Thursday, January 28, 2016

On The Road Again

The sun removes the mist, the Venetian fog is cleared and I can see clearly the hills just beyond our home.  The view seems more colorful today, but it is not due to the sun or the weather.  The reason can be found in my wallet, a pinkish piece of plastic that has  my name and personal information.  On the reverse side there is a statement that says this person has the right to drive in Italy for 5 years.

While not as easy as an Indian dancing through hoops, I have squeezed through the testing hoops, and now a great weight has dropped from my shoulders.  I feel peace again.  Very important, that feeling of peace, when you are old.

First Hoop
With over 7,000 questions developed the computer randomly chose 40 for me to answer.   Allowed to miss 4 out of the 40, I failed by a question on one test and two questions on another.  I repaid the expensive fee and passed on the third try.  What did I learn?  These motor vehicle employees must really hate their job, and the take it out by creating questions that sometimes have little to do with driving knowledge and seem more like a mine field of logic. You know this kind of question, I am sure.

In the Car
Every person who desires a driver license in Italy must take 6 hours of in car driving instruction with a qualified instructor.  Back in my day, my father took me out in the toolies and let me drive the family car.  My mother in the back seat made scary noises which taught me to be a defensive driver.  Not in Italy.  It must be quite comical for people to see a 68 year old man driving a car with big letters, Driving School, on every side.  Can you see this picture?
More comical…big guy, little car!!

Big Surprise
At the end of my last lesson the school hands me a ten page study guide and they explain that before I will be allowed to drive for the esaminatore I will have to answer questions about the automobile and how it functions.  Included will be questions about where to put the oil, antifreeze, etc. and tire sizes, tread depth, year of tire construction, etc.  I know these things, and can probably explain them, but my biggest problem will be when I am questioned.  I may not be able to process and understand the question.  Italians are not slow speakers.  No one here speaks Italian like a old country boy from Louisiana speaks English.  I like to say they speak the speed of a machine gun.  They also run together words in a sentence, just like we all do, which makes hearing and processing impossible.  Whatrtheadditives  intheantifreezen whysitimportant?  or Youmusexplainwhere tofinthedateof constructiononthe side ofthetireandhowmanyearsis itbeforeyoudispose of it?  
I was not looking forward to this part of the test, nor had I expected it.  All the blogs about taking the test never mentioned this pre drive questioning.  Now I had to make an adjustment in my mind.  More study.  Another hoop!

I studied.  I studied hard, learned the name for the oil stick was astina, hydaullic fluid is liquido freni, radiator fluid is liquido refrigerante and the additive is antigelo.  I memorized, in the order  they expected the 11 dispositive di segnalione visiva e  di illuminazione, (devices for segnaling and lighting)…direzione, posizione,annabaglianti abbagliani, fendenebbia anteriore, fendenebbia posteriore, freno, retromarcia, targa, luci emergenza,and cortesia.  (This is only a small part of possible subjects)  But I learned all!  I was ready.

The test was set for 3:00 and I was told to be at the school at 11:00.  I wondered what would fill that 4 hour span, but then I received a call to come to the office at 1:00.  This was followed by a desperate  call to drop my lunch and get on the tram immediately to arrive before 12:00.  Arriving at the school I find the other students waiting, and we all stood around for an hour.  Is this the  army or…..wait, where am I?  Italy.  Italian time. A starting time in Italy is most always late.  I have given painting workshops and  people arrive more than an hour later than the start time.  So I should know better, as you now do.

Finally we cram ourselves into the school car, did I mention they were all teenagers?  After they satisfied their curiosity over an old guy taking the test they began asking the instructor one question after another about driving during the test.  They were as nervous as I.  Sitting in the front seat, I was cautioned NOT to use the pedals near my feet, placed there to help the instructor keep bad drivers from crashing the car (which by the way has scrape marks and bumps on every corner).

At the motor vehicle office we stand waiting while the instructor makes a call to the  esaminatore who informs him that he has decided to take a leisurely lunch in the bar and we must wait.  Did I mention it is 34 degrees out?   We all get in line to practice in the school car how to back into a parking slot.  Then there is a good going over of all the things inside the car and how to turn them on and off.  This is followed by things under the hood, and the tires,  We are there until 3:00 waiting.  (The original time)

I am pretty good at judging people from how they look.  It is a kind of feeling thing that right sided brained people have, and from the looks of the esaminatore, I think his ancestors must have been high officials during the inquisition.  His face is in need of a shave, hair unkempt, and his smile was non-existent.  With glasses drooping on his nose, he carries his clipboard and grumbled something to our instructor then disappeared into the back seat of the school car.  I backed away from the area so that I would not be chosen first! Nothing like getting into a rattlesnake nest when they are hungry.

From inside the car we hear a name called out, and the Chinese kid steps anxiously forward.  (Lots of Chinese in Italy, another post later)  The car sits, and we all watch and wait.  After five minutes the kids gets out and walks towards us with a face of dejection.  He tells us that he has failed.  The reason was his answer to the question, what is the significance of the hydraulic fluid in the brake line?  His answer, for the pump.  

My immediate thought was, I am gone!  At that point, however, I began to relax, realizing that my fate was sealed already.

Another name is called and a girl about 22 gets in the car.  We wait while she is grilled and suddenly the car starts.  Everyone is told to run and get in the other school car, and we end up following the test car so that we all know the route that will be used.  We will also be able to see the parking part of the test.  15 minutes later, I am feeling a bit more confident, and we arrive back at the DMV building.  The girl exits the car and she is holding high a pink credit card as if she just won a gold medal.  Pats on the back, and complements….then there is no mistake, I hear my name called.  Oh Dio!  Here we go.  

I slowly walk to the car.   I move the seat back in order to cram my  big body inside, and I hear…..”Oh, you are the American guy, yes?”  ……
Why am I hearing English?  
I look and the esaminatore has a smile.  How? …What changed him?  I tell him yes, I was a teacher in a public school in California for 37 years but now am married to an Italian and live outside of Padova.  (In my best Italian.. )  He says, and you drive a car in America?  (In English)
I grab my wallet and pull out my American license.  He laughs and says, that they don’t get many Americans taking the test, and they always have trouble parking backwards… and he laughs…
I settle in, and begin the process of adjusting my seat in the officially expected Italian mandated order, slow and careful.  I turn  and look at him, and he tells me, how do you leave the car?  (Now he speaks in Italian)  Thinking fast, I do not quite understand, but figure he is asking for the mandated order to turn off and exit the car….So I rattle off in pretty good Italian how to do that, complete with opening the door using two hands.
I hear a “good” (in English) and then he asks me how to check the oil.  
Oh, I am so lucky….”Well, you use the dipstick (asta) clean it (pulire) and check minimo massimo…”

“Start the car!”…..I am on my way.
We take an abbreviated route, and within 5 minutes we return.  Either I flunked badly or I passed.  I turn my head and he is handing me my pink driver’s license.  I am finished.  It is finished.  He is handing me my life back (or at least my mornings)  I am giving a big  American bear hug to the instructor, high fives to all the teenagers!  Touchdown!  I want to give a victory dance around the goal posts.
I believe that I was helped greatly by my instructor who prepared the esaminatore and cleared the way for me to pass.  For this I am grateful.  It was time to get a break!
Now  I can move on and return to retired life, my friends will stop hearing about the trials of the test, a relief for them I am sure, and now I will be able to share the driving so we can go to further away places on the weekend.  It has been way over a year of intense work.  
Who would guess that this kid in 63 years would be driving with an Italian license?

Next Stop Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany!  As my uncle used to say as a conductor on the Santa Fe, “All Aboard!”

1 comment:

Francesco Frizzarin said...

What a beautiful adventure!!!! Waiting for your next story! Enjoy your weekend!!