In California, when you have a car, there are some hoops you need to jump through to operate it. The vehicle needs to pass an emissions test. The guy shoves a metal rod up your exhaust pipe gives you a certificate. This takes about 5 minutes. Then he shoves the metal pipe up your ass when he charges you $50.
You take the certificate to the DMV, wait in line with 200 other characters for about 2 hours, show your paperwork, take the pipe up the ass again for a couple hundred dollars, and are given a little sticker for you plate.
It does not work that way here, sir.
We need to get our car inspected also. They have something called a Warrant of Fitness. (Remember my telling you they are all about "fitness" here?).
We take the car to a W.O.F. station, of which there are many. (3500 in NZ). The exam takes 10 minutes and 3 different guys go
over the car like Arizona border patrol guards looking for hidden stash. They check the depth of tire tread (minimum of 1.5 mm). They check to see if all the doors open, exhaust fumes, brakes, axles, lights, seat belts, wipers. They make sure your radio is tuned to Fresh FM.
This all costs about $30NZ. They then put the sticker on your windshield (upper right).
To get a car registered, there is no DMV. no lines, no long wait, no nothing. All paperwork is handled at the postal center and takes 2 minutes. No pipes up the ass. Cost is based on the vehicle. You can even do it on the Internet with a Visa card. Sticker goes on the car windshield (lower left).
So we have been driving all over using our California licenses. But they have a rule that says if we live here, we need NZ licenses. This requires a little written test.
In California, the written test goes like this: Long wait, long line behind illegal aliens. They give you a test and you go stand somewhere packed near the aliens who are all cheating in Spanish. I think the test is even written in Spanish. You can likely refer to the manual which can be in your pocket. Most everyone passes. Silly eye test. New long line. Photo. Licensed driver.
It doesn't work that way here, sir.
We were told the test was difficult and EXPENSIVE! Also lots of people don't pass the first time and it costs to take it again.
So we decided to actually study like it was the Harvard law exam. Kimberly thought we should get the manual, but it cost $25 dollars. She got it from the library for nothing. I also found it on the Internet. We decided to study in our own way and then quiz each other in 30 days.
Now, Kimberly is one of those plodders when it comes to study. Very deliberate and thorough. I am more of a scanner and always figure, "How hard could it be anyway?"
We tested each other after 30 days and felt like we were ready.
The exam is given at this place where lots or operations are done: Car insurance, AAA coverage, Travel agent and driver testing. There was no line. We walked up to the desk and needed to show California license, passport, proof of residency. Somehow, they had me down for getting a speeding ticket last year!? Damn computers. Luclily I paid it when at first I thought about blowing it off.
Then we had to fill out a form and pass a tough eye test. In fact Kimberly failed and needed to go to her eye doctor to get a note. I passed, thanks to laser surgery. To go on to the test, we had to pay a total of $175NZ. They also got a little pipe up our ass for AAA coverage. Total - $285NZ.
To "sit" for the written exam, they take your belongs away so you can't cheat. You go to a little testing booth and are given a very fancy colourful test with 33 questions. To answer, you scratch the choice like you would a Lotto card, so you need a coin, no pencil. If you scratch the right answer, a checkmark is there. Wrong answers show an "X". So you always know how you are doing as you take the exam. You can get 3 wrong and still pass.
After about 10 minutes, I was struggling, a lot. #6 was about where to put your front tires at a stop sign. I missed it - Damn! Ok, that's just one wrong, but at this rate, I would miss five of them. Gotta concentrate and relax.
#7 - showed a sign with a choo-choo train. What kind of sign is that? I have never seen a train since we got here... missed that also - SHIT! That's 2 in a row..SHIT!!
I was sitting and sweating, heart beating way too fast. I already knew I was going to fail. Then from Kimberly's cubicle I heard her say, "Yessss! 100%!"
I managed to get through with right answers, but I held back on five questions that I did not know. By clever guessing I got 3 of them correct. As a teacher, I sort of know how to spot a correct answer on a multiple choice exam.. generally, two answers are just dumb, so you've usually got a 50-50 chance.
There were 2 to go and I knew I would miss them both and fail at the very last.
I missed this one for my 3rd strike.
What do these road markings mean?
Turning vehicles should enter turning lane at arrows and avoid striped area.
Turning vehicles should avoid all road markings and use the left-hand lane.
All vehicles can make a U-turn at these road markings.
Turning vehicles drive straight over all road markings and wait to turn right.
One more to go that I had no idea about. It had to do with the length in meters that a load on the roof of your car could overhang in front. ????? I took my coin and scratched a total guess of 3 meters.
It showed a checkmark! Yessss...91%
This was the toughest day so far in New Zealand, unless maybe that tramping deal, but we both staggered away with driving licenses. Actually, I staggered, Kimberly had much more spring to her step.
It's sort of funny because, this time, we were the aliens.