Winnie and I just survived the most stressful event any married couple should ever have to face. No, I’m not talking about getting married then waiting two years to be able to live together. No, I’m not talking about one person traveling half-way around the world to live in a strange country speaking a strange language. No, I’m not even talking about living through the worst natural disaster in American history.
I’ve just successfully taught Winnie to drive.
Winnie drove a motorbike when she was living in Nanning City. Operating a motorbike in China does require a driver’s license, so she had some driver training already. But, it’s a big step from operating a motorbike in Nanning to operating an SUV in southern Mississippi.
Shortly after Winnie arrived, we went down to the local DMV for her state ID card and a driver’s ed book. Here in Mississippi a person needs to pass a written test for their learner’s permit, and Winnie really worked hard at learning the book. A friend later showed her a website where she could take practice tests, and Winnie spent hours each night practicing. Just six weeks after she arrived in the US, she felt ready for her written driving test.
So, August 26, 2005, a lovely Friday morning, we went to the DMV office planning on Winnie attempting the test. I expected that since the INS papers she used for gaining a state ID were the same for gaining a learners permit, all we’d have to do was show her state ID card. But no; The DMV official rudely explained that the state ID card meant nothing. For Winnie to qualify for the test she needed to show all the same INS papers she provided for her state ID card, again.
Of course, it was my fault I made the silly assumption that a state ID card was valid proof of…something. So we left, planning on coming back the following Friday and trying again. The following Monday morning hurricane Katrina re-arranged our plans.
We didn’t actually make it back to the DMV office until early June, 2006. Winnie practiced up using the on-line tests again and felt ready. So, on a lovely Friday morning, we went to the DMV office planning on Winnie attempting the test. This time, I had every INS paper, plus every paper available proving our proof of residency.
The DMV officer started asking for specific papers – I had them. She asked for more papers – I had them. She asked for still more papers – I still had them. Finally, frustrated, the official acknowledged that Winnie had provided adequate proof she was in fact alive and legally living in Gautier. Then Winnie took her eye test.
Winnie failed her eye test. She couldn’t even see the first line of letters. Of course, it was my fault I didn’t know she drove a motorbike around Nanning City blind.
So we left the DMV and got her glasses. In late June, on a lovely Friday morning, we went to the DMV office planning on Winnie attempting the test. This time, Winnie got through the entire gauntlet and actually took her written test.
She passed first try, with flying colors.
Now came the actual practice driving part. Winnie wanted to spend some time each day learning to drive. The first few sessions were in the local mall parking lot; Not so bad. Then we got out on the roads. The first few times we would return home barely speaking to each other with my throat raw. But we kept at it.
Winnie did learn incredibly quickly. Before too long she was out on the freeways pretty much handling her own. Learning to park was tricky; she didn’t have a good feel for maneuvering in tight spaces. Thankfully, the local DMV doesn’t test on parallel parking so we didn’t need to jump into that skill.
As soon as we knew we would be moving to Virginia Winnie decided to take the test here. We planned on going to the DMV office September 15, and the night before we were out until 8:30PM while Winnie practiced parking and driving.
The next day, on a lovely Friday morning, we went to the DMV office planning on Winnie attempting the test. After a long wait, the DMV official took Winnie out driving.
And Winnie passed her road test on the first try. Today I had the interesting experience of having my wife drop me off at the office so she could use the car.