Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Department of Public Safety

Getting a learner's permit in Texas is great fun.

Okay, so if you're under 18, you need a driver's ed course, and then you get to take the permit test down at the DPS.
If you're over 18, no driver's ed course was required, you just had to take the test.
But by the time I turned 18, nope, that wasn't cool anymore.
You don't need to take the test anymore. You get to take a six hour driver's ed course, either online or in a classroom.
Being the internet addict that I am, I opted for the internet course. Before I joined Blogspot, I had a blog on Xanga. Just to give you an idea of this 6-Hour State-Mandated Online Driver's Ed course, here are a few excerpts from my two blog posts about driver's ed:
"This course does not understand speed readers. Mostly I just listen to the guy talk, but often there's extra time on the timer for the poor simple-minded folk. And because they're trying desperately to streeeeeetch the smaller-than-you-might-think amount of information into six hours.  I use this time to get snacks, take Facebook breaks, or as time went on, just stare blankly at the computer screen.
They like to show me pictures. Many of these are computer generated. Because they couldn't just take a photograph of someone passing a semi-truck, oh no. They have to MAKE one. It resulted in a picture of a road, with a  lil' bitty red car trying to pass a ginormous dangerous chemicals truck, on what appeared to be Tatooine. My favorite computer-generated picture was the one of a wine glass full of wine, a shot glass full of some...thing, a beer bottle, and marijuana plant. All these items were tastefully arranged on a wooden table. Dd I mention the animation quality was the same as it is on those creepy Wiisport games? Yeah. O.o"
"Now, there are nine chapters to this course. At the end of each one, I get to take a quiz. Before I can take the quiz, a robot has to call me and ask for voice verification to make sure I'm still a real person and didn't replace myself with a robot made out of an old vacuum cleaner while they weren't looking. So I have them call, I repeat a series of random numbers, and start my quiz. Ten multiple-choice questions, and I get three chances to take the quiz, in case I'm a complete idiot and get less than 70% correct. I get 9 or ten correct, they congratulate me for being a good noodle, and send me on my way to the next section. And the creepy mind-numbing cycle continues."
"Yessss, I have successfully conquered Driver's Ed, and got 93% on my final exam (2 wrong out of 30. I don't care)."

Yeah, I defeated it. The course and the quizzes were not hard. I just have problems with being forced to sit still for THAT LONG. It was sort of okay because I had barely gotte any sleep the night before, and had slammed my head into a brick wall that morning, so I didn't feel like jumping around too much (See my URL? Absent Minded Insomniac? I am also accident-prone.But  Accident Prone Absent Minded Insomniac is ridiculously long and doesn't have that lovely ring to it).

Anyway, today I had to go down to the DPS to show them my certificate of smartness (If I was charge, it would totally say, "Certifacte of Driving Smartness. This person had to sit and take an online/classroom course of driving-related information. This course was six hours, but since we don't actually have enough material to fill six hours, we have to draw it out, talk slowly, and repeat ourselves a lot. This person really deserves more than a certificate of smartness, but since this is government, we ain't givin' them a DAMN THANG. In fact, they had better love this certificate while they got it, because DPS is going to take it away, and not give it back.") and they had to do stuff.

First was the vision test.
I am aware that I can see. I can read road signs. Sometimes I have to squint my left eye a little, so I end up reading them like this: O.o. BUT I CAN READ THEM.
Texas allergies really suck. They make my slightly nearsighted (Farsighted? Does anyone actually remember which is which?) left eye worse. The actually vision testing box was stupid too. People who have ridiculously good vision have trouble with it. I had to move my head around until I could actually see all the numbers, and when I COULD see the left line, my left eye couldn't read it well until I got at the Magic Angle at Which Left Eye Can See Just Fine (In the process I clunked my head on the box, but I don't think anybody noticed).
So I eventually passed that.

They took my thumbprints.
I think my thumbprints must be ridiculously awesome because their computer crashed after I did that. So they had to restart, and retake my thumbprints (The computer, having gotten over the initial shock of freaking awesome thumbprints, did not crash this time).
Then they took my picture.
The first time, they took too long, so by the time the camera went off my eyes had tired of waiting, and blinked.
So we got to do it again. The final product has me looking like a crazy hyper squirrel-person.
Ugh. Bad hair day. I hate them. The hair, not the people at the DPS.
I don't know which is worse... My learner's permit picture, or my ID picture...Here, what do you think?
Crazy squirrel person or evil elf thing?
I honestly don't know.

This has been my DPS experience. It could have been worse. Most of the people who work at the DPS (Or the DMV, for those states who refer to it as such) are slow moving government zombies. They slowly and quietly give you only information they think you need to know. But you only learn that information if you ask the right questions. But you don't know what questions to ask because you've never actually done this before, and last time you were at the DPS you realized it reminds you of a doctor's office, and doctor's offices make you dizzy, thus DPS did too. Yeah.
The lady who was helping me out was actually generally helpful and had a sense of humor. We actually managed to have fun. So that was nice.

But overall, the DPS always is, and always will be....strange.

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