Little Red Bullshit
Baby, You're Much Too Fast... a drive test examination for a seasoned driver doesn't end as he expected.
Working at the DMV as a Licensing Registration Examiner (which is a fancy way of saying ‘drive test examiner’) had been quite the experience for me all those years ago. From 1988 to 1998, I was the guy behind the clipboard, facing several distressed drivers a day. I have failed, passed, restricted, and revoked my share of drivers during those years and was never surprised by the reactions to those going through such a strenuous procedure.
I was one of the youngest examiners in California at the time, when I was promoted to this position at the age of 23 at the San Diego-Clairemont DMV. I had worked hard from 1986 to then, working both sides of the DMV in the driver license section as well as the registration section. I learned quick, made good decisions, and showed that I could handle the pressure of conducting driving tests.
Throughout my civil service career, I worked in quite a few DMV's around the state. I started in San Luis Obispo at the age of 21. From there to Chula Vista, when I moved to San Diego thinking I had a record deal with a label there. Then San Diego-Clairemont, Laguna Hills and finally, San Clemente DMV for my final office in 1998.
As an LRE (which is what they call us 'for short'), you're in the middle position from field representative to supervisor, and it's usually a stepping stone to promoting to management. But, for one reason or another, I never went further than that position, which is a good thing, as I got to the point where I was done with working for the state. The people on both sides of the counter are a bit too much for anyone to take in over 12 years.
The behind-the-wheel driving test can be a very intense twenty minutes for some people. But, for people who are taking the test who already know how to drive, it might take more than one try. Make sense? No? Read on...
Some people forget they’re taking an actual driving test—especially if they’re seasoned drivers and must take the drive test due to no longer having a license, or coming from another country or another state and not having he ability to prove their status.
I remember one guy with a sporty red car taking just such a test at the San Clemente DMV office, which eventually became the last office I worked in at the DMV. He was a middle aged white guy with thin balding blonde hair, dressed in cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, and aviator glasses and had ‘that’ attitude that I try to ignore, but somehow always managed to come across. Living in Laguna Hills at the time, you get to see your share of the self ‘entitled’ few who feel the rules don’t apply to them.
For some reason, he thought it was just a thing he had to do—the drive test—because we were being unfair with him and he demanded he get to take the driving portion of the test the same day he applied for his license. The driving test schedule is usually quite hectic, with folks all over the state scheduling their appointments at least a week or two in advance and our office was no exception. But, squeaky entitled wheel that this guy was, he felt he deserved his test now, and demanded rather loudly that he be able to do so.
I meet him outside—nice shiny red Corvette, and introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m Tomás,” I said with a pleasant smile, yet still authoritatively. “I’ll be your examiner today. I’d like you to show me your arm signals, please?”
“Huh?” he responded, not knowing what the hell I was talking about.
“Your arm signals, sir,” I repeated. “You know, in case your blinkers or brake lights fail you, you are required by law to administer arm signals when braking or making turns.”
“Oh, um, okay,” he said with a flustered and confused tone. “This is right, no left… um, no right, this is left and this is um, to brake,” he stammered.
“Okay," I replied, scribbling on my clipboard. “Now if you’ll ‘sound’ your horn.”
After honking his horn, showing me where all his required instruments on the dashboard of his car (light switch, defroster, turn signals, hand brake, etc.), he showed me that his brake lights and turn signals actually worked and it was then that I entered his car.
“You’re starting with 100 points, and for every error made points are deducted,” I explained. “If you miss more than 15 points, you will not pass, and if you do anything during the test that requires my assistance, either verbally or physically, other than giving you directions, or if you do anything considered illegal during the drive test, you will automatically be disqualified and we will return directly back to the DMV. Do you understand the rules as I’ve explained them to you?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said casually.
“Okay, please sign here,” I said handing him the clipboard and pointing to a line on the test sheet. Once he signed we were able to go, but I had to explain how I would direct him.
“I’ll will give you directions to turn by stating, ‘at this corner please turn right or at this corner, please turn left, and if I say nothing as we approach an intersection then you just continue to go forward,” I said as calmly and professionally as I was expected to be. “If you need to change lanes to turn at the directed corner, please do so—and don’t worry, I’ll give you plenty of notice to turn before reaching that corner.”
“Yeah, no problem,” he chortled.
I knew this was going to be one of those rides. The one where I was going to have to make an unhappy decision. After conducting driving tests for ten years, you automatically get that feeling how the ride might go, and I knew this guy was much too confident that he was most likely going to make more than 15 errors if not do something dumb which would require my assistance. He did not disappoint.
“Okay,” I said with clipboard and pen firmly in hand. “Continue forward and exit the parking lot turning left, and at the stop sign, turn right.”
At this particular office, the DMV was literally across the street from San Clemente Beach, and the road was the very well-known Highway 1. It’s a two-way highway, with a double yellow line all the way down to wherever it ended, and the posted speed was 55 miles per hour.
He turns right onto the highway, and proceeds to gun his engine and soon we are traveling at 60 – 65 mph in no time. Noticing that he is definitely speeding, his driving test was now over before he even knew it, but you can’t just say that and expect a smooth ride back, so you make adjustments while you’re still conducting the test. I needed to turn him around and get him back to the office, and there was a small parking lot for the beach about half a mile down the road where we could safely turn around.
“Okay, we’re going to go ahead and turn left at this parking structure,” I calmly instructed. “Okay, if you’ll just make a quick U-turn here in this lot and then back on the highway, we’ll go ahead and turn right.”
“Oh, okay,” he said triumphantly, thinking he is doing so well, we’re already heading back because of his super smooth abilities, I’m sure.
“Now if you’ll pull back into the lot, and park over there.” I pointed at the sign that read ‘ DRIVE TEST PARKING ONLY’. “And then shut off your vehicle.”
“So, how’d I do, man?” he half asked, half laughed, gesturing like he’s taking a picture. “Am I ready for my pic?”
“Well, unfortunately you were automatically disqualified due to breaking the law by speeding,” I said calmly. “You were traveling in a 55 MPH zone at ten miles over the speed limit, so I am required to fail you and you’ll be required to reschedule and come back and try again.”
Suddenly ‘Mr. Cool’s’ demeanor changed to ‘Mr. Fucking Crazy’ and he blew his stack.
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN I FAILED, MAN! EVERYONE GOES THAT FAST, I MEAN, EVERYONE WAS DRIVING THAT SPEED, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? WHY DO I FAIL FOR DOING WHAT EVERYONE IS DOING?!?” he yelled at the top of his lungs, his eyes bulging out, his face turning red and his fingers gesturing in my face.
“Sir, you’re going to need to calm down so I can explain to you some other things you need to work on for your next test,” I stated firmly.
“NEXT TEST!!!! NEXT TEST?? FUCK THIS SHIT!” he snarled. “WHERE THE FUCK IS YOUR BOSS?!?”
“Well, sir, she’s right inside the office if you’d like to talk to her, but—this test will stand as a failure, regardless if you talk to her or not,” I said with a bit of a fuck you too tone. “Sorry.”
As we got out of the car, he slammed his door and grabbed his test sheet out of my hand then stormed towards the office. I walked in slowly behind him, knowing that he’ll be soon yelling at my boss, Pat.
At the counter she’s listening to him yell at her and explain the situation as he saw it.
“I was only going the same speed as everyone else, what the hell!” he loudly explained, noticing me, “and this guy," (gesturing to me) "fails me for speeding? That’s unacceptable!”
“What speed were you going?” she asked patiently.
“I went, 60, maybe 65 miles per hour!” he shouted agitatedly
“Well, sir, the posted speed limit on that highway is 55 miles per hour, your examiner is correct. As a result of speeding, you have failed your driver test,” she explained calmly.
“WHAT!?! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE GOING TO UPHOLD THIS DECISION! I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A GREAT DRIVER AND YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE HIM FAIL ME BECAUSE OF THIS LITTLE THING!!” he yelled. “I DEMAND A RETEST! I WANT TO GO OUT AGAIN RIGHT NOW!!”
She looked at him square in the eyes and calmly said, “Sir, you failed yourself, it’s against the law to speed and you were speeding, but, if you demand to go out again after this fail,” she continued, “I can take you out. Sure, I can fail you now.”
“Great, then, wait… what?” he said somewhat confused.
She leaned across the counter, looked him dead in the eyes, and said, “Yes, I’ll take you out myself, and I have just enough time to fail you now.”
He looked at her and realized that no matter what, he would not be passing tonight.
“I… Um… okay, uh, wait, let me just reschedule,” he said, dejectedly.
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