When I decided to move to California last September, I began dreading taking the written test required to get a driver’s license in my new home state. I don’t know how many of you have taken a driver’s test lately, but I had to re-take the Arkansas one several years ago. The renewal notice had not been forwarded after I moved. As soon as I discovered my license had expired, I called the local office and was told I would have to retake the written test. I headed down there, picked up a pamphlet, studied that night, and passed the next morning. All good.
I was disheartened to find that the California test book is 134 letter-size pages. I studied hard and took the practice tests over and over. On the appointed day, I summoned up my courage and went to the DMV office, having checked many times that I had the documents needed to apply. When I got to the counter, after waiting for a while, I thought I was in good shape. Not so! The clerk looked at me and said, “Where is your proof of name change?” I asked what she meant, and she told me my birth certificate said I had my maiden name, but my Arkansas driver’s license had my married name. Without further proof of a name change, I could not use my legal married name. I showed her several papers including the lease on my apartment, but she said they didn’t provide proof of my “new name.” At the time, my emotions were pretty raw as I was having radiation each day in San Francisco, sapping my energy. I asked the woman what I could do and she replied nothing until I got proof of name change. When I returned home, I searched on the internet and found the application form. I sent the needed information to Arkansas along with my check. Several weeks later I received a document certifying I had become Mary Lee Marcom on December 29, 1956.
Then I kept delaying the return visit, reading something entertaining instead of studying. The clerk had given me a card saying I could come without an appointment, saving another few weeks of waiting. I procrastinated because I dreaded a repeat of the experience.
One Sunday evening I decided I was being ridiculous and needed my license. I opened the booklet on my laptop and reviewed the practice tests thinking, so what if I fail, many others do, I had learned. (The rules actually say you must have a California driver’s license within 10 days of moving to the state.)
I happened to be assigned to the same person who had helped me on the previous visit. She recognized me and had a little laugh at my expense. I took the vision test and passed. Then I was escorted to the testing room. I was happy to find the test given on computers but felt insulted when the attendant tried to tell me how to use it and that she could stand by me to be sure I could enter my answers correctly. She also told me I could miss up to four questions and pass. Comforting. I finished the test quickly and passed. When I went over to the counter to pick up my license, someone commented, surprised and congratulatory, that I had passed on my first attempt. The people standing around gave me a big smile. I left there as proud as if I’d just received a college diploma. This 82-year-old had confronted a challenge and accomplished her goal.