Indulge me with this digression from pop culture and social issues.
I need to talk about:
Anxiety and self-sabotage when it comes to test taking.
Don’t fret. It’s not that heavy.
In fact, it was prompted by my phobias around the DMV.
That’s the Department of Motor Vehicles for anyone who has been driving for a long time and forgotten that nightmare.
I’ve actually had my license since the 1970s and I’m pretty good behind the wheel. In fact, since the widespread use of GPS I’ve become almost excellent.
I no longer get lost or in near collisions because I’m looking through my Thomas’ Guide map to find out where the hell I am and why I’m not there yet (Note: Look it up! Actually, here it is…).
So what was it about me having to retake the written test to drive all these decades later that I let own me for the last few..um…years?
More importantly, when I finally stepped up to take it in November, why did I FAIL on my first try and then obsess for a full EIGHT more weeks about failing it again before trying a second time?
The fact that I passed on my next attempt this past week means nothing to me except I won’t get booked for driving with an expired license and cannot be sued for everything I’m worth if I happen to hit someone because I was legally a criminal driving without a license.
Which I suppose means more than something since the latter would have created a much bigger set of REAL problems, not to mention 100 times more anxiety, for me.
And all over a 25 question multiple-choice quiz where you can get five wrong, which makes it not all THAT hard anyway.
Actually, not true. But we’ll get to that in a second.
First, some backstory –
I moved a few years before the pandemic but unbeknownst to me my DMV renewal was never sent to my forwarded address or someone in the office didn’t bother to alert me by email or snail mail that I was due.
So one day when my ID was being checked, probably because I was being carded for buying liquor….NOT……an authority figure warned me, Ya know, buddy, your license expired. You better get it renewed because they don’t mess around. You can be arrested.
Harrumph, I remember thinking. You’re not the boss of me.
And besides, they would have let me know like they’ve done for the last 137 years.
Well, that’s what I remember about the conversation, anyway. And I didn’t think anything of it until I realized I had to get on an airplane, and a well-connected friend, one of the few who knew about my situation, warned me, you better bring your passport for ID because they’re cracking down and won’t let you on the plane anymore.
Yeah, I hate to fly (Note: Another anxiety item) and it’d been a few years.
So I remember thinking, oh, this IS a big deal. Hmmm. Well then, I guess I’d better do this.
And needless to say, my well-connected friend had a guy who advised me on what to do and how to get it accomplished as fast as possible.
Which, well, I sort of did. I filled out the paperwork, took another AWFUL photo for my new license, and was ready to take a test until I was warned it was too late in the day and that anyway I’d better study before I tried it because, well, road rules have changed since I took the test on my first car, a 1972 Ford Pinto.
Side Note: Don’t laugh, I LOVED Peter Pinto! He had a green racing stripe across his sides, a black hardtop and his horn fell off every time I drove over a pothole, which in NYC was at least two or three times a week, day, or even hour.
But I digress. It was late 2019 and I now needed to….study for a test?
Ugh. I hadn’t done that since college. And even then not until the last possible minute.
So true to form I waited as long as possible and planned the test for Feb. 2020.
At which time the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I was plagued by a series of health issues that weakened my immune system. Haha, no DMV for me!!
And it’s a good thing too since the one or two days of looking over the DMV rule book and cheat sheet web sites were a f’n nightmare!
They had rules AND questions about not only the required age of kids to sit in a backwards AND front facing car seat (Note: That’s 2 and 8 years old) but the height and weight requirements that make them exempt from those rules (Note: Um, 36 inches high and over 42 lbs., but I’d have to check).
F-ck man, I don’t have a god d-m kid, nor do I plan to let them in my car. Why on earth would I need to know that, in addition to the many, MANY rules for carrying livestock in the back of my truck? MY truck????
Yes, I’m being serious. Go to any web address with sample EXAMS and you will find many questions about all sorts of things that would NEVER happen to ME. Or you.
Mortified and paranoid about not being an “A” student anymore, not to mention a little p.o.’d because my mind could no longer retain meaningless facts the way it used to, I decided to let the pandemic work for me.
After the DMV briefly shut down, I got a temporary doctor’s note re: my driving and felt relatively safe during those very strange times.
So I decided to stay away. For…well…two and a half years.
I had been well half that time and the DMV had long opened. Yet the thought of learning about car seats and cow requirements sent me into an emotional tailspin.
So I did everything I could do avoid driving for fear of being arrested and broke into a sweat every time my husband threatened me with all sorts of stuff I won’t go into here if I didn’t take that f’n test!
Which I refused to take.
Or pretended I was studying for.
Or began studying for and gave up on.
Or called to make an appointment to take but hung up because the waiting time was too long.
Until late this fall when the husband kindly asked me this Christmas for the only present he really wanted – me and my license – by the end of the year.
Well kids, love makes you do all kinds of things you never thought you would. I found an expert to help me through the red tape I feared, studied for a few weeks quite diligently, showed up to take the dreaded written exam, doing breathing exercises beforehand to ease my anxiety, and promptly:
FAILED. I F’N FAILED AND I STUDIED!!
And do you know why?
I was doing great until there were five – count ‘em, FIVE – questions about NEVs that showed up on my particular test.
Now you might ask yourself – what the f-k are NEVs? I know I did. Well, guess what:
NEVs are short for NEIGHBORHOOD ELECTRIC VEHICLES, little mo fos that look like powerized golf carts that none of my practice tests covered. You drive them in suburban neighborhoods I never frequent, they can’t go more than 20-25 mph, you need insurance to drive them, and they’re governed by most of the rules of the road but can’t be driven in a 35mph zone.
Only, I didn’t know anything about that before I took the exam. I kept thinking an NEV was a special train, or a code word for Nevada, or some all-terrain vehicle that you drove up in the rocky Sierras, which I never do because I don’t like heights.
F-k me. And f-k them. And while we’re at it, F-K schooling of any kind. Even though I’m a teacher.
FIVE questions? That’s 20% of the entire test on NEVs and it caused me to FAIL on my very LAST question.
I hate the DMV but at least I no longer hated myself. F-k them! Again.
Oh, and after a few glasses of wine that night you know I did an informal survey of about a dozen friends, NONE of whom knew what the hell on NEV was by its initials.
This means there are at least a dozen other drivers on the road that likely couldn’t have passed my test. Not that anyone cared. Except for my husband, who now offered to help me study for my test the next time.
I’d rather die.
Though not before I passed this piece of sh-t test on my second attempt because I’d be god d-mned if the mo fo DMV is going to break me. I’m a lot smarter than them and I’m going to prove it.
At which point I did. It happened two months later and I was so angry I purposely crammed just 48 hours before test day because I refused to give them any more time than that on principle. Because I was so focused and motivated I knew I would pass. And I did.
In fact, I only got two wrong. And the last one was only because it was the final question and I was so happy to be done that I accidentally checked the wrong box.
So, what is the lesson in this?
1 – Do not let the anticipation of a task you do not want to deal with do a number on your brain and your life. In other words, don’t take something that demands a mere level #2 of your ability and make it into a level #17 task of hardship. And…
2 – The only way to motivate a barely still middle-aged gay, Jew is to try and screw them over. They will come for you with EVERYTHING they have and more EVERY TIME. And WIN.
But not on an NEV.
Never on an NEV.