We missed the boat with herself and, due to Covid, she went to England without ever learning to drive. I was determined to get the boys sorted. It took a lot more bureaucracy than I expected.
Firstly they needed to get public service cards. As they were under 18 at the the time, I had to go with them to the centre where you get your public service card. I was confused by the queuing system in the centre. I asked another person waiting whether we needed a ticket and she responded in Ukrainian, that she didn’t understand. Well, this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. My lessons, my duolingo and my time spent listening to Ukrainian in the cesspit that is YouTube shorts were about to pay off. I repeated my question in Ukrainian. She looked baffled. Her teenage sons sniggered unhelpfully. My teacher said that part of the difficulty might be in the way I pronounce “ticket”; apparently, it sounds like “flower”. Alas.
Anyway, eventually, we sorted Dan’s card and Michael was the beneficiary of the scoping exercise I had carried out with Dan the previous day. The next day Michael and I were in and out in 10 minutes. One of the officials was the mother of a friend of his from school and while this made no difference to the speediness of the operation, it made us feel very well connected to the corridors of bureaucratic power.
Later, I was appalled to see that the cards ran out on their 18th birthday in September. The idea of going through it all again was very distressing. I am, however, pleased to report that following their birthday, new cards arrived automatically in the post. The relief.
Once they got PS cards they were able to do the driver theory test. If you have just done your Leaving Certificate, prepping for the driver theory test presents precisely zero difficulties. They sailed through it unlike their mother who failed the mock test they made her do online. In my defence, I would say that I answered some questions with what I thought they would like you to do rather than what I would actually do and, it turns out, what I was doing was actually right. Who knew? It was ironic that I shortly afterwards received a notification that my own licence was due to expire. However renewal is, in fairness to the driving licence people, extremely easy, if you have a licence already. Crucially, no resitting of any tests is required. I mean, maybe it should be?
Once they had their theory tests and PS cards, the boys could apply for provisional licences. Daniel, as a glasses wearer, needed a piece of paper from the optician following an eye test. We did it. Then I realised that everyone who wants a driving licence has to do an eye test, not just people who wear glasses. On balance, a good thing but back to the optician with Michael, of course, on the morning of our flight to Argentina. The optician’s credit card machine was broken. Extra trip back. Sigh. Anyhow, Michael’s form in and everything in order. Hurrah.
Then we got a message about Daniel’s form. Due to his eye condition, he needed a medical form as well within ten days or the application would not be progressed, his fee would be forfeit and he would have to start again. I rang the helpdesk, they were helpful. “We’re going on holidays today, we won’t make the 10 day deadline,” I said. “You can go to any GP at all,” said the nice man at the other end of the line. “We’re going to Argentina,” I said. A pause. “Look,” he said, “I will flag it on the application and maybe they will wait but it might be rejected.”
When we returned from Argentina, Michael’s provisional licence was there waiting for him. We went to the GP with Dan as soon as we could get an appointment (she got to look at his injured shoulder as well, so a win as it is €70 for a GP visit and it is nice to get more than a quick once over and a form filled in) and put in the form and, hallelujah, it was accepted and he too got a provisional licence. Though the physio said that he couldn’t actually drive for at least a month so no urgency really then.
Michael had his first actual lesson on the road at the start of September and was genuinely horrified by the power of fourth gear. He has to have a number of lessons with an instructor before he can be put on our insurance and drive with a parent (something that will be possible at the end of the month and, quite frankly, something we’re all dreading).
It’s funny that Michael is the most advanced in his progress towards actually having a driving licence because he has zero interest in it really, it’s just something useful to have. The other two are much keener. The physio has finally cleared Dan to have lessons and I actually think he will quite enjoy it. This will make a pleasant contrast with Michael who heads out to lessons with the demeanour of a condemned man and comes back a shadow of his former self. When these lessons are costing you a fortune, it is hard to take this with equanimity.
A friend of Mr. Waffle’s points out, most unhelpfully, that it is hardly worth their while to learn on a manual gear stick as they will be phased out for all cars by the end of the decade. However, our current car, on which they will be learning to drive, is a manual car so I really don’t think we had a lot of choice. It’s much harder, of course, but it will make them mentally strong, I am sure.
They’ll both be on our car insurance in the next month or so. That’s two 18 year olds. I shudder to contemplate what the cost will be. Good job I’m planning to go back to work. I don’t at all remember learning to drive being so administratively challenging when I learnt. Although, I did nearly send my mother to an early grave with my near misses (favourite expression deployed on my rounding a bend too quickly in the city centre, “What would you have done, if there had been a cow lying in the middle of the road?”). I vividly remember her clutching the door handle and pumping an invisible brake with her foot. At the time, I thought she exaggerated but I did notice that as I became a more experienced driver those behaviours disappeared. I suppose it is all ahead of me.