Driving tests -- 12/06/07

Six out of six!
Earlier today I was recounting (on another blog) the tale of my first road test for my driver's license, a test which I failed because of a push button. (I'll tell it here in a few paragraphs.) That put me in mind of my father's description of his road test.
This was the test for Dad's commercial driver's license; that is, a license to drive trucks and other commercial vehicles for pay, rather than a basic license (which he already had). Dad arrived at the appointed time and place driving an open car just as it began to rain. Now, it was many years ago that he last told me this story and I must confess that I do not remember what kind of vehicle he was driving -- I mentally picture a Model T Ford but it could have been any ragtop car from the silent film era, I really do not recall and I cannot ask Dad as he's been gone almost sixteen years now (he would have been 101 last month). [And I can't ask my brother because he and Donna are down in Florida this week, relaxing at Disneyworld.] The trouble was, the canvas top for the car did not work,

Dad dashed through the rain into the building. The state driving examiner was waiting in the lobby wearing a raincoat. Dad gave him the paperwork and the examiner fastened it to his clipboard and they started out the door. It was raining very hard and the examiner asked him which vehicle was his, in order to follow the most direct path through the rain to the car. Dad pointed to the open car.

"Put the damned top up first!"

"Can't. It's broken."

The examiner stepped further back into the doorway, cursing. He looked at the paperwork, looked at Dad, looked at the downpour and the open car. He cursed again. Finally he gave his instructions.

"Go out to your car. Start it up. Drive down the street, make a right at the first corner. Continue to take each right turn until you've gone around the block and come back to here. Then park in front where you are now."

Dad ran through the rain, got into his car, drove around the block and parked in front again. The examiner was standing in the doorway, watching. He waved for Dad to come over. When Dad came into the lobby the examiner was completing the paperwork. Dad had passed his roadtest.

The thing that brought that story to mind was a posting by Lou (of Louphoria) about her driving test (in Ireland) and I described my first driver road test in her comments section. (If you already read it there, there is nothing new in what follows; it's just a copy-and-paste.) A bit of time has passed from when my father took his test during the 1920's... The Great Depression, World War II, The Korean War, and most of the Eisenhower presidency... and then I took driver's ed in summer school.

The cars we were using for driver's ed were all automatics with a lever on the steering column as a gear selector. Our family car was a 56 Chevy sedan with a manual transmission "three on the tree" a gear selector on the steering column. (Four on the floor was for sports cars and small imported cars, like VW.)

During the final week of the driver's ed course we got a new automobile, one that had the latest gimmick a push button automatic transmission change gears by pushing a button (D for Drive, L for Low, R for Reverse, N for Neutral) -- I am not really sure but I think these new push button cars were Plymouth Valiants. We each got to drive this car once or twice during that week. Then came the road test we would be taking the regular state road test, but we would be driving the school's car the new push-button one.

I did very well during the road test until the very last item, parallel parking on a street pull up along side a parched vehicle, crank your wheels, back up at an angle into the parking space behind that car, turning your wheels, stop, straighten the wheels, pull slightly forward. Ta dah! Test is over

Except when I backed into the space I realized that I had not cut my wheels quite right and I would end up too far from the curb (12 inches maximum was, I believe, the magic number) but, not to worry, things had gone so well that I could not have lost more than a point or two up to that time, so I could afford any demerits for an extra maneuver and that was probably better than losing points for being too far from the curb (worried that being too far away would would cause me to lose all of the parking points), so all I had to do was pull forward a little bit and get a better angle for backing up to the correct distance from the curb.

I pushed the D for Drive button to pull forward but my finger had actually hit the R for Reverse button and instead of moving forward I backed up and I immediately realized what I had done but before I could move my foot from gas to brake I had travelled the 18 inches or so to the curb and bumped the curb.

He hit me with so many negative points inability to park, inability to shift, inability to brake that I more than failed the test.

My parents, meanwhile, got rid of the Chevrolet and bought a VW Beetle, so the next time I took the test it was in the VW and I passed easily. Later, when I was in college, my parents wanted to get a new car and I bought the VW from them.

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