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The DMV and Me

By Edward A. Rinderle
Posted: 12/07/2023

It was October 17 of this year, a day I'd dreaded for two months.  The day I drove to the Pasadena DMV to renew my driver's license.  I had spent about two months preparing for the written test, but I first started getting nervous just a few pages into the the “California  Driver's Handbook”.  The more I read (or tried to read) the more my anxiety grew.  I found the handbook confusing, and the more I read it, the more confused I got.  But on October 17, the time had come to bite the bullet.  

I arrived around 9:30 am.  There was only moderate activity. I had made a reservation and done the paperwork in advance, and that made check-in easy.  I passed the vision test, paid the fee, got my picture taken, gave them my thumbprint and moved on to the last step:  THE TEST!

I took the test at sort of “cubicle” with a computer and no chair.  I began with a glimmer of hope, but about 10 questions in, a nasty message appeared on the screen announcing that I had failed the test and bid me goodbye.

A few days later,  on October 23, I returned to the DMV.  Since I had completed everything but the test,  I headed straight for the room where the testing took place; I asked to take the pencil-and-paper version.  Pencil and paper in hand, I headed to my assigned “cubicle”.  I  felt cramped, and after 10 minutes or so, my feet hurt.  Nevertheless, I found the test somewhat easier than my first try.  

I took my time, but as I pondered the more troublesome questions, my brain got more and more tangled.  Finally, I decided I had done my best.  I turned my test in, and after a minute or two, I heard the dreaded words:  “You failed”.

As I climbed into my car feeling defeated, I wondered if any more study would help.  I decided it would not.  So I turned back to try to take the test one more time.  This time I asked if I could sit down to spare my aching feet.  So I ended up in a station “reserved” for the handicapped.  

Seated with more room to write, I felt more relaxed.  I took my time and tried not to overthink.  After 15 or 20 minutes, I decided I was as done as I'd every be, and I turned the test in.  Much to my surprise, I  passed!  Barely.

So, what factors were in play during my failures and my eventual success?  What would I do over again?  Here are some of my thoughts.

Lessons Learned

I would definitely fill out the paperwork and make an appointment ahead of time.  A carefully chosen time can avoid long lines.  I found that 9:30 or10:00 am on Monday or Tuesday worked well.

I will try not to study too much or overthink.  When I did,  the Handbook just confused me more and more.  

I will try harder to find a way to do the test on-line.  I'm eligible to do so after I fail the in-person test three times.  Or so I was told.  

I will ask for the pencil-and-paper version of the test at the outset.  

I will ask to sit for the test, even though I may have to wait longer for a handicapped cubicle to become available.  

I will keep in mind that I can take the test two or three times in one visit, remembering that I will not see copies my failures to study for my next try.

I will be courteous to the DMV staff.  Doing so makes me feel better.  

After taking the test, whether I pass or fail, I will call a friend or two to share the news. I received my permanent driver's license in the mail on November 3, just 2 weeks after I passed the test.  It's good for five years.

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