DOING MY DRIVING TEST IN 2020.
I recently passed my driving test, FIRST TIME!!! Here's what my experience looked like, doing a driving test post-lockdown.
So, I've been learning to drive for a while now. It has always been a bit of a childhood goal to get my driver's license; especially where I live, the famous X5 bus has never been on time. And there isn't very much point getting a train to anywhere, as you're bound to be sat next to someone who's mug-shot you'd expect to see in any "breaking news" segment of BBC's regional news program. The only remaining option would be a taxi, or Uber. But I've never really fancied the idea of being ferried about in an E-Class with cigarette stains on the headlining and a strange smell coming from the the boot.
BOOKING THE TEST.
Obviously, there haven't been any "normal" driving tests since lockdown began in March, so you can imagine when July rolled around, and my driving instructor issued a text announcing he is returning to service, I was very keen to get back onto the road. And after a couple of refresher lessons, and a he said I was ready for a test! The only problem is, about 285,000 other people also wanted to do their driving test. So the waiting began.
As you can imagine, when the government's test booking website first opened, everyone hurried to book their slot. And inevitably, it crashed. So the waiting began. Until the 1st of September, when the gov had decided to, temporarily, reopen their website with their new "virtual queue" now online.
And, finally, the 1st of September. I sat at my computer, red-eyed and waiting from 7 o clock until about a minute before 8 in the morning, when the website was due to open. And, I was placed into a line of about 800 people. So I sat patiently, awaiting my turn. Until the website crashed, again! But luckily, my place was saved! And, in a few minutes, it was back up and I was filling out a form. I had 10 minutes, plenty of time I thought. And, without too much teeth-grinding, I managed to book the final available slot at my local test centre, for the 4th of September.
ARRIVING AT THE TEST CENTRE.
I arrived, within 5 minutes as we were asked, before my test was due to begin. The actual centre was closed to students, but sooner than later my name was called and I slipped on my mask and headed for the outside gate. Here, I handed my provisional driver's license (which I prayed I didn't get given back, because I desperately wanted to pass), and began by reading out a number plate. We then walked over to my instructor's car (a Peugeot 308) and sat inside. I got asked a couple of show-me tell-me questions (what I expected) and the test began!
Overall, the drive went reasonably well. There wasn't the usual stop-start traffic you'd expect in Sheffield (it was the middle of the day after all), and the weather was overcast. This was a blessing, because sitting in my instructor's car with a mask on, with no A/C on during our baking-heat refresher lessons was, not that nice to be honest with you. The only manoeuvre I had to do was a reverse bay-parking, nothing too exciting. Apart from that, it was either following the sat-nav or following directions from the examiner. Throughout the drive, we stayed within about 5-10 minutes away from the test centre (I learned we had to do this, because if you failed, you have to go back immediately to the test centre).
The current testing system lasts about 30-40 minutes, rather than the 50-60 minutes pre-lockdown drivers would've experienced.
Let me tell you, this 40 minutes flew past. I pulled into the test centre thinking we'd been gone roughly 10 minutes, if that. I was now shaking on the inside. I nervously spotted my instructor pacing towards us. He opened the door and awaited the result, given verbally from the examiner (who is now using an iPad rather than the hospital-green sheet of paper given to older expats).
Well! I passed! I breathed. Only two minors!? "YESSS!! I'VE PASSED!!! HAHAHA!!!!" - "I'M FREE!!", I thought- except, I instantly had a realisation that in two weeks time I'd be heading off to the University of Leeds for 4 years. Ffs. I couldn't possibly think of an excuse to get a car for university, as the inner-Yorkshireman in me would plunge a letter-opener into my own chest if I did, as parking in Leeds costs about £5 an hour. No chance.
I waited for the examiner to go back to the test centre, and then gave an enormous hug to my instructor. Yes, I know, it probably wasn't the most sensible thing to do, but...