Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Driver’s License

Blurry photo?  Or am I just getting old?

Having learned to drive over 40 years ago, I was told that, in Spain, there’s no other way to get your license except through an autoescuela and shell out for classes.  You can teach yourself and take the written exam, but the driving exam (where the rubber meets the road, ha!) must be done through the autoescuela.    Much to my chagrin, I realized after studying (or, better said, avoiding studying) an old autoescuela textbook for a few months  and failing multiple practice tests (lots of new vocabulary, tricky questions, a good dose of hubris, and the fact that you can only get 3 out of 30 wrong before failing) that it wouldn’t be that simple.

Sasha's dream car

But why did I need a Spanish driver’s license in the first place?  I have a perfectly legal California driver’s license, as well as a fancy international license from AAA, completely translated into 14 different languages.   Why would I want to go to an autoescuela with a bunch of 18-year-old driver-wannabes?  The answer was straightforward and oh so Spanish:  if you are a resident of Spain (as Todd and I are), then you need a Spanish driver’s license.  Period.

Don Quixote in the rear-view

So we delayed for a number of months, trying to avoid the ol’ autoescuela.  Should we be pulled over by the dreaded guardia civil, we planned to play the dumb American and show our California license.  But the Rota Naval base wasn’t quite that gullible.  Without a Spanish license, and with only a shiny new blue retiree ID, the Security Office flatly refused to give us a pass for our old Lion Car.  We either had to drive all the way to the Rota gate and walk across to our doctor’s appointments and to the Mini-Mart, or borrow a friend’s car that had a pass, or hitchhike to get to a friend’s house (which I did on several occasions to get to base parties!). 

Extra-custom door handle in our Lion Car

After several months of this foolishness, I knuckled under and signed up at the autoescuela down the street.  Fernando cheerfully showed me how to work the computers and how to access the system from home, and after three months of mind-numbingly boring practice test after practice test, I was ready for my written test.  Pass!


Next I began driving classes with Milagros.  She showed me how to navigate the roundabouts (which I had never really understood), how to stop at intersections (stop, creep up until you can see the cross-traffic well, stop again, then finally cross), and helped me break my habit of driving with one hand, the other resting on the stick shift, or crossing my hands while turning, or gripping the wheel upside-down (no! no!  Always have two hands on the wheel, except to shift!).   She didn’t scold me when I ran a red light while chatting with her, and she only pointed out the pedestrian in the crosswalk after I had zipped past him.  Thanks to her, I passed the practical exam.  Whew.

Our trusty Lion Car, who has served us well for the past 5 years

Finally, after five months, 500 euros poorer and with a shiny green plastic “L” to hang in my rear window, I drove to the base with my temporary driver’s license to get my car pass.  Then off we went to the Mini-Mart to buy Cheerios and Best Foods mayonnaise. 

 "L" for "Learner."  Very funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to add your comments here!