I did not pass the test, in case you’ve been wondering for the past week.
We were advised to be in front of the driving school on Chrystie Street at 11:30 am, even though the test wasn’t till one. I was directed by the secretary to go meet Mr. No at the usual spot where we start our driving class over on Forsythe Street. I found the red Corolla, but instead of Mr. No behind the wheel there was a young Asian woman with dyed blond hair sitting behind the wheel.
Confused, I held up my 5-hour class certificate (required) and said, “Mr. No? Where is Mr. No?”
Flustered, she started to roll down the window when Mr. No appeared from Grand Street clutching a cup of coffee and a pastry. The girl got out of the car and Mr. No motioned me into the front seat. The girl slid into the back seat.
We drove in silence for a half hour or so, and ended up an a wide tree lined street in Fresh Meadows, Queens smack in the middle of Kissena Park, which is actually a bunch of parks strung together. We were sandwiched between a ball field and an elementary school campus. Only in Queens can an elementary school have so much grass around it.
Our car was the 5th car there, and presently another 15 or so cars drew up and parked along the street. All had either driving school signs atop or student driver magnetic signs on the front and back like our car had.
We wordlessly got out and waited.
I sat on a park bench and did my crossword while the girl sat on another park bench and scrolled through her phone. Mr. No wandered around picking up stray cans and bottles and depositing them in his trunk.
Of the 20 or so cars that drew up, only one other car contained a non-Asian person. The girl in our car, whose name not even Mr. No could pronounce was either Vietnamese or Korean, since Mr. No spoke to her in English.
At one six state examiners magically appeared at the head of the line. One walked to each of the first six cars, meaning we were one of the first.
“You got 2?” Asked the examiner after Mr. No handed him our certificates.
Mr. No motioned for the girl to get into the car.
“You go first.” The girl got in, and as I turned to go wait on the bench I’d staked out, I heard the car door open. I turned to see the girl exiting the car. She looked at me and said, “You go.”
I got in the car next to the examiner, also Chinese, though I’d have to say it was just the luck of the draw, since Two of the examiners were Latino and one was African American (the only woman) and the other three were Asian.
I buckled up, checked my mirror, and then he said,
“Turn on your engine.” I did so, turned on my left turn signal, cranked the wheel to the left, and gunned the engine, which roared in neutral. I forgot to put the car in gear. I put it in drive and pulled into the street.
“Go straight ahead,” he instructed. I drove to the corner, stopped at the stop sign, looked both ways and continued. So far so good.
“Make a right here.” I signaled and turned right.
“OK, in front of that car, pull up and park. Wow, so soon? It was a van actually, and the warning was so quick I didn’t have a chance to line up my car properly. I had to put the car in reverse and back up till the back of the car was in the triangle of my rear window, the way I’d been taught. Then I remembered,
“one turn” of the wheel till the car is almost at the curb, then “two turns” to the left to ease the car in. I got parallel to the curb and straightened out, and as I was pulling up to the car in front he said, “OK, you can pull out.”
We made another turn onto a two way street and he said,
“OK, do your U turn here. Three point turn,” in case I though he meant an actual U turn. I did the turn and headed back the way we came. There were a few more stop signs and turns, and twice I hit the wipers control by accident and couldn’t figure out how to stop them.
“Shit.” I said. I managed to turn them off and continued on. We were headed back to the start point, but on the opposite side of the street.
“Pull over behind the school bus.” I did so and came to a smooth stop. I put the car in park and turned off the engine.
The examiner had a little computer thing with a print out like the traffic control agents have. He sat and typed, and as he did he said:
“Your parking and U turn are good, but you hesitated too long on the turns. You drive too slow, and for me I don’t think you are ready for licensing.” He printed out his critique and handed it to me. I looked at it and I had lost 45 points. You can only lose 30 to pass.
Mr. No and the blond girl came over to the car.
“You take her now?”
“No, go to the back of the line.” Mr. No and the girl got in the car and drove to the back of the line.
I sat on my bench and watched as some of the cars came back. More than one hit the brake hard and I knew they’d failed.
A half hour later our car was in 5th place again, and this time it was the African American woman who got in the car with her.
Mr. No stood with Simon, the owner of the driving school (who had a group of three in his car) and waited where I had pulled up. He motioned me over.
“Let me see paper.” I handed him my slip. He looked at it and read it.
“See! I tell you, too slow! No brake on the turn, understand?”
Simon chimed in, “You have to be more aggressive, Javier. He likes to call me Javier.
“Next time. You pass next time,” Mr. No declared. Thanks for the vote of confidence, I thought.
We all looked up to the sound of a car horn, someone was really leaning on the horn. It was a car not involved in the testing, warning none other than our red Corolla who was stopped at the stop sign to wait her turn. Mr. No and Simon both threw up their arms and said “Oh!” Simultaneously. I was betting little Miss with the dyed blond hair failed the test as well. If she had done OK it had all just gone out the window at the corner.
Simon and Mr. No shook their heads and exchanged a pained look.
We drove back in an even more profound silence than the one we drove out in, if such a thing is possible. But like they say, better luck next time.