I’ve been driving for 18 years and now I have to start all over

*Old man voice* Back in my day, when you turned 14 you were able to apply for your driving permit.  This let you drive with a licensed driver present in the car.  In order to get this permit, you had to pass a multiple choice test.  You could miss up to 7 questions and still be allowed to get your permit. 

*Glory Days voice*  I’ll always remember when I took that test, because I missed 5 out of the first 7 questions.  Convinced I wasn’t going to be able to pass, I just cycled through the rest of the questions as fast as I could to get the embarrassment over as quickly as possible.  Well, by genius or by luck (hint:  I’m a genius) I only missed 2 of the remaining questions and was able to drive.  Remember kids, in America, if the minimum wasn’t acceptable, it wouldn’t be called the minimum.

*Normal voice* I’ve now been driving for a solid 18 years, and have had my license for 16 of those (except for that one 6-month stretch that we’ll get into at a later date).  In Ireland, however, driving on my American license is only allowed for 12 months.  After that, in order to obtain car insurance and be a legal driver, you have to start all the way at the beginning.  That means taking that same test that I barely passed 18 years ago, 12 hours of lessons with a licensed instructor (at like 40 Euro an hour), and finally, pass an actual driving test – not just the written exam.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, ‘But Zach, haven’t you been in Ireland for like, 2.5 years?  How have you been driving this whole time?’  And those would be correct questions to ask.  The only answer I have for you is that it was never an issue, as I was driving a company car and covered under the company car insurance policy.  Since then, though, my visa status has changed and I can no longer be covered under that policy.  Which means I had to buy my own car, which means I have to get my own insurance, which means I have to get my Irish license.

The Driver Theory test is the first step in getting an Irish license.  It’s 40 questions, multiple choice, and you can miss up to 5 questions and still pass.  Getting a time slot to take this exam is harder than getting a reservation at 11 Madison Park.  I got a slot at 9am Saturday morning. Show up a half hour early, they said, so we have time to check you in. 

Now, there is an easy TSA/airport check in joke to make here, but you probably see it coming so I won’t make it. I’m much more creative than that.  What I am going to do is tell you that not only do you need to show up early, but you also need to empty your pockets and put the contents in a locker, and then after that – and I’m not joking at all here – they scan you with a metal detector wand. Luckily, and unlike my last airport experience, I wasn’t selected for additional screening, but the lady definitely wanted to make certain that the medical boot wasn’t part of some elaborate scheme to smuggle contraband into or out of the exam room.

The exam room itself reminded me of a room on a cop show where they interview witnesses.  There is a giant window so that people behind the glass can watch the exam-takers and ensure that the ‘empty all your pockets’ directive and the metal detector wand sweep were sufficient to prevent any shenanigans from taking place.  There is one long table opposite the wall with the giant window in it, and 5 computers, small partitions separating the computers and creating ‘stations’.  Pretty standard, really, except for the giant window with Big Brother looking over your shoulder.

The exam, as I mentioned earlier, is 40 multiple choice questions.  They range from your standard ‘who has the right of way’ scenarios, to ‘what to do if your engine starts smoking’ to ‘what days are people most likely to drink and drive’.  You get 45 minutes for the exam but honestly anyone who needs all 45 minutes should not be allowed to drive no matter what score they actually get.  I had a 9 o’clock appointment, showed up exactly 30 minutes early as directed, got through the various security checkpoints, completed the tutorial, exam, and survey, waited for my results, and was out the door 10 minutes BEFORE 9 o’clock.

I know you’ve been patiently reading this article waiting for me to tell you if I actually passed the exam or not.  And I’ve been dragging it out in order to build the suspense.  So before I reveal to you whether I passed or spent the morning scheduling another appointment for 6 months from now, I encourage all you smart asses that think ‘I’ve been driving for 20 years I could easily ace this test’ to go to the site here – Irish Theory Tester – and try it, leave your scores in the comments or @ me on Twitter – and don’t cheat, cheaters.

And now, for the results:

*Looks at envelope*

*Takes a deep breath*

*Opens envelope*

*Takes another deep breath*

*Reads the score*

*Keeps a poker face*

*Looks up at audience*


I passed. Right at the minimum once again, just barely squeaking by.  That should be the title of my autobiography.


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