Whoopdee damn doo, we both passed the Driver’s License test this morning.

We studied a bit more than last time and it paid off. I would say that Becky studied quite a bit more than me. I just couldn’t pull myself away to sit down and do it as much as I should have. But in the end it was just enough. I had the opposite experience of last time – after about 15 questions, I knew I had a real shot – and got two strictly because I had memorized them – and got very serious and intent in my test-taking. I even reviewed my answers and changed a couple. I think I changed one from right to wrong and one from wrong to right, so it was a wash. But I had no margin for error – I got a 90. Becky got 93 or 94 I forget which.

I almost got up and spiked my study book and did a little end zone dance when I hit send and a big smiley face popped up on my screen.

Now, you guys back home who haven’t had to take a driver’s license test since you were 16 can laugh at us all you want, but I’ll tell something—this was the hardest test I remember taking. Becky ended up with the books, so I can’t post any questions right now, but I’ll tell you a few little tales that illustrate my point.

We walked into the place at about 9:30 for our 10:00 test, and the 9 am takers were just coming down. A big, beefy guy in a Carharrt jacket came up to his driver, who was standing next to me and said, in a thick southern accent, “Let me tell you something; I am not coming here again, no matter what. Do you understand? I am not taking this test again, man. No way, no how. I will just hire cabs and drivers. This is ridiculous.”

I told him about FESCO, the “automatic 91 for 100 bucks” method of getting a license I heard about last week. He was very intrigued. We started chatting. He is from Tennessee, here with five other guys to install giant turbine engines all over the country or something like that. I know he used the words “install” and “turbine.”

“The first four guys came in here and flunked, so me and my other buddy been studying our asses for three days,” he recounted. “I got an 87. This is ridiculous.”

I told him that people at home were making fun of us for failing and he grunted. “Show them this damn book,” he said, waving it around. “Then see who’s laughing.”

As we were getting ready to go up, his friend, a bearded guy of about 50 similarly clad in workmen’s clothes came out, laughing and shaking his head. He had failed, too. They wished us good luck.

We went up and started taking the test. The room was quite full this time. Becky got two phone calls early. She answered the second one and just said, “I can’t talk” before turning the phone off. Two uniformed cops came sprinting over to her. I thought they might kick her out, but they didn’t.

A very distinguished looking, white-haired Frenchman came in a few minutes late and sat down next to me. After about 10 minutes, he looked totally flummoxed and leaned over to me and said, “Eh. How many questions is this test?” When I told him 100, his eyes got big and he sort of chuckled and looked green around the gills. How do you say “Dead man walking” en francaise?

After I finished and knew I had passed and told Becky and mouthed “good luck” before heading out. But I was still a little nervous until I got the official notification in the front. The lady cop took my paper and scrawled 90 on the bottom and knew I had done it. On my way out, I saw a sign by the side of the door to read if you passed. It basically said, “Congratulations. Come back in 5 days for your license” (Of course you can’t just walk out with the thing.) As I was reading it, another guy came over with a huge grin and read it. I congratulated him a d him me. In an accent I couldn’t place, he said, “I went to four years of University and many more of advance degree study but I have never, ever stayed up all night studying until last night. This test I s unbelievable!” And he held up his paper to me. I saw it was his second time, as well. He scored an 84 and now a 94.

I went down and showed Mr. Dou who was very relieved. He said some thing I didn’t understand and then I realized he was saying, “Why didn’t you show Rebecca the answers?” He didn’t understand it was randomly generated. We took different tests.

I went to the bathroom and on my way out bumped into the guy from “University” and he was grinning ear to ear. I said, “You sure are happy” and he said, “Of course! We must be.”

Mr. Dou and I sat and waited about 10 minutes until B emerged with a big smile. We headed back to the car, both as happy as I remember us being in a long time. I told her it was the most joy I remember feeling since our kiss were born. That must be an exaggeration but I swear it felt true.

Becky went off to work and then Mr. Dou drove me home. I celebrated by going for along bike ride in the country followed by lunch at the little place near the bike store where I can barely communicate. I have learned a few new words since my last visit there, but I still ordered primarily by pointing at the table next to me. I ended up with delicious meat and scallion pancakes and a really tasty, slightly spicy soup with a beef broth, little meatballs (pork, I think), rice noodles, cabbage and cilantro. Also a big pot of tea. Total cost: $3 and I have half the pancake in the fridge downstairs.

It was interesting to see how different the country looks in the last few weeks. It is fall now, quite definitively – all the crops are cut and it is very brown in there. There is still corn piled up on some of the roads, but mostly it is now off the cob in big piles.

Music listened to while writing this: The Allman Brothers Band @ SUNY Stonybrook, 9-19-71

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