Pat’s Funny Bone: DMV tests are confusing

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I am a California driver. I make “California Stops.” I refer to an expressway as a freeway. I put the word “the” in front of the number of every major highway.

This year, my license was due to be renewed. During most of my driving career, a renewal consisted of merely paying the money, sending it to the DMV and you received your license in the mail. But, six weeks ago, I received a renewal notice in the mail, but there was one major change. It stated that I had to personally come to the DMV and do the following 4 things: take a vision test, take a new picture, give my thumb print and take a written test.

“New picture” didn’t shock me. After all, my current picture was from 20 years ago before cataract surgery, a steady treatment of grey covering color and twice daily application of wrinkle disappearing cream.

“Written Test” caused me to immediately break out in a cold sweat. This isn’t a test in which I could write, it would be the dreaded multiple choice test. I can pass essay tests with no problem, but a multiple choice test, they have been my nemesis my entire life!

On a multiple choice test, you have to make a choice and that I don’t like to do. I struggle over making a choice between sweet and dill pickles. I really think this is why I had only one boyfriend and I married him. Made life so much simpler.

So I did what every American does: I went on the internet and found sample tests. I passed every test with a perfect score. I was prepared!

With my appointment paper in my hand, I entered the DMV, paid my $33, took my new photo, passed my vision test and scanned my thumb. All that was left was my written test.

I expected to be handed the familiar long sheet of newsprint with questions of both sides. The one you could take home and share with others so that they would have an exact copy of the test. But things have changed. The DMV has been upgraded! The testing area now included 10 thirty-five inch touch screens.There were no number 2 pencils, no initials carved in the wood, no officer making sure that you don’t talk, eat, or spit.

But there were people, dozens of them, sitting only a few feet from the touch screens waiting for their name to be called while glancing at the testing touch screens for entertainment. Not only was I taking a test on a screen which now had become a Jumbotron, I now had an audience!

Question one.“If you are driving on the right side of the road on Thursday and you want to turn left to go on a one way street that is traveling right on every other Friday with a pedestrian jaywalking parallel to the opposite lane of the bowling lane, do you turn from the center lane, the right lane, or the left lane.” I was confused; I was in trouble. Clearly, my high school history teacher is now writing the questions for the DMV!

I checked B. Wrong! A huge red X appeared on the screen with half of the people in the room whispering to one another.

Question two. “When parking on a one-way uphill street while going downhill that has solid white lines to the left and a double yellow line to the right along with a diamond in the center and your grandmother’s name on the top of the diagonal split white line, how should your front wheels be turned?” Now I knew that my 9th grade health teacher had also been hired by the DMV!

I checked C. Wrong again! Another huge red X with the room now filled with giggling.

Question three. “Did you even study for this test?” My mother is obviously working for the DMV!

I forged on and passed the test and, once again, I am a licensed driver. Sure, I did tell a little bit of untruth when I listed my weight as 125. But I have never seen an actual scale anywhere in the DMV office.

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Pat Van Dyke