers holding such licenses, who are exclusively between the ages of 16.5 and 18. "I'm thirty-f*cking-six," she said to herself, "None of this will ever apply to me."

The computer that chose her 25 questions, however, had no way of knowing if she was 17 or 77. And so, the computer (and possibly the gods of hubris) "randomly" chose a large number of questions regarding the rules of drivers in possession of Junior Operator Licenses, with an additional emphasis on the non-intuitive state-specific penalties for underage drinking and driving, drag racing, and driving past curfew without being accompanied by a parent. This very clever writer-type then failed her driver's permit exam, much to her embarrassment and annoyance, and her husband's great amusement.

This writer-type learned her lesson. She proceeded to restudy the driver's manual, reading everything in it, no matter how random it seemed to her at the time, which was a good move, because the next day she was able to retake and pass her learner's permit exam despite the bizarrely disproportionate number of questions about motorcycle safety. She tells this story so that you will also READ EVERYTHING (such as, perhaps, any submission guidelines when querying or submitting a short story to a lit mag for consideration), so that you will not be similarly embarrassed or annoyed, or have to pay another $30 exam fee plus babysitting costs to sit in the f*cking RMV for 4 hours on a busy Friday in order to rectify one's sloppy mistakes.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.


  1. Read everything- well said. I am with you those, those tests are plain STUPID. Ours here in australia are no better. Congrats on finally getting the licence :)

  2. Funny!! OR not. I hate tests. I do terrible on tests- anxiety.


  3. Great lesson. I shall remember this!

    Better luck next time? ;)

  4. I finally can love the idea that California has different tests for under 18, motorcycle etc licenses. At least the computer wanted to make you feel younger!

  5. This was incredibly enjoyable reading, Carrie. Nicely done.

  6. LOL! A very important reminder for all of us--thanks. :)

  7. This rings true, as I let my liscence lapse until I was 34. I was afraid this would be a post encouraging me to read Nora Roberts & her ilk. Thank you!

  8. I'm sorry. I'm laughing WITH you. Really.

  9. I'm not laughing with you - I'm laughing at you. I'm evil like that.

    You are more than welcome to laugh at another hypothetical New-Yorker who has a driver's license (for obscure historical reasons) but was disturbed to find it no longer useful as a photo id having expired almost 6 months ago. And this despite multiple warnings from the DMV... Because who really takes the time to read the junk sent by the DMV? Pff! Like that's relevant when you live in Manhattan!

  10. Carrie, this was a hoot! Great post. I own a British driving license but not a US one. If I can get by without having to own a damn car, I will, even if it means having to wait ludicrous amounts of time for an orange line train that throws me off at Ruggles.

  11. This is a hilarious hypothetical situation.

    I didn't get my license until after I moved back to the states from S. Korea. There was no need with all the public transportation and maybe I hot wired mopeds for kicks.

    The teacher failed me two seconds into the first exam attempt because I pulled out of the parking space with the emergency break on. Mean.