Snide Remarks #544
by Eric D. Snider
Published on June 11, 2007
Well, I guess it's official: After two years of living in Portland, I'm finally a true Oregonian.
I don't mean that I've started doing something ridiculous like selling weed or voting for libertarians. I just mean that I've finally acquired an Oregon driver's license (printed on 100% recycled hemp products), replacing the California license I've had since I was 19.
I got my first license at the usual age of 16, then got a new one with a new picture three years later. After that, California kept renewing it through the mail, even during the 10 consecutive years I lived in Utah. The last renewal, four years ago, even came with my Utah address on it. This confused every police officer and other authority figure who ever looked at it: a California license with a Utah address, not to mention a photo that no longer looked anything like me.
It was set to expire this year, and I had to go to the DMV to register my new car anyway, so I figured I might as well get it over with. After dealing with the auto-registration stuff, I told the nice DMV girl that I should probably get an Oregon license, and she thought that was a fine idea. She said the fee was $50, plus $5 to take the test.
The test! There was to be a test involved! I was very excited, and a little nervous. (Also a little perturbed that it costs $5 to take a test that costs the DMV $0 to administer.) She asked if I wanted to study before taking it, pointing to a rack of driver's ed booklets lining the wall behind me. I said, "It's probably not a very hard test, is it?" She said, "Well, I failed the first time I took it." I looked her up and down and decided I was smarter than she was. "I'll take my chances," I said.
The test was administered via touch-screen computer. Very high-tech. You read the question, look at the four possible answers, and touch the one you think is right. It even tells you your score as you go, so you'll know if you reach the point where you should just give up.
Most of the questions were, as I had predicted, absurdly easy. Either the correct answer was obvious from reading the question, or three of the multiple-choice answers were clearly wrong. There was stuff like this:
You're approaching an intersection just as the light turns from green to yellow. What is the appropriate response?
A. Stop, unless it would be unsafe to do so.
B. Floor it and yell, "Wooooooo-hoo!"
C. Roll down your window and leap out, sending the car careening down the street unoccupied.
D. Chicken strips.
I got 32 of the 36 questions correct, passing with flying colors. It's good to have it certified that I know how to drive, considering I've been doing it for almost 17 years. The questions I missed had to do with specific figures. In one, the computer asked what the penalty is for drunk driving the first time you are caught: suspended license for six months, suspended license for a year, or something else. I guessed it was six months; turns out it's actually a year. I'm not sure why we have to know that, though, unless the thought process of an intoxicated person goes like this:
"You know, I might be a little too tipsy to drive. But hey, if I do drive, and I get caught, they'll only suspend my license for six months. Bah! I can do six months standing on my head. Wait, what? It's actually a year? Oh, eff that. I'm taking a cab."
How's this for an arrangement: I won't drink and drive, and you don't require me to know what the penalty is if I do. I don't have room in my brain to store information that doesn't matter! Where am I supposed to put all the lyrics to TV theme songs?!
Speaking of irrelevant information, one question went something like this:
You're driving on a country road and you see someone riding a horse on the other side of the road, coming the opposite direction. The rider is holding up her hand to you. What does this mean?
A. The horse is alarmed and you must slow down until it is calm.
B. The horse is fine and you should proceed normally.
C. There is a herd of cows up ahead.
D. I don't remember what D was, but it was something obviously wrong.
I correctly surmised that the answer was A, you should slow down and let the horse relax, but what, is this question left over from the 1910 driver's test? Why am I driving on roads frequented by horses? More to the point, what is a horse doing on the freeway, which is the only place I ever drive? I think the question should be worded like this: "Do you ever drive on roads where there are liable to be horses?" And if you answer "no," it skips all the horse-related questions for you.
It seems like much of the material on the driver's test is outdated and has little to do with driving in a modern city. I propose new questions be written in this manner:
You're driving with your cell phone in your left hand and a beverage in your right hand, your knee on the steering wheel. It becomes necessary to shift gears. Do you:
A. Balance the drink on your other knee and shift with your right hand.
B. Keep the drink in your right hand and use your wrist/forearm to shift.
C. Reduce your speed so that shifting is unnecessary.
D. Move the drink to your left hand while moving the phone to your right hand, then cradle the phone between your right ear and shoulder, thus freeing your right hand to shift.
What is the proper thing to say when the person in front of you is driving too slow?
A. "Come on, grandma!"
B. "Let's go, idiot!"
C. "It's the one on the right, genius!"
D. "Speed limit's 45, retard!"
You are originally from State X, now living in State Y. Which of the following is true of State Y drivers?
A. They are the worst drivers in the country.
B. You thought State Z drivers were bad, but State Y drivers really take the cake.
C. Seriously, you've driven in lots of different states, and State Y natives are truly the worst.
Why do people become highway patrol officers?
A. Because they think there's truly no greater good they can do in the world than to give people tickets for going 76 in a 65.
B. Because they couldn't become real cops, the kind who actually fight crime and catch bad guys.
C. Because they have low self-esteem.
D. Because they are stupid jerks who have low self-esteem and couldn't become real cops and now they're just bitter and that's why they write speeding tickets all day long and they get off on the fact that everyone hates them, and also they're jerks.
Maybe the questions will have been updated the next time I take the test, in 2019.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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