It's not about the house.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Permission To Learn

All right, I promised I'd write my learner's-permit story, so here goes. I have to warn you, though, there really isn't that much of a there there...

I haven't studied for anything in twenty years. More, actually, because I dropped out of grad school after six weeks, and I don't think you can call what I did my senior year of college "studying." But for simplicity's sake, let's call it a pair of decades and move on.

I didn't want to. I was never a bad student when I was one, but now that I had to be one again, I didn't want to. So what I did instead was find a practice test on line. I found a few, in fact, but they all came out with the same result. It's a 25-question test, you have to answer 18 correctly, and no matter how many different tests I took, I scored 18.

It didn't help, of course, that the questions I got wrong were the ones about, you know, riding motorcycles. Because I didn't know jack shit on those. "Groups of riders should arrange themselves in what sort of formation?" I don't know! A flying-V?

The ones I got were dumb ones about stuff that's been ingrained in me since the late '80s. Road signs. Flashing lights. Yellow lines. The tests were mostly those, in fact, which is the reason I kept passing. But only by the skin of my teeth (or face, I guess, or clavicle); I couldn't risk it. So I found the Massachusetts Motorcycle Manual on line.

It's 72 pages long, but 8 of those are taken up by the Table of Contents. Another three are about the RMV. And then the last 4 are filled with charts about Junior Operators and Penalties for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. Plus two pages for front and back covers. So we'll call it 55 in all.

I decided that I didn't have to study it (mostly, of course, because I didn't want to). I decided that the sorts of multiple-choice questions on the test were things that I'd remember if I merely read it once or twice.

For now, I'm saying. When I actually do get on the bike and risk my brain-pan, I will make damn sure I know what's what. Because I'm rather accustomed to my brain's current locale, thanks very kindly.

I read it once. And then the manual to my Harley course arrived, so I read that. Most of it. About three-quarters of it, actually, before I decided to leave Maine on Tuesday and thought it best to leave the manual (and its accompanying paperwork) up there. Because I am an idtio, and if I brought it with me there was a decent chance I'd forget it, and I don't want to have to come back down before the course.

I was so wrapped up in my busy Bay-State schedule that it didn't even occur to me I hadn't really studied for the test until I finally found the RMV. Speaking of which: let me take this opportunity to reiterate that Google maps are fucking ass. Southbridge Street to Hammond Street to Main Street to get there, man? Suck my balls.

Anyway, I didn't have time to get nervous. I only waited about seven minutes for my turn. The man behind the counter -- who, although a little twitchy, was quite nice -- seemed impressed that I was going for my M-class at my age, and apologized profusely for the system's insistence that he test my eyes.

They passed.

Then he apologized for giving me the same speech that he gives "the young kids." "You and I know this," he said, "but I tell them." About taking your time, about not leaving a question blank and all that jazz. Because of course most people going for their learner's permits have not been subjected to so much as a Standardized Achievement Test yet at their tender age. Which I also haven't been for quite a while at my hard one.

It didn't help that there was a pillar between where I stood and the permit-test room, so when he pointed it out to me I couldn't see it, and it took the assistance of three bystanders before I did. The last bystander, who had just come from there herself, I don't think she'd even taken her Apgar yet...

For those of you not in the know: the Apgar Test is a measure of newborn vitality. I'm saying she was a fetus compared to me, okay?

But I decided to treat the whole thing like it was a spooky horse. Take a deep breath, sink my weight into my seat, and face what comes with confidence and calm.

It worked real well, too. Right through pressing "go" and choosing a language. Right through "did-I-understand-the-rules" and "was-I-really-really-ready-to-begin." But then the test started. And the first seven questions were about Junior Operators and Penalties for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs!!!!


Well, despite what the Very Nice Man said when I asked him, there was a "come-back-to-this-question-later" option, so I chose it. Over and over and over and over and over. Until I started getting dumb ones about street signs and intersections, with answers that I actually knew, plus a whopping two about motorcycles.

I knew them both: try to straighten up if you have to stop on a curve; and if a chain breaks the back wheel will lock and skid.

I was trying to keep count on my fingers of how many I'd gotten right, so I could know if I had to bother answering the baby ones when they came back around. But I lost track. It wasn't till I got through and the skipped ones started over that I noticed the machine was keeping score. It said I had 18 correct, which I knew meant I passed even if it didn't say so, but it didn't give me the option of checking out. So I had to sink into my seat and face what came...

I totally guessed.

What's the penalty for being seventeen and speeding? A. Definitely A. How long do you lose your license for a drug offense? That'd be C. And all the other stupid questions that they asked? D. B. A. A. Q!

I already knew I'd won, but in the end I passed with 23 answers correct.

As the old men who taught me to shoot pool used to say...

It was almost like I knew what I was doing!

1 comment:

HPH said...

Yah! Down here in the South, one takes The Course which on day one has a review of the DMV test and then an actual takin of a written test. At the end of The Course, one receives an o-fficial certificate that proves they can ride a small cc motorcycle in a shopping center parking lot (but not on the streets of the city, cough) and negates the necessity of going thru the 'driving ability' portion of the licensing procedure at the DMV. One only has to take the multiple-guess interactive computer-fangled test that eventually says "you have taken 14 questions, you have correctly answered 14 questions, PASS. Examination completed." Vrrrmmmmmmm