Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crash course

I just had a crash course (no pun intended) on Spanish culture.

Yesterday I took the written portion of the driver’s license exam. And I passed. My American friends are unimpressed. My Spanish husband is taking me to dinner to celebrate.

In Spain there is an entire industry built around the driver’s licenses. Driving schools are expensive and obligatory. Written tests are ridiculously difficult, almost ensuring that the average person will take at least two trips to the exam room. There are official policies about what to do if you surpass the 3 allowed attempts. In short, it’s the perfect picture of Spanish bureaucracy – expensive? Check. Time consuming? Check. Maddeningly complicated? Check.

I had some idea that the exam itself would be tough. I was prepared for that. I was not prepared for the literally hundreds of people taking all manner of tests – written, practical, cars, motorcycles, trucks. A madhouse. As we pulled in I was instantly blown away by the sea of orange. Why do all of the driving schools use orange as their color? And the building? Ah, the building… There is an adjective in Spanish - tercermundista or third-worldish - that most adequately describes the building. Nacho told me that he also went there for his driving exams. 15 years ago. Clearly the building has not been remodeled since then. And it’s not for the lack of funds. With three monitors and 150 test-takers, the government is most certainly making the licensing a lucrative business.

Perhaps for that very reason, and in all fairness, compared to other Spanish paperwork procedures, this one was well-organized. Albeit way behind schedule. The test was supposed to start at 12:30. At about 12:35 they started calling each of the 150 or so test-takers one by one. We started the exam around 1. It’s literally a check-the-box test. Surely corrected by hand. Results were out this morning around noon. And they were available online. A major step for Spanish bureaucracy.

I’ve heard that the actual driving portion of the exam is even more overwhelming. And that even non-smokers will have the urge to puff a couple while waiting hours for their turn to be called. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks to eleconomista for the picture. No cameras allowed in the high-tech testing area.


Katie said...

congrats! you paint an accurate picture of spanish bureaucracy. i hear the práctica part is a real bitch. if you pass that on the first try, i'll take you out to dinner! ;)

JustMe said...

I'd love to join you and Katie for dinner after your practica (imagine the ').