Tag Archives: driving


This morning at the Massachusetts RMV I learned that because my Virginia license expired while I was living in England and could not be renewed online, in order to get a Massachusetts license I would have to take the learner’s permit exam, pass it, then schedule and pass a road test.

Like a 16 year old kid. 

I have had a driver’s license since 1995 and yet I was going to have to take the permit test to get a learners permit, which would then mean I could not drive alone in my car without an adult over the age of 21 along with me until I could take a road test.

I laughed out loud standing at the counter in the RMV, and I think the clerk was relieved that I found this hilarious instead of frustrating beyond description.  Luckily the kids aren’t in school yet, sports haven’t started up, and both Matt and I work from home, so me not being able to drive isn’t THAT big of a deal.  I laughed and laughed and paid the $30 to take the permit test that I last took when I was 15 years and 9 months old.

And then I failed the permit test.

I laughed out loud again, but more in shock than in humor.

I failed because I did not know what the punishment is for a first time speeding offense for a junior operator between the ages of 18 and 21 in the state of Massachusetts.  Or whether your license can be suspended for 30-, 60-, or 90-days for being caught using your cell phone while driving.  I also did not know whether the fine for not wearing a seat belt was $15, $25, or $50.  I did not know 8 questions like that and so I failed the test with a score of 17/25 when I needed 18 to pass. 

I wish so much that I had taken a picture of Matt’s face when I walked out of the permit room and informed him that I had failed.  It was a sight to behold.

I went back to the clerk and shook my head and he also looked quite surprised and I asked if they had a book with some of the info on fines, punishments, and suspensions that I could maybe glance at. They provided me with a copy of the book you get in Drivers’ Ed and I found the appropriate section and I memorized as many fines as I could in ten minutes.  I went back to the clerk, paid another $30, and passed the test in the first 18 questions, thank the gods.

And then, at age 39, I received my learner’s permit, which I will literally frame once I take and pass a road test and get a real license.  Until then, hopefully Matt will let me drive while he sits in the passenger seat so I can get some driving practice.   Just in case the last 23 years wasn’t enough.

Driving on the Wrong Side

footpath to hill and dales

The footpath is probably the safest route.

Have you ever been skiing or sledding or biking, or some other physical activity that requires balance combined with speed, and just felt like you’re careening right on the very edge of control?  Like one false lean to the left or right will send you flying over the brink and you’ll be toppling out of control in the blink of an eye.

That’s how I felt learning to drive on these tiny English roads on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the street.

Jesus, Take The Wheel.

Land Rover

This is my car. She’s a 12-year old Land Rover Discovery. We call her Goldie.

The first few days of driving were white-knuckled, terrifying, very slow treks with no radio on and strict instructions to the children to keep it down because mommy needed to concentrate.  Matt drove shotgun, navigating, and literally every time we had to turn right or left, I would ask him to reassure me that I was crossing a lane (turning right) or hugging the curb (turning left).

It doesn’t help at all that many of the British roads are so narrow we wouldn’t call them bike paths in the States.  And there’s no parking anywhere (even way out here in the country), so the already narrow roads are often lined with parked cars half up on the sidewalk or the front lawn of whatever establishment they’re parked at.  Or that there are roundabouts (“Look kids, Big Ben and Parliament!”) with road signs so confusing they may as well be written in hieroglyphics.

It also doesn’t help that there are actual areas on actual main roads where the two lanes are purposely narrowed to one, and one lane is “given priority” over the other lane, which has to “give way”, or else the two lanes will collide head-on.  All in an effort to keep speeding down to a minimum.  It’s INSANE.

road in the English countryside

This is a two-way road.

But now, six weeks in, and I’m sailing down bumpy country lanes in my 12-year old Land Rover at 50mph, pausing at blind corners to ensure that no giant farm machinery is heading toward me around the bend, and cruising through roundabouts without a single shriek or jammed-on brake.  I’m giving way and passing on the right and not giving a second thought to the fact that I’m driving on two-way roads where two cars literally DO NOT FIT across.

I still think the British are crazy drivers and that the British road system was designed and maintained by lunatics and masochists, but at least I can make it to the kids’ school without pulling over and hyperventilating, so that’s progress.

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