Licensed to drive

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At last we are now both proud owners of Indiana Driver’s Licences. Although we could legally drive on our Australian licences for 12 months, it was a condition of our motor vehicle insurance that we get our Indiana licences within 45 days.

I wanted to give myself sufficient time to practise the different set of skills required to drive on the opposite side of the road to which I have become accustomed over the past 34 years, but I also wanted to make sure that I gave myself enough time to have to do the test again if I managed to fail the first time. So, two weeks before the deadline, I joined the long queue at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and took the written test and the eye test. I passed both of those (making only one mistake on the written test – you are allowed to make four), and then signed up for the driving test. I was rather concerned to learn that the first available appointment was almost two weeks away – on the Tuesday before my Friday deadline. If I failed, I was not going to get another shot!

So for the next days, I stressed and practised, and parallel parked (the only manouvre which had me worried) any time I saw an available gap. The day of my test arrived and I parallel parked all the way to the DMV (a fairly slow trip as you might guess). I felt pretty confident, particularly when the testing officer told me that for Out of Country licences they don’t have to check for driving proficiency, they just assess action at stop signs, stop lights, adherence to speed limits in school zones, and lane changing. Well, I was laughing! No problems there! We walked out to my little car, and she said: “Before we start, we will just do a vehicle check.” That consisted of checking indicator and brake lights. I happily obliged. She came to my window: “I’m sorry, only one brake light is working. We can’t do the test today. You’ll have to come in and we’ll make another appointment.” My heart sank. That would be two more weeks, and the insurance company had that day sent me a note saying that if we did not bring our licence numbers in by Friday our policy would be cancelled. I put on my most persuasive and pathetic Australian accent and told her how desperately I needed to get the licence in the next few days. She looked at her watch. “I’m due to go on lunch in 15 minutes. But, if you go to the gas station down on the next corner and get the light repaired, I will wait for you.” I resisted the urge to kiss her, hopped back into the car, and drove VERY CAREFULLY (she was still watching me) out of the lot and down to the service station. Within minutes I was back with all lights working like a charm. My new best friend checked the lights, got in the car and we drove out, checked out a few stop signs, some traffic lights, changed lanes a few times, and drove slowly through a school zone. I managed to get her back only slightly late for lunch. I was effusive in my gratitude, and smiled happily for my licence photo.

In the meantime, Peter has been busy with work and hasn’t had any days off to be able to get down to the DMV. We were fairly certain that the insurance company would be happy enough that one of us had our licence and Peter would agree not drive until he got his. He was rather looking forward to having me as his designated driver. I went down to the insurance office on Wednesday and proudly presented my licence. They were pleased to see it. “When will Peter bring his in?” I explained (in my best Australian accent) the difficulties he had finding time to get down to the DMV, and that he would get it as soon as possible and that he would not drive until such time as he got his licence. She was unimpressed. The Aussie accent will only get you so far, it seems. The policy was quite clear. If we didn’t both have our licences by Friday, the policy was void. When Peter got home that afternoon, he took this news with his usual equanimity, as you can imagine. He spent that night swotting the road rule booklet, and we headed down to be in the queue at the DMV when it opened on Thursday morning. He passed the written and eye tests (he also made one mistake, I was pleased to hear), and then we tried to plead for any early drive test. The first possible spot was a week away, but showing that there is more than one helpful person at the Lafayette DMV, the clerk suggested that we contact one of the offices in the nearby towns. She actually rang a couple of them herself and told us that the examiners at Monticello and Williamsport (both about half an hour or so away in different directions) had times available that afternoon.

Luckily Peter had no classes that day, so he had some flexibility. I dropped him back at work and then picked him up again after lunch to head out to Williamsport. We chose that place because we had already visited Monticello and decided we would expand our horizons by travelling to a new destination. He also performed magnificently at traffic lights, stop signs, and in school zones. I am not sure they had lanes to change in Williamsport, but after a few minutes, he returned, smiled happily for his mug shot and we returned in triumph to Lafayette where I dropped him back to work. I drove out to the insurance office again and they took a copy of the precious document – one day before deadline.

My other bit of news is that I now am the proud owner of a very cute white Apple I-book laptop computer. It arrived last Friday and I have really enjoyed the opportunity to get online when I like and not have to find the few odd occasions when Peter was not using his. I will actually be able to get on and do some work now. Over the past weeks, I have made contact with a number of people at the university and one of them has a project that I can get involved with immediately. He has collected lots of career interest and other data from undecided students here at Purdue and wants someone to help him analyse the data and write it up as a journal article and/or conference presentation. It will be a good project to be involved in, and I might get to visit somewhere interesting if it gets accepted for a conference. The other project that I was hoping to be part of was one being conducted by Howard Weiss who is looking at job satisfaction in the Army. I spoke to him the other day and tried to suggest that maybe Army personnel might have other things to do at the moment than fill out his questionnaires and emotion journals, but he thought there were still enough other things that he could keep working on. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens with that one.

Peter and I are continuing with our Spanish classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights. They are a lot of fun, but I don’t think I’m learning much. Tomorrow night we are having a cooking night and Kimber (the instructor) has asked us to bring along something to share. She has asked me to bring something Australian so I will try my hand at a pavlova. I hope the little mixer I bought for $6.99 is up to the task. Otherwise I might have to resort to Vegemite sandwiches.

I actually took along the Vege to Hanna today and gave the staff and centre visitors a taste of Australia. I gave them plenty of warning not to expect anything sweet, and most were willing to give it a try. I took photos of some reactions, although most of them had put on a polite smile by the time I took their shot. When I asked them what they thought, they all said: “Hmm, quite nice.” So I countered with “Would you like some more?” to which they all replied in the negative. It was great fun though, and they were all very pleased to have had the experience. Only one person had even heard of it, and he said he knew it from the “We Come from the Land Down Under” song. I might have to treat them to Tim Tams or Violet Crumble Bars to restore their faith in what we Aussies like to eat.

Life goes on here, although the events of September 11 are never very far from the surface. It is still mentioned at every gathering, and it is almost as though we are guilty or uneasy about moving on or having fun. At the Sweet Adeline’s concert on Saturday night (I was stage hand), the program was altered to include some community singing of patriotic songs. I guess it is a way of showing that even though we can laugh and play, the memory of that day remains.