Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Dionne: Hello? There was a stop sign.
Cher: I totally paused.

To my mortification, Cher Horowitz seemed to have taken over my body during my driving test Tuesday morning, with the same result. I was gunning for the opportunity to channel Alicia Silverstone in the Aerosmith video Crazy for my upcoming road trip with Kate, but I guess I got my signals crossed and channeled Alicia in a whole other role instead. I should've realized it when, upon waking up that morning, I found myself more preoccupied with whether my Tod's Degas driving shoes would indeed be the best footwear for a driving test rather than the mechanics of parallel parking (similarly, Cher was fixated on a particular Fred Segal shirt for her test). Add to that the fact that it is apparently incredibly difficult to erase seven years of terrible Third World driving habits with two practice sessions. Turning one's head before moving to the left or right is not a habit most Filipino drivers have due to constant bumper-to-bumper traffic in Metro Manila. If you turned your head every time you moved, you would get in one fender bender after another. And signaling? Good luck with that. We signal when making turns of course, but when it comes to changing lanes, forget it. In Manila's ruthless traffic-choked streets, signaling to change lanes would only cause the car behind you to speed up (most Filipinos interpret changing lanes as you cutting into their hard-won position on the street).

I'm not entirely delusional; I know that the failure was largely my doing (I forgot to signal just pulling out of the line, for godsakes). But on the most crucial mistake I had made on this test, I am still admittedly confused. During my practice session before the test, my instructor told me that when I see a STOP sign on the street and there are two white lines on the pavement, I am supposed to stop twice: once on the first line for pedestrians and then again on the second line for vehicles. I had never heard of this concept in my life. I know that I'm supposed to stop at the sign before the first line and count to 2, and if there are no pedestrians and cars then I'm free to move on. I looked through the DMV manual just now for clarification and saw nothing about making two stops either. I still don't know if this is right or not. But I made a conscious effort during the test to do as I was taught when I approached a STOP sign, and it was precisely this that drove the nail into the coffin within 30 seconds of my driving test. I did the first stop for pedestrians and seeing how there were none, moved to the second line. I fully intended to stop before the second line, as I had been taught, but the examiner thought I was suicidal and was attempting to drive in front of a coming truck. So he slammed on his brake and I knew I was done. Of course, he started reaming me at that point, and as much as I wanted to explain, I realized the futility of it and just mumbled an "I'm sorry." 

At that point, I could do no right in his eyes. My right turn was too wide and too fast. I didn't exercise enough caution driving in a merging lane. Bam, bam, bam. Done. I became another "fail" statistic in Staten Island's close to 50/50 pass/fail rate. According to The New York Times' Frank Bruni, who took the test in the same location and seemingly with the exact same examiner as I did, Staten Island recorded 19,000 passes and a whopping 16,000 fails in driving tests last year. This only seems reasonable in comparison with Queens' jawdropping 36,300 (pass) and 36,800 (fail) rate.

So now I have to wait until September to get another try, and in the meantime am just praying for a miracle. An additional bit of drama to add to Kate's and my already eventful road trip. Wishing that my luck will turn soon ...


  1. I remembering being petrified taking the road test in Queens, but it went really well.

    I've never heard the stop twice rule ... I think the idea is that you stop at the sign for 2-3 seconds, and then if there is a walkway in the road you are turning into, you need to stop at that white line while pedestrians crossed.

  2. Hi Celine! I am so inspired by your blog so I also created a short bucket list. Hope you get to finish your 30 before 30 project and I hope the list grows! Best of luck :)

  3. Shar - I swear, this stopping twice rule does not exist! Damn damn damn. I can only wish for your presence of mind when I go for round 2 ...

    Kira - I checked out your bucket list and left a comment on your blog. Good luck to both of us!


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