Wednesday, November 18, 2009

End of a saga: Paul gets his NY driver's licence

2 weeks ago i became the proud owner of my NY State driver's licence (or should i say 'driver license'). it finally arrived in the mail today.

I asked a friend who had moved to NYC many years ago, "how do you know when NY is your home?" and he said, "When you get a your NYS driver license". it is also important for a number of other reasons:
* legal reasons: you are supposed to get one within 90 days of becoming a permanent resident, but I am not sure if this pertains if you don't own a car/routinely drive. i know a car-less expat been living in Manhattan 6 years who occasionally rents a car and still relies on his Victorian licence.
* valid ID for buying alcohol (over 21) [and fags, if you're a smoker]- I have been asked to show ID twice;
* car rental: no need for international driver license to support NSW one, and also getting tickets sent to right address [got one for going through an e-tag lane in NJ without paying, sent to Lane Cove],
*no longer needing to take passport for ID when flying domestic.

If you are from another US state or canada you can swap your old one for a NY one. everyone else is treated like a 17 year old. Getting the license was the culmination of a 6-9 month, extremely tedious, multi-step saga.
* Step One (February): obtain and study the 116-page driver manual. Rules, terminology and signs are basically the same but as John Travolta said in Pulp Fiction "same shit, little differences" e.g. stopping for those yellow school buses.
* Step Two (June) go to the infamous DMV office at Herald Square with sufficient ID - must produce Social Security card (Monica fell at this hurdle) and sit for written exam (pencil and paper, not computer) and get learners permit (valid 1 year, does for ID)

*Step Three (also June): attend 5 hour "driver's school": this involved physically attending the offices of a driving school in evening and sitting through 5 hours of instruction and videos on how to drive, road rage and drink driving followed by another pencil and paper test on the videos. Driver's school certificate also valid 1 year and required to take road test

* step 4: take road test (july): i fell at this hurdle: very undignifiying becuase Kate & Steve were here at the time. You have to drive around for 10 minutes with an instructor in the car (she was a bitch, and a trainee so there was a supervisor sititng in the back seat), and they have you pull out, do a parallel park, a 3 point turn, and stop at some stop signs. I did it at Riverdale in the Bronx (a site notorious for failing). you accumulate 5, 10 or 15 points for each error; 30 points or one major mistake (e.g. run a red light, have an accident) you fail. Worst possible score is 250. I got 65 points (which i am now quite "proud" of, like a naughty schoolkid).
* step 5: (October) when no longer pissed off about flunking road test, take it seriously, have some driving lessons, check out the road test venue and try again
* step 6: (November): take road test again -in Yonkers - and graduate. only got 10 points this time !


  1. Congratulations Paul. I had a little trouble when I got back from England oh so many years ago. I failed the oral exam first time around. Frustrating. After getting it second time, I then had a stroke of luck on the physical: as I was walking through the car park to the car to take the test I saw another applicant backing out of a car space with the indicator light on. I mean, who ever does that, but I figured I would this time. Apparently it's what you're supposed to do.

  2. I found out you are actually supposed to stop at a stop sign!

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