24 October 2010

the day i became a licenced driver

That morning, instead of dropping me off at the driving school like he used to do when I took my first 2 road tests, hubby dropped me off at St. Mary’s. I had planned on spending a few minutes in prayer before going to the school, but when I entered the church, a mass was ongoing. Since it was already the Consecration part, I decided to leave after the mass. While everyone was taking Communion, something in me wanted to ask the priest to pray over me. So after the mass, I rushed out and waited for him to come out. Usually, the priests come out right away, but this time, I had to wait for some time. There was another priest that passed by in front of me, and I was hesitating on whether to ask him instead...but I really wanted the other one to pray over me, so I kept waiting. Finally, I saw him approaching, so I walked towards him, said good morning, and asked if he could pray over me because I would be having my road test that morning. Immediately, he placed his hands above me and prayed. I don’t know if it was because I was anxious and nervous, or because I could feel the Holy Spirit, but as soon as he began, I started to cry (not the uncontrollable crying that needed gasps of air; just the silent, tears-running-down-my- face kind of crying)...and I didn’t stop until he made the Sign of the Cross. I felt at peace. After thanking the priest, I headed outside the church compound, walked up the footbridge to other side of the road, took a cab, and headed towards the driving school.

When I arrived at 7:20am, there were already so many ladies in the waiting area. Like before, I submitted my driving permit to the lady examiner in the other room. Unlike before, the examiner who was usually there first (the one I took both my past tests with), was not there. I immediately thought that I had a big chance of passing. Anyway, because of the thick fog that enveloped Dubai that morning, the ladies’ road test began at 8:40am (more than 1 hour late). Since there were only 2 examiners and 3 ladies per car, there were about 5 batches of us. I was included in the last batch. So, approximately 10 minutes per student, 3 students in a car, total of 30 minutes per batch. That meant I would have to wait approximately 2 hours. Oh, the agony and anxiety in waiting! I was the only Filipina taking the test, so you could guess that all the others (Pakistanis, Indians, Arabs, etc) were talking to each other while I just kept quiet and silently prayed begged God to help me pass the road test.

Finally, at 9:55am, the examiner called us and I was the first one to take the test. On the way to the car, I pulled out the throw pillow I had in my backpack, showed it to the examiner and said “I’ll be using a cushion.” I know she wanted to laugh (hey, even I would have if I were in her place!), but she just smiled and said it was “No problem.” You see, even though it’s embarrassing, I really need a cushion when I drive coz I can’t see the front of the car properly without one. I would have to strain my neck all the time. Even when I was taking my lessons, my instructor would always have a pillow ready for me; and when I took the road test last week, I also used a cushion. So anyway, I got in the car, checked the mirrors, put the seatbelt on, and waited for the examiner’s signal to start. She was nice. Once she had written whatever details she needed to put on the paper, she wished me luck and told me to begin. Out of the school we went, towards Al Wasl Hospital, along Oud Metha, up the bridge, then to Healthcare City where she told me to slow down and park the car at the side. Since she didn’t use her brakes nor did she turn the steering wheel at any time, I felt that I had a chance. The Indian lady was next, and after her, the Pakistani lady.

After 30 minutes, we returned to the school, got out of the car, and headed to the Waiting Room. About 5 minutes later, the Indian lady (who sat next to the door of the Examiners Room) said she heard my name being called. So I jumped out of my seat and went inside. As soon as I approached the examiner’s desk, I saw the paper with a FAIL stamp and immediately, my heart sank. She had her back to me because she was searching for something on her desk so she didn’t see me, but she knew someone was in front of her. She then asked me how many classes I had taken and I answered “Around 50 plus.” That’s when she looked at me and said, “You’re Pamela. I was calling Lina.” Right away, I felt my hopes going up again, and went out of the room calling the Pakistani lady. The Indian lady was called next; then finally me. As soon as I was in front of the examiner, she said “Congratulations. You passed.” It took me a few seconds before it finally registered in my mind what she told me, then I shrieked and jumped, said “Thank you so much!” rushed out of the room and jumped and shrieked again in front of the other ladies in the Waiting Room. I was so happy! I called my instructor and he told me to wait for him as he was with another student. Right after that call, I informed hubby of the good news. And then I called my manager who told me to do everything I needed to do since I was already at the school.

As soon as Mateen arrived, he congratulated me, asked me to fill up a feedback form, gave me my card where he wrote PASSED on, and told me to submit my passing papers and pay the fees at the Cashier (which I did). I wanted to get my driving licence that same day (of course!), so I headed to the room where the licences were issued and gave the person there the rest of the required documents. Since I was seated near the photo room, I could see the people getting their pictures taken...and I was a bit worried because all of them (Indians, Pakistanis, Europeans, Filipinos, Chinese) weren’t smiling. They were all serious and had poker faces! Why was I worried? Because I thought they don’t allow the people to smile for the driving licence and I don’t look good in photos if I don’t smile. Just to make sure, when my name was called, I asked the lady if I could smile. She was a bit surprised, and yes, you can guess that she laughed, but she said it was ok. I didn’t care if she thought I had asked a silly question. I was happy and I wanted to make sure I look good in my driving licence (it’s valid for 10 years so I should have a nice picture on it, right?) Anyway, once she was ready, I sat on the chair, and smiled at the camera. I got the driving licence in about 5 minutes. After that, I went to another room, collected my Passing Certificate, and left the school for the last time. Hurray!

I arrived at work by 12:10pm. Within a few minutes, everyone found out that I got my licence and started joking at me for the sweets, or to give a party, or to buy everyone lunch. Even the really big bosses from our Japan and other Middle East offices who were visiting came to me to congratulate me. There was also a time when our Deputy General Manager joked that I should join them that evening for dinner and I would be the one to settle the bill. I felt really giddy that day from all the excitement. My colleagues who didn’t know that I had been taking driving lessons were shocked. They couldn’t believe it because they know that I’m really scared and nervous just at the thought of driving a car. Our receptionist said that since I got a driving licence, she was “inspired“ (wow!) to get one as well; so during our lunch break, she kept asking me questions on what made me decide to take lessons, my experience during the classes, and the times that I took my road tests. I tried to answer her as much as I could, but I didn’t tell her everything (I wanted her to discover the rest on her own).

When hubby came by to pick me up in the afternoon, he asked me if I wanted to drive Piper. I wanted to, but since it was the last day of the week, rush hour, and GITEX was still going on, I decided it would be best to let him take us home. Anyway, there’s lots of time for us to take turns being the passenger and driver now that have a UAE DRIVING LICENCE! Woohoo!

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