Written by B. Jan Montana

Despite no record of accidents ever, or tickets for the last 25 years, the state recently demanded I renew my motorcycle license. That included a written test.

The California DMV closes at 5 pm on Saturdays and I strategically requested the last available appointment at 4:15.

After circling the building for 15 minutes waiting for a parking spot, I walked in, sat down where instructed, and waited for my name to be called.

The crowd consisted of a cosmopolitan collection of California residents. Most spoke languages I didn’t understand.

Rappers with headphones loud enough for all to enjoy assaulted the senses – when kids weren’t heard screaming.

The working folks – those who collect cans and bottles in shopping carts – were the quiet, considerate ones. They gathered in the hallway only to escape the rain.

I mentally reviewed what I’d learned from reading the 144-page manual in the previous hour.

Let’s see, the speed limit is 15 mph within 100 feet of an unregulated railway crossing where you can’t see 400 feet down the tracks each way.

No, the speed limit is 15 miles per hour when you are within 100 feet of a school bus flashing red lights – no, no, yellow lights! You’ve got to stop when a school bus is flashing red lights.

Maybe the speed limit for school buses is 15 miles per hour when approaching a railway from a one-way alley where the road is at right angles to the square of the hypotenuse…

An hour hadn’t been enough time to study all this stuff. I didn’t want to stop riding till the next available test!

After 20 minutes of fretting, I heard my name called over the PA. Dread set in. I went to wicket 21 as ordered.

“May I have your license please? Thank you. That’ll be 45 dollars.”

“Do you wear glasses?”

I cringed at this question. I don’t want a requirement on my license forcing me to wear glasses. What if I can’t find them when I only need to run down to the corner store for a six-pack of milk?

I gave her my best “do I look like an old fart?” look. That might have worked 10 years ago!

“Read the third line on the chart please,” she intoned.

Courtesy of Ewing. Courtesy of Ewing.



She pointed to the opposite side of the hall. “Over there.” I couldn’t read the first line let alone the third one.

“Uhh, better put these on.” I grabbed my glasses and read the third line.

“OK, look inside this box and tell me which squares are darker.” This is more my kind of test. I told her which squares were dark including two at which I guessed.

“You’re going to have to wear glasses while driving,” she said in a voice normally reserved for religious recitations. “Please go over to the camera line and have your picture taken!”

That I could handle. I waited in line and hoped I didn’t look too ragged after an afternoon on the bike.

“Next!” hollered the clerk above the din. He took my photo before I had time to pull a credible smile.

“Would you take it again?” I asked.

“This one is fine, NEXT!”

Turned out to be one of those smiles you see in prom photos when the preferred date wasn’t available.

I went back to wicket 21 as instructed and waited in line again. By now, it was four minutes till 5 PM.

“OK,” she said, “You’re done. Your new license will come in the mail.”

“That’s it?” I responded reflexively, careful to avoid any reference to “written test.”

“Yup, you’re done.”

I walked out of there like OJ at his murder trial. Choosing the last appointment of the day had paid off.

“How’d you do, Hon?” My wife asked when I got back home,

“Didn’t get any wrong,” I truthfully boasted.

“Good for you!” she exclaimed. “I got two wrong on my last driver’s test.”

She won’t know the rest of the story ‘till she reads this article.

Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken.

Back to Copper home page

1 of 2