It’s official – at my young middle-aged years, I now drive like an old lady. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And not that we’re stereotyping.
The thing is, you probably do too – drive like old folks that is. At least in the eyes of Spanish drivers. You see, I’m now working on getting a Spanish driver’s license. I was dreading it because I thought all the tests had to be done on cars with manual gearshifts, which are much more common than automatics here. I do not drive stick shifts. I have no interest in driving stick shifts. Stick shifts can take their sticks and…you get the idea.
But, the right driving school teacher finally shared the secret: There’s another license available, where you’re tested on a car with an automatic gearshift (i.e., normal). Your license restricts you to just driving automatics, but as you can probably tell, that doesn’t bother me. A few years ago, the law was changed so anyone could get this special license, not just people with a medical need. Great, says I, you don’t need to be disabled? Oh no, says the instructor, a lot of older people get it – not young people, they get a regular license – but the elderly who might have trouble with gears.
So, quite happy to aim for a senior citizen license (not its official name), or as I like to think of it, the American special, I plunged into reading that dense work of fiction (oh sure, double parking is illegal) that you might also have read in another form: the driver’s manual. A couple of moms at school noticed I was toting it around, and one was surprised that my U.S. license can’t be simply validated and exchanged directly for a Spanish one, as most European and some other countries’ licenses can be here.
Sure, laughed the other, it’s because you don’t need to do anything for a U.S. license. Compared with the hoops you have to go through for a license here, the written and driving tests of U.S. states are seen as…er…cinchy. Personally, I think they’re just differently focused. From the Spanish manual, what are the rules for the number, color and location of every single light on a truck, versus the important fact of knowing you´re driving a “two-ton death machine,” my favorite line leftover from high school driver’s ed.
Careful, the second mom said about the Spanish written test, they give you trick questions. Don’t worry, everybody has to take it more than once, said another mom, meaning the written and driving portions.
So now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t go to the driving test dressed up with a kind of babushka granny head scarf and some artful stage makeup (it wouldn’t take that much), and try to snag some extra points out of sympathy for the elderly.