Tue 27 Oct 2009
So I passed the written part of the test for getting my French driver’s license with such a huge sense of relief. It had so stressed me out. I stopped even trying to speak French with Maurice after two hours each listening to and trying to learn the French I needed to pass the test-the part of my brain that helped me speak French shut down-and it seemed like I spent every free moment looking at the my videos on driving. I had read somewhere that the written part of the exam was much easier than they had been lead to believe in class and that the driving part was much more difficult. Oh dear.
I’ve been driving since I was sixteen not to mention the years I have been driving, I guess, illeagally here in Provence. How hard could it be? The lady at the driving school told Maurice that I would need at least ten driving lessons which I found hard to believe but, after the first lesson, in which she told me that I turned the steering wheel wrong (I put my hands inside the wheel when I made a U Turn), that I didn’t make the left turn properly and that I drove using my clutch too much I started to wonder. I do have a habit-that I was totally unaware of-of putting the clutch in when I’m in second gear with the possibility of either staying in second as the car has to slow down for something or maybe having to go to first gear if the speed of the car gets really slow. This isn’t regarded as safe and I had all sorts of trouble remembering not to do this. But, as the lessons pregressed, I figured out all that she wanted and she even told me I didn’t need all of the lessons.
I found out just how “good” I was at driving when we picked up a student, a teenage girl, at the post office and she got behind the wheel with me in the back seat so they could take me back to where my car was. (Yes, I am driving to the lessons which seems rather funny to me too). This girl terrified me and I had my imaginary brake on the entire time she drove which was maybe five minutes. First she stalled the car then she made this huge right turn way out into traffic. She either got really close to the cars on her right or was in the middle of the road. She stalled twice more before we arrived. I don’t know how the teacher did it. She did reach for the steering wheel a couple of times and she has her own brake to hit if she needs to. When I got of the car the teacher said, “Sorry”. I left feeling like I would have no problems with the test. The teacher has shown me many of the places the students have to drive while taking the test and several of the places where mistakes are commonly made. One is at an exit where there is no stop sign and a very, very faint white line indicating that you need to stop. I would have missed that I think, although I probably would have stopped but not for the required three seconds.
There was a girl, who had been in several of my classes, who took the written part of the test the same time I did. I was surprised when the teacher told me that she hadn’t passed the driving test in three tries. She is very smart and mature so isn’t like the flakey girl I was in the car with so I was a bit worried. But I keep telling myself, I’ve been driving forever. It isn’t new to me and, unless I have an anxiety attack during the test and do something totally wrong, I should pass it. I can make three mistakes during the test as long as they aren’t huge mistakes like not yielding the right of way to a car or stopping where I should.
I look back at my experience when I was sixteen and wonder how I passed the driving part of the test. My Dad once owned a drive-in theatre when we lived in Durango, Colorado, and he let me drive his jeep all around the lot which is how I learned to drive with a stick shift which is what is required when getting your French driver’s license. I drove a few times with him in the car. There was no such thing as driver’s ed classes. I somehow drove just fine when my time came and passed the test. I almost had a wreck the same day I got my license at a stop sign however.
So two days before my test we had a class in which they went over possible questions for the test which involved everything under the hood of the car, everything in the intererior and many things about the exterior such as lights and tires. I knew it all but was worried about being asked about them in French.
Finally the day arrived. The man giving the test was very nice. My teacher from the school sat in the back seat. I was expecting no only having to drive, but to have to do all sorts of maneuvers such as parallel parking and stopping at the side of the road. It turned out that all I had to do was drive to the nearby village of la Tour d’Aigues from Pertuis, turn around and go back. I was so surprised when he told me turn into the parking lot where we began. All I had to do was back into the parking space and I was finished. He didn’t tell me if I passed the test or not because, apparantly, a couple of the agents have been beat up when they told the student that they didn’t pass. The results are sent to the school and they then tell you if you passed or not. I have no doubt that I passed. I know for sure that I didn’t do a thing wrong. The driving intructor from the school gave me a thumbs up which I think meant I passed too. Again–so relieved. I hope I never have to do anything like this again. I’m too old for all of this stress.
Just in case someone is reading this who will have to go through the same thing, here are some words that I didn’t know before I started:
rabat-go back, return
accoutement-side of the road
feux postion seuls-parking lights
feux croissment-low beam lights
feux de route-high beam lights-the bright head lights
allure-bearing, manner, pace
aplomp-balance, coolness, steadiness
au moins-at least
troupeau-herd (as in cattle or sheep)
moyen de lutte-something to put out a fire, lutte means battle or fight
entraine-bring about, carry away, pull, lead
au plus-at the maximum
a jeun-on an empty stomach
demarrer-start, set in motion
delestage-other route when traffic is stopped
lassee telle quelle-left as is
franchir-jump over, cross (not franchise or frank)
chevauche un ligne-cross over a line
eboulement-caving in, falling of stone
fleche-mark with arrow