Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The $647 driver's license, the driving test

My adventure continued with taking my driving test and it was the closest I felt to Saudi Arabia since leaving the Kingdom.

We arrive at a random government office out on a dusty lot and everything is in Arabic. Not a single person but me spoke English in the joint, which was a first for me since moving to Kuwait. There is no way an expat like me could get a license without the help of an Arabic-fluent Guy like I had.

To further the Saudi-feel of the experience, there were even separate waiting rooms for men and women! Maybe it's because I haven't frequented a lot of government offices, but I haven't had to be segregated since arriving here three years ago. It was all very surreal.

So we check in, my Guy translates something to the ONE guy sitting behind the 4-person welcome desk, he stamps something and tell us to go down the hallway to an office.

We wait outside the office to visit with the man in there--I will call him Travis Jr. in honor of his Reno 911 doppelganger.

Imagine this guy, but more Arab looking. And in a black uniform. ...and no gun...or billy club.

Travis Jr. scribbled something and stamped some more and then told us to wait in the hallway FOR THE WRITTEN TEST that I hadn't realized I was going to be taking when I'd woken up that morning! We waited for an hour for the guy who was supposed to administer the written test to show up (typical) and it turns out I had nothing to worry about! The test was nothing but questions about the road signs in Kuwait. No questions about street laws, none of those "You and another car get to an intersection at the same time..." kind of questions that are on the written tests in the States. This explains SO much about the driving in Kuwait!

Twenty questions later, I have a 100% score (nailed it) and more scribbles and stamps on the paperwork that came with me that day. A second man, also in aviators, hands me my paperwork and tells me to go to line 3.

Only problem was: There was no line 3 that I could see. There were no teller windows, not even 3 doors in the hallway I'd been waiting in to take the test. This guy was not in the mood to explain what he meant by "line three," so I just walked out and hoped for the best.

Turns out line three was ACROSS THE STREET in a dust parking lot! And it wasn't a line after all. It was the third guy I found waiting next to one of those student-driver cars you see with the two steering wheels and lots of obnoxious decals. My Guy tells me to get into the car with the Car Guy and go.

..."Go where?"

"I don't know. He will tell you."

"Does he speak English?"

"Haha. I don't know."

This'll be interesting.

Thankfully I didn't have to go far with Car Guy. I drove us across the street next to the office where I took the written test and to the gate of a driving course.

"Ok, you go," says Car Guy as he reaches for the door handle.

"Go where?" I asked again.

He starts to indicate ahead of us, but he notices a woman who had entered the driving course ahead of me. They let all the ladies go first, so we were all getting tested at the same time.

"Oh. Uh oh. She do it wrong. You don't do that," Car Guy says.

Noted. BUT, from what I saw, the woman hadn't done anything wrong! From my vantage point, I saw a fake one way street straight ahead and a sea of Do Not Enter signs off to the left. The lady that had "Do it wrong" had gone up the one-way street. WHAT HAD SHE DONE WRONG!?

Car Guy had had me pull off to the side so he could get out and talk to the other Car Guys watching Little Miss Do It Wrong while I pondering what "do it right" should look like. While I was pulled over, two other ladies passed by me and my Car Guy popped his head in my passenger window and said, "Ok! You follow her."


So off I go, the blind following the blind. The lady in front of me goes left into what turns out to be a fake parking lot. Only problem is she "do it wrong" and doesn't follow the advice of the Do Not Enter signs I saw before and goes against the fake flow of fake parking lot traffic.

..."I'm being tested." I thought to myself. "But is the test to see whether I will follow Car Guy's instructions, or if I can follow the street sign instructions?" I decide to go with the latter and go the opposite direction of the lady I was supposed to be following. Sorry, Sista.

Somehow I curve around to a pavilion and Sista has somehow gotten in front of me. We have the choice between 3 lanes: Lane one curves off to the left and narrows a bit, lane two is straight ahead, and lane three is off to the right. A third guy, I'll call him Grumpy Guy, is standing at the end of lane 1 and indicating that we should go that way. Sista slowly creeps forward, taking out all the curbs as she goes. She hops up left, hops up right, and bounces her way to Grumpy Guy and comes to a stop.

He says something to her and sends her on her way and indicates for me to start down lane 1. I navigate it perfectly, not a curb hopped, and come to a stop in front of where Grumpy Guy had been standing...he had to chase after Sista to tell her something.

While I wait from Grumpy Guy to return to my car side, Travis Jr. appears from behind me and goes, "Have you been driving for long?"

"Uhmmm, about 17 years," I reply, my eyebrow cocked hoping he will realize how ridiculous it is for me to be taking this driving test, especially considering Sista's performance.

"Your driving is good," he says. Arms crossed.

Yep. I think to myself. "Does that mean that I passed?" I joked.

He didn't laugh.

Grumpy Guy returns and starts to give me a set of instructions when Travis Jr. stops him and goes "Khalass" with a shake of his head.

"Khalass?" Grumpy Guy says, his expression saying "What do you mean khalass?" behind his aviators.

Travis Jr. shakes his head again as if to suggest "She's legit. Let's move on."

Grumpy Guy isn't satisfied. "Ok, go to the stop sign and reverse."

...what?! I see the stop sign to which he is referring, it's at the end of lane 1...but where do I reverse to?

"Reverse back to you?" I say.

"No, just reverse."

"Just straight back>"


I kind of chuckled to myself as I shifted the car into drive. The Mister will attest to my Mack Daddy reversing abilities. I get to the stop sign, throw it in reverse and head backwards without hesitating about 5 feet before Grumpy yells out "Khalass khalass! Go to the gate."

But...did I pass?

Stay tuned for part three.

Vicariously yours,

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