Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Driving Mrs. Daisy

One of the casualties of my CFS neuro symptoms has been my ability to drive.  Hubs stopped me from driving over a year ago.  Now I only drive short distances across town to get the odd daytime appointment.  I find that driving myself is less stressful than using the handicapped van.  If I'm too messed up to drive, if I don't have a ride and don't want to use the van service I simply cancel the appointment.  I don't screw around with this sort of stuff.  I understand the damage even low speed accidents can cause.  I am still messed up from being rear ended twice six years ago.

This past January, when I crashed really hard, my doctor, without checking with me first, reported me to the DMV.  I wasn't driving at all during the winter so it wasn't like I was an actual road hazard.  At that point I wasn't even a walking hazard.  In fact, I was in such bad shape I was canceling all of my appointments and not leaving the house even if someone was available to drive me and push my wheelchair.  Yes, I was that bad.

So I get this letter from the DMV that I have to go for a competency road test.  WTF!?!  So I wait until the week prior to the deadline in the letter to start calling for a test date hoping that I'll be in better shape and able to drive.  Lucky for me there were no test dates.

This started a three and a half month daily calling spree to the DMV which included at least 20mins of on-hold music prior to getting a person telling me that there were no appointments available.  During this time period I renew my license on line; get my credit card jacked the next day courtesy of the DMV, and start driving short distances again.  However, I still can't read books/manuals/papers or anything that requires concentration so I can't read the driver's manual.  I have no idea what this road test will entail.

Six weeks ago I finally get a test date of July 17th.  Good thing I wasn't a real road hazard.  Seven months to get a competency road test!  Holy crapoly.  Just gives me the warm fuzzies thinking about all those delusional drivers that won't stop driving or surrender their license even though they are crashing into things regularly.

Now one of the stupid things about MA DMV is that during Romney's reign he privatized as much of the DMV as he could.  This means that you now have to pay for driver's ed to the tune of $1000, they got rid of the test vehicles and they got rid of the Registry cops.  So now you have to bring your own vehicle to the test BUT it has to have a center ebrake.  You know, the handle on the floor between the driver and passenger seat instead of the pedal on the floor near the driver's left foot.  If your car doesn't have one, you have to rent a car that has one if you can find a company that will rent you one for a road test.  HAH!  You can NOT take the test with a car without a center ebrake.  And, American cars do NOT have center ebrakes.  All my family owns is American cars.  Luckily we found a friend to loan us a car which is both good and bad.  Now I have a car to test in but it is a strange car that I'm not used to driving and will not have access to it until the night before the test.  Ugh!!

This has been a good month for me.  I've seen steady improvement since the farmer's market opened.  Coincidence????  I'm reading a little bit.  Driving across town once in the while.  The brain fog is lifting more often and for longer periods of time.  So maybe just maybe I can do this.  Nice thing is that I have six tries in a calendar year to pass the test.  Also if I do fail the test, it would be better for my LTD claim.  Gosh she can't work, she can't even drive a car!

Two nights ago I go out with hubs after dinner and practice driving in my own car.  In 30+ years of driving I have NEVER had to parallel park.  I never learned how to do it since it wasn't on the test back then.  He taught me how to parallel park and do hill starts.  I practice stopping at the ends of roads since after 30 years of driving I tend to do rolling stops.  I also practiced how to park on a hill so I would drill into my brain which way the wheel got twisted depending upon the car's orientation.

Last night after we picked up the friend's car we did the same thing again.  I was shocked at how I had retained the information.  Also his car was much easier to parallel park than mine since it had a shorter wheelbase.  Fifteen minutes and I was done.  I was confident that I shouldn't have a problem.

Now as part of the DMV downsizing, lack of registry cops, Romney fiasco, the closest facility I could test at is a 45min drive from my house.  A distance long enough to put my brain in a twirly whirl even on my best days.  This meant that I had to get up early, drive to the town with hubs, go hang out in a coffee shop or diner for a while, eat, drink, wait until test time all in order to give my brain enough time to recover so that I could drive safely.  Of course, this meant dosing up on my sleep meds way early.  This sort of worked.  I was tired but it took me much longer than normal to fall asleep since it was three hours prior to when I normally hit the hay.

This morning I got up after six hours of sleep.  Not good but I was too nervous to stay in bed.  Plus I was worried that if I went back to sleep only to get up an hour or two later I would be in much worse shape cognitively than if I just stayed up.  I sleep best in three hour chunks and that wasn't available to me.  Sigh.  So we get up there over an hour early.  We drive around a bit.  Hubs finds a diner.  He orders lunch but I'm too nervous to eat.  I know to get my brain working really well I need to get hopped up on sugar and caffeine so I ask for coffee and pie or ice cream.  They don't have any.  Coffee yes, pie no.  What respectable diner doesn't have pie????  Humph.  I let hubs eat while I choke down the worst coffee on the planet!  Go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time (nerves) and we go looking for a Dunkin Donuts.  Woohoo!  There is one a couple of buildings over from the registry.  Boston Creame donuts and good coffee.  I LOVE donuts and don't get to eat them any more cuz of my diet but not today!  I get a nice fresh gooey donut and a cupful of really good coffee with cream.  YUM!!  And no guilt!

I love having an appointment at the DMV.  You get to cut all the lines.  Tons of people waiting and we go right down to the tester's office.  Turns out he is a nice guy and I relax a lot.  He explains everything and then has us meet him in the parking garage.  He checks out the car to make sure all the lights work and the horn works.  He is standing outside the car and I'm now entrenched in the drivers seat with hubs squished into the back seat.  Did I mention hubs is 6'8" and this is a honda?  Anyway, the test guy asks me to show him the hand signals.  Instant brain freeze.  Seriously?!?  People still use those?  I've only seen bicycle riders use them.  Thank God I took a bicycle safety course in girl scouts and learned these.  My brain started to work slowly, L is NOT left!!!  Arm up = right.  Arm straight = left.  Arm down = stop.  Woohoo!!  I remembered.  He then climbs in the car.  I've got my seatbelt on and the mirror all adjusted and he has me pull out of the parking garage and the car immediately in front of me stops dead in the middle of the road and a door pops open to let someone out.  No signal.  No arm wave.  Nothing.  I don't say a thing but tester guy is spouting off at them.  LOL.  I wait them out since the road is too narrow and too close to the end to go around them safely.  I pull up to the stop line, count to three, inch forward until I can see the road, pull out when it is clear and I get my first praise from him.  Yay!!  The rest of the test goes off without a hitch.  The only thing he nabs me for is not turning my head before I executed a three point turn.  However, I looked at my mirrors, glanced sideways and I knew there was nothing on the road.  He said I had good control over the car, stopped properly, stayed put at the red light and did an excellent job hill parking (even though I turned the wheels the wrong way into the curb).  I PASSED!!!!  YAY!!  I can keep my license after all that torture.  I'm so glad I don't have to deal with the DMV for another ten years, as long as my doc doesn't rat me out again.  I'm still pissed at him seven months later!

And it was totally worth that Boston Creame donut!!!


  1. Those rules are crazy! I hear it's a similar story here in Texas, but where I grew up in MI it was 100% free. Glad you passed, what a pain!

  2. Thanks. It used to be free here in MA as well until Mitt. It was taught in the schools, we had registry cops to give the tests and make sure cars were safe and the registry had special cars for the road tests. Now that whole thing got privatized and a huge number of DMV offices were closed. The closest one to me is now almost a half hour away. There used to be one around the corner from me. They want you to conduct all business on line but I got my credit card jacked as soon as I used their site. Holy cow!