Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Driver’s License and the Color of My Skin

The company where I presently work had issued a company car for my official and personal use. All seems to be well except for a fact that I couldn’t use it unless; of course I applied for a local Driver’s License. “No Big Deal” I quipped, all I need to do is to apply and that’s it.

I was thinking that everything is gonna be just fine gaudily recalling how easily I got my Philippine Driver’s License way back in 1993, in just one day. No, I didn’t bribed anybody in the LTO to get my Driver’s License but I went on instead with the usual application procedure – undergoing physical examinations (there was no drug test then), written examination and actual test drive. With all these in mind I thought it could be apt here in the Middle East or maybe much easier as if everything is just a walk in the park.

I gave some details to our Admin Personnel and within 2 days, documentations required for Driver’s License application were all done and we headed to the Licensing Office. The assessment of my documents and fees were all done in just a matter of 5 minutes. “Very easy indeed just as I thought”. However, the Licensing Officer told me that I need to undergo a driving lesson for the reason that my Philippine Driver’s License is already 8 months expired. At first, I was laughing to my self because my 15 years of driving experience in the Philippines rendered futile.

The laugh in my face vanished when I saw the misadventure that I was about to face. There were an enormous number of applicants who just like me, eager to get their turn, elbowing one another and squeezing their way to take the driver’s seat. There were only a handful of instructors and test vehicles to use. With the soaring heat and humidity enough to make your sweat glands work overtime, the mayhem is an allegory of our hapless kababayans (countrymen) queuing to buy 2 kilos of NFA rice from the neighborhood Barangay Hall. Adding nuisance to an already frustration-filled situation was the total disregard of “who comes first will be served first”- blame it to each and everybody’s multi-cultural differences.

I couldn’t remember for how many times I blew my top every time somebody tries to intrude into the queue regardless of coming late. But the effort turns out futile. In such a chaotic situation, everybody was obstinate. I finished my first day of driving lesson exhausted and almost on the brink of giving up. Days went on and the scenario remains the same. With my sun-burnt face and arms, one can easily tell that I have been under the sun for quite some times, how about 2 weeks? Yes, I survived it for 2 weeks until I was recommended to proceed to Stage 2 - the Reverse Parking Test, though the situation was not as chaotic as the first but the punishing heat and high humidity was truly unbearable.

While in line and waiting for my turn, I saw frustrations in varying forms manifest in the faces of these people. Either they weren’t able to give a good driving maneuver that will surely leave an indelible ink to impress the driving instructor or maybe the growing impatience is getting on their toll. After all, these people are also human beings just like me who will surely feel the same frustrations that I felt since my first day of misadventure. I realized that the only thing that differentiates us is the color of our skins; or maybe if one may add; the differences in languages, culture and socio economic status but all these does not give any one an edge over them for that matter simply because we were all there only for one purpose; - to have a Driver’s License. In fact after those arduous days of getting under the sun, my skin color can be cloaked within the crowd and can be mistook as one of them only that I have a pair of chinky eye prominently of an Oriental-Asian race. I felt embarrassed for my behavior and I know what I did was unacceptable; at least to my standard. I found myself engrossedly conversing with these fellas and at the end of that day; I have found new friends, an Indian, a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi.

After that Stage 2 Reverse Parking Test, we parted ways for I moved to the last part of the testing – the theoretical test. I took the test and you know what; I failed. I was not even able to finish the entire test administered thru a touch-screen computer for the system will terminate by itself once you have committed 1 mistake for the first 15 questions. I was flabbergasted of the result knowing for the fact that the first 5 questions can just be easily answered even by a non educated driver or can be perfected by a local grade schooler. Three of the questions were asking what does a “Green”, a “Yellow” and a “Red” color of the traffic light means. The fourth and the fifth question asked what does the “P” (Parking) mark means and a traffic signal sign written in Arabic number (which I can able to read) which means that a Lorry of 3.5 meters long is not allowed. Please don’t ask me for I know you will be asking the same question I asked myself many times after that test; Why did I fail?

For all I know, I answered the first 5 questions correctly. Call it Over-confidence, duh, one may easily quip. But I guess not for I have been reviewing everyday and hardly praying that I may pass the test after that gruesome requisite that I had endured.

As of this writing, whilst I’m no longer procrastinating my failure but rather focusing on my retake test next week armed with the hope to pass the test together with the valuable lesson I learned from that humbling experience.

We may be different from each other but we have lot of things to share.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta once quoted; “The biggest mistake of humanity is not the failure to love thy neighbor but being indifferent to them.”

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