Last Wednesday night my wife was overdosing on home improvement shows and I was at the tail end of a 12 pack of good old American beer.
Which means sadly, I was really sober.
Yes, we were back in America and we were celebrating — sort of.
It was a clandestine, quick, ninja-like trip home that only a few trusted agents knew about because the mission here in the good old U.S. of A. afforded no time for shenanigans, no time for visits, no time for drunken romps with old friends, and only time for one strip club visit.
There was no time for anything, but business.
I literally had to tie a leash on my wife’s belt loops during a trip to Target. If I hadn’t she’d have wandered for hours among the clothes, kitchen accessories and bed linen.
There was no time for that.
The trip was all about business.
“Bedding be damned! Your desires to rework the kitchen’s towel color scheme are unimportant, woman, and too hell with the guest bathroom decor,” I exclaimed as she perused bed spreads.
By this point we’d already finished the mission, she reminded me, and technically she was right. Damn her. But it’s hard to come down off the adrenaline of our whirlwind tour of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
I was still on a mission, even after the mission was over.
The mission seemed simple: Get a valid American driver’s license. A certain state in Germany, looking at you Baden-Württemberg, got a wild hair up their collective asses and decided to revoke the driving privileges of anyone caught operating a motor vehicle while in possession of U.S. Army Europe driver’s license without a valid U.S. driver’s license.
That means me. I’m a member of that club. So is Dagmar. So are a fuck ton of my friends and coworkers. My Arizona driver’s license expired in 2008 and her Texas license expired in 2013. This wouldn’t normally be a big issue and we could’ve waited until the powers that be made a decision about the validity of a U.S. Army driver’s license without a valid stateside license until we went back for vacation, but … I travel a lot for work. I travel for work using official government orders, like a grown up and shit.
When my boss learned that my license was expired (thankfully his was too) he told me that there would be no more official travel until the situation was fixed. Cue the “rapid quick trip back to the states” music and our visit to the Maryland MVA.
As a member of “the no valid U.S. driver’s license club” I think I may have been the first to travel back to the U.S. just to get a license. Mind you, I wasn’t renewing a license, I had to actually get a license. I think that fact actually makes me the king of the no valid driver’s license club.
As king of the expired driver’s license club in Europe, I’d like to tell my fellow expired license subjects that they are in fact screwed. I know, I know. Normally a King reassures his subjects, but the mark of real leadership is the ability to tell people when shit’s real.
Shit is real.
There is some good news. If you’re an active-duty service member living in Germany and have an expired license, you can likely renew online. If not though, prepare to receive sausage, because you’re basically fucked.
Dagmar and I had four states from which to choose pick when it came to asking for a valid driver’s license. Three of them basically told us to fuck off, but Maryland was indeed sympathetic. Sympathetic to the point that I think the manager there is really, really sick of me. Sick of me as in, “would avoid me at parties” sick of me.
I, however, can say she’s on my Christmas card list for life.
If only I’d gotten her address.
Here’s the thing: You don’t want to board an international flight (booked in duress no less) to acquire a driver’s license without knowing exactly what kind of paperwork will be required on the other end of that flight. If Cathy from the MVA had said she needed an original signed photograph of my wiener, I’d have been asking my wife how the light looked and if the photo was in focus.
I was going to have everything they wanted, in triplicate if possible.
We had to board our plane Saturday afternoon and Saturday morning I received news, via email, that we would both have to take the written and driving tests before we would be issued licenses. We couldn’t simply exchange driver’s licenses. Not ideal, but not an insurmountable obstacle either. Or so we thought. Cue ominous music.
I printed out two copies of the attached driver’s license study guide and tucked them into our carry-on baggage to review driving laws during the flight back home.
We arrived Sunday and were at the Maryland MVA early Monday morning. The manager met us at the door. This was likely due to the fact that I had bugged the living hell out of her during the previous few weeks.
Photos of our beautiful mugs were taken, paperwork was exchanged, weather was discussed and we both passed the written driver’s test. No bonus points for who missed less questions, the automated test cuts off once you’ve answered the correct number of questions.
Then we both promptly failed the driving portion of test.
I failed because it seems I cannot parallel park to save my life (or to save the cost of two round-trip tickets to the U.S.), and Dagmar failed because she thought she was smarter than the lady administering the test.
In my haste to book our flight and rental car I noticed that a large luxury sedan was only a dollar more per day than the smallest economy car offered by the rental agency. Being an idiot I took the luxury sedan thinking bigger is always better, like boobs.
Bigger is not always better when it comes to parallel parking, at least in my world, and I straight up flunked it. I couldn’t moor the Titanic within a foot of the curb in the allotted three minutes.
Dagmar’s story is a bit funnier. After having successfully parallel parked the Hindenburg, her tester told her to make a left hand turn. Dagmar observed that she would be crossing a double yellow line and decided that it would be unsafe to do such. She informed her tester that she was going to go straight and then turn around just up the road. You know, to better facilitate the test, or something.
Both of our tests ended the same way. “Please put the vehicle in park, you have failed the exam. ”
We piloted the good ship lollypop back to the airport car rental* counter (yes the MVA let us drive away, they had mercy on our souls) and exchanged it for the smallest rental car they had.
Fresh behind the wheel of a Chevy Cruz we drove it and parallel parked it for the rest of the goddamn day. We parallel parked that car until we could’ve centered it on a grain of rice. We parked, parked, parked and parked some more.
Because going home sans a valid driver’s license wasn’t an option.
Test number two obviously went a little better for both of us. And by little I mean a 1,000 percent better. The young lady who administered my test the second time was calm, cool, professional and must still be wondering about the guy in his mid-40s with buckets of sweat pouring off his forehead. (I still have a cramp in both hands from the death grip I had on the steering wheel the entire time.) But we passed.
Keep the hands and 10 and 2 o’clock (clearly neither Todd, nor his driving tester, have not read this ~Fran), always check your mirrors, break smoothly when coming to a stop! Be sure you see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you at the light! And for god’s sake son, use your turn signal! Always signal!
I’m so left thinking, politically, I considered just keeping my left-turn signal on constantly.
My father, like a lot us, taught me to drive. He did it on a 1960 Dodge pickup truck with a column shift and a clutch that required Paul Bunyan leg strength. He, did I mention this though, was also a driving instructor for many years and later a professional truck driver with all those million mile accident-free awards to prove it.
To confess to him that I had flown all the way in from Germany to take a driver’s test and failed, was almost worse than telling my boss.
Almost worse because Dad’s weekly allowance has long since dried up.
As I already gave away the ending, we both received brand new, won’t expire for eight years, Maryland driver’s licenses. I mean if we hadn’t and I’ve have returned to Germany without one, today’s blog entry would read something like this — “Oh god, Oh god, Oh god, Oh god, Oh god, SOB, <nose blow>! Oh god, Oh god, Oh god, Oh god” — which isn’t very funny, but I suspect some of you might have been highly amused regardless.
When I got back in the office this week, there were congratulations, some snickering and some kind-hearted teasing, but the best came from a lady I’ll call “Sue.”
Sue is retired military police officer and is the glue that holds our office together. Think Radar O’Reilly from “M.A.S.H.” hardened by years of police work, zero tolerance for bullshit and with an awesomely foul mouth. You love or you hate Sue. I happen to love Sue. Her sharp tongue has cut me more then once, but I’m smart enough to know I had it coming.
Sue came into my office on my first day back and closed the door.
“Did you really fail the parallel parking part of your driver’s test the first time,” she asked.
I assured her I did.
“You dumb motherfucker, you live in Germany, you parallel park every goddamn day,” she said, howling with laughter.
She was right, I do. I parallel park at least once a day, sometimes multiple times a day.
Maybe I had it all wrong, the worst wouldn’t have been my dad, my boss or even my own sense of self worth. The worst was Sue. Jesus, the worst would’ve been Sue.
*Shout-out time: NextCar is a new rental car company that just opened in BWI. I can tell you I’m officially a loyal customer. Pam at the counter even high-fived us when, with drivers licenses in hand, we turned the car in on our way back to Germany.
Awesome company, seriously. If you’re in the Baltimore area they should be your go to rental car agency. NextCar is an awesome deal with affordable, new cars and an absolutely awesome staff. (Feel free to send me free schwag, NextCar!)