Cambrian: Slice of Life

I’m thankful I passed my driver’s test — long waits and complicated DMV forms aside

On Thanksgiving and every day, the Tanners are profoundly grateful to have so many things, big and small, for which to be thankful.

But sometimes, gratitude can masquerade as relief, as in “I’m SO thankful that’s over!”

For instance, the letter from the DMV telling me that not only was it time to renew my driver’s license, but in order to get it, I had to go into the office to take and pass the written test.

That’s always been a stomach clencher for me.

What if they quiz me on some obscure new law about which I know nothing?

What if I get lost in the morass of distances — 3 feet between me and the cyclist, or signaling 100 feet before I turn left, or not entering a bicycle lane any closer than 200 feet before a right turn? What’s the speed limit within 100 feet of a railroad crossing where you cannot see the tracks for 400 feet in both directions? (15 mph)

So many figures! We all know I’m numerically dyslexic and integer stupid.

And, of course, there’s the underlying terror: What if I don’t pass?

That would be more than a bummer.

With our resident Son Brian still recovering from two serious emergency surgeries he had in early October, I’m the family’s only chauffeur/errand-runner/caregiver for him and Husband Richard, a recovering stroke/COPD patient who hasn’t driven for years.

It wasn’t optional: I HAD to pass the tests and get my license on time.

So, like a good girl, I followed the directions to sign up online.

Correction: I tried to sign up online.

Confusing doesn’t begin to describe the process.

After stumbling around on DMV’s website for what felt like hours, I found and filled out a detailed application form and then tried to get the code I’d need to prove that I’d done as instructed.

Imagine my pique when the site informed me rather huffily that “You are not eligible for Internet Renewal. Please submit your application by mail.”

But …. but…. I don’t have an application form and you told me I need to go into the office to take the test!

In despair, I called DMV’s “contact us” number. Rather than waiting in the queue for the expected three-and-a-half hours (!), I left my number.

The patient, understanding lady who called back told me that I’d filled out the wrong form and guided me to the correct one.

OMG! What a staggering amount and scope of information they wanted! It used to be such a simple form. I was amazed that they didn’t ask for my dental records and my latest MRI.

Name, rank and serial number, so to speak, just doesn’t cut it any more, I guess.

Next step? Getting a timely appointment online.


The first available date at the San Luis Obispo DMV office was more than a month after my current license was set to expire. In Paso Robles?

Two weeks too late.

I’d have to do this the old-fashioned way and take my chances as a walk-in applicant. I wondered how many hours I’d have to wait in line. I’d read the horror stories.

I downloaded the 2018 California Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Handbook, 117 pages of stultifying repetition and confusing contradictions. And then I read it, yes, I did.

As I’m sure DMV intended, I did learn some things along the way.

Did you know the old steering recommendation for your hands to be at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions on the wheel is now 9 and 3, or even 8 and 4. Why? Air bags. Ouch.

No smoking allowed if there’s a minor in the vehicle with you.

The fine for littering is $1,000, double ouch, so don’t toss that Mickey D wrapper out the window.

Abandoning an animal on a highway can net you a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail or both.

Don’t input instructions into your GPS, adjust your radio, music or other electronic wireless communications devices while you’re driving.

Who knew?

The upside of all this? On the last possible day, after a mere two-hour wait at the Paso DMV, I got my license, first try. Yay, me!

Saying I’m thankful is remarkably understated.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks, and may your mail include only happy surprises worthy of gratitude.

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