Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Israeli Driver's License: Only Me

Oh hello there. You're going to save the day?
And then you're going to make me battered and bruised?

Today was a big day -- I took a driving lesson and test in order to switch my driver's license over to Israel so that I can legally drive here. Technically, you you can drive legally on your U.S.-based (or other international) license for one year after making aliyah, and then you have another two years to convert or transfer your international license before you're stuck with starting from zero.

So, me, being a bit yekke, I opted to get it done (with a bit of nudging from Mr. T). I found an awesome English-speaking driving instructor, and after going through the paperwork process of the conversion, I met up with the instructor this morning around 10:20.

We drove around, he gave me lots of tips, explained how to best enter and understand a roundabout (seriously helpful), and we went back to the starting point after about 40 minutes, with the instructor telling me that my driving is very relaxing (aww thanks). After all, I've been driving for nearly 15-16 years, folks!

Now, because I was told that converting/transferring your license is a pretty painless and quick process (one lesson, one test), I assumed that it would all just happen magically very quickly, so when we got back to the starting point, I thought we were done. Alas, that was just the lesson, and I spent the next hour in the back seat of the car fearing for my life while a Haredi driver with a New York license took the road. Tip to drivers: Stopping in the middle of an intersection -- any intersection -- is a bad idea!

After a while, we picked up another person, drove for a bit, and then ended up at the testing facility around noon. This is when things get a little wacky, folks.

When the testing guy got in the car with the three of us (our instructor was going to stay behind and wait for us), he looked at the Haredi guy's paperwork and it was fine. Then he moved on to mine and -- oh! What? What's that? Problem? Oh right! Awesome!

What happened next is one of those "only me, only in Jerusalem" kind of moments.

The driving instructor didn't want me to miss out on getting my test done, so he ran over to the area where they were doing motorbike and scooter testing and lessons, asked to borrow a scooter, zipped over to me, handed me a helmet, told me to get on and to hold on if I want and we zoomed a few miles away.

Now, I'm wearing a skirt, which didn't go well with the expediency with which I needed to mount this scooter (and then unmount and remount a few minutes later). I've never been on a motorbike or scooter. And with someone who was fairly a stranger, the entire experience was petrifying. He's not a small guy, and I'm not exactly a twig, and on a little scooter? This thing was super small, not the typical Israeli scooters you see flying around. It had one side-view mirror, and barely fit the two of us.

Note: Motorbike helmets don't really fit onto my style of head covering. Had I fallen off ... who knows.

I basically sat on the metal bar on the back of the scooter and every time we turned or went uphill, I was pretty sure I was going to die. As the bike tipped on a turn and scraped the ground, I knew we were in for ... but no worries. The driving instructor knew it was my first time, and my clutching to him for dear life I think he found amusing.

So the instructor got me to the optometrist so they could check off three boxes that the other folks had forgotten. I paid my 15 shekels, and we hopped back on the scooter.

The drive back was incredibly painful, mostly because I was more on the metal bar than before and we hit a huge pothole (I thought I was flying off the thing). I'm feeling it in my bum and in my back, and I'm not looking forward to how I'm going to be feeling tomorrow, but the funniest thing?

We get back to the testing center just in time for me to do the test, which consisted of ... get this ... something along the lines of four turns. I was in the car for roughly five minutes! Five minutes! Pull out of the testing facility, make a right, then another right, then another right, and then a left and you're done!

Shoot me now.

Luckily, I got a call from my amazing instructor, and I passed, so I won't have to go through that insanity again. Will the bruises and pain I know I'm going to feel tomorrow be worth it? Meh. It gives me a story to tell. I'm sure I'll laugh about it later, but I feel like my insides are trying to crawl outside.

Time to recover. D'oh.

Note: If you want the name/phone number of this most amazing instructor, send me an email, and I'll pass along his details!