I’m not going to drive because I failed the driving test!
Some time in June or July, after I had been leaving home and going places for a while, I began to wonder whether I would want a car. Would it be an asset? Since I couldn’t think of many places I would want to go or many reasons why I would need a car, I never got very far in thinking about it. By the time I asked Ernie how much an acceptable used car would cost, we had already lost enough from our savings to pay for a new car; so I didn’t like the idea of spending much money.
While I was still dithering about a car, my sons and other people encouraged me first to get a driver’s license, then decide whether I needed a car.
I have not driven in fifteen years. The last car I drove was a 1986 Subaru. When we moved to Charlestown, back to Maryland from our remote home in West Virginia, there was no reason for me to get a Maryland license. My WV license expired in 2002. And in 1999, Ernie had sold the Subaru because at Charlestown, we weren’t using it much.
Although I can (and have) paid Charlestown Transportation to have drivers take me wherever I want to go, and come bring me home, I usually have to plan such rides, or wait until a driver is available for a same-day request. I can’t leave Charlestown spontaneously, and there are times when I desperately want to get away from here. With continuing encouragement from my family and others, I decided to investigate getting a driver’s license.
On July 17th, I e-mailed to the Maryland MVA for information and learned that, if I could provide a certified copy of my West Virginia driving record, and acceptable documentation of my identity, age, and residence, and if I took the driving tests, I could get a license.
Next, I contacted the West Virginia MVA and sent them a bunch of documents (I’ve changed my name more than once!) with a check for $6.00. A week later, I received my driving record. Now all I needed was a car to practice driving.
One morning, in the swimming pool, I impulsively asked a man who swims at the same time I do and who was obviously hale and hearty, if he would like to help me get a driver’s license. Talk about brass! We’d only spoken a few times. But he said, “How about early Saturday morning?” Good Neighbor Sam to the rescue! I was astounded.
After the first driving session, on our campus with no traffic and empty parking lots, he asked if I wanted to do it again the next Saturday. And we did it.
By this time, mid-August, it was clear to me that I needed more practice parallel parking than I could expect my good neighbor to provide. Also, I was having an ongoing e-mail exchange with the MVA about the process. I realized that I had to find a certified driving instructor whom I could pay for enough practice, and I had to find someone with a car to take me to the MVA for testing. Luckily, I found Elite Driving School,
which offered exactly the services I needed—individual behind-the-wheel instruction and an instructor who would take me for testing, wait for me, and bring me back to the school. Sounded great.
I scheduled my test with the MVA. Then I scheduled and paid for two hours of driving practice plus the trip to and from the MVA—all to be done on the same day, so that I had only to pay Charlestown for one round-trip to Elite. By this time, I had only a week before my driving record from WV would become invalid. It had to get done on the scheduled day—September 2nd—two days before the WV record was no good.
What I got that day, instead of two hours of practice, was about 45 minutes of practice, before the instructor said we had to head for the MVA to be in time for my appointment there—where we waited for an hour. An hour in which I could have been practicing. I knew I wasn’t ready to parallel park, and I failed to do so. The examiner, however, told my driving instructor that I knew how to handle a car. I could drive.
Well, back at Elite, I told my story to the school owner and asked him what he thought was a reasonable accommodation, since I would have to have more practice and another trip to the MVA because I had not received the two hours of practice I had paid for.
Next day he e-mailed me that he had contacted the MVA about my situation and learned that it was illegal for me to practice driving without a learner’s permit. (Although the MVA had clearly written to me that I could be tested without a learner’s permit. And he had allowed me to practice with his instructor already.) Consequently, he wrote, he could not allow me to drive one of his cars.
Thanks to the prudence of my good neighbor, I asked the MVA for confirmation. But meanwhile, Good Neighbor said that he’d had an idea of how he could teach me to parallel park in our parking lot. So, early Saturday morning, he did.
Then I got this response from the MVA.
“Effective October 1, 2008, applicants must hold a valid learner’s permit prior to the behind-the-wheel driver education training and driving on Maryland highways.”
So……… I added up the costs of being driven to the MVA to get a learner’s permit, paying for the permit, getting more instruction and practice, going back to the MVA for testing, which would require one or two more Charlestown round-trips, and paying for the license. That total would pay for Charlestown drivers taking me to a LOT of places. Not to mention the time and effort involved for me.
And why, exactly, do I need to drive?
So, for now at least, I won’t be driving.