Although this posting is really more about Amy, I’m writing it because Amy couldn’t without using an expletive every other word, she‘s that mad.  So, what’s up?  Amy was scheduled to take her driving test this Thursday and had been preparing for it diligently, but yesterday she got a call cancelling the appointment.  The excuse was that someone is sick, which is fair enough, but it doesn’t help that she now doesn’t know when she’ll be able to take the test.

You Americans reading this are wondering, “Why didn’t she just reschedule right away?”  Because this is Ireland, and if there’s a sensible way to do things, it’s almost certainly not the way things are done here.  Let me start at the beginning.

When drivers from the European Union (EU) and a handful of countries outside the EU move to Ireland, they can simply trade in their old licenses and get Irish ones.  But Americans aren’t so lucky, and they need to first pass the written portion of the test, then once they have their provisional license, wait six months before they can take the test.  In other words, it doesn’t matter that Amy has been driving for half her life, here she’s treated just like a sixteen-year-old learning to drive for the first time and she still has to wait six months.

More accurately, Americans have to wait at least six months, because the Irish equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles has about the stupidest system of scheduling I’ve ever seen.  If you had to wait six months in America before you could take your test, when you got to about five months, you would just call up the DMV and schedule your appointment for the day after your six months probation was up, right?  But here, when you get close to your six months, you fill out a request and the Road Safety Authority eventually sends you a letter telling you when your driving exam is.  You have no say in when or even where it is (there are several testing sites), you‘re just told a time and place to take the test.  They don’t check their own records, so they may assign you a time that is five months and 28 days after you passed your written test.  If they do, you’re out of luck and you have to go through the requesting procedure again.  On the other hand, your scheduled test may be long after your six months is up, which is what had happened to Amy.  She had met her six month requirement in the middle of August, but of course they assigned her an October 2 date.

She felt a little ridiculous doing so, but Amy had been taking driving lessons, almost the only legal way for an American over here to practice driving before taking the test.  It’s one thing for a teenager to ask a parent or older friend to give them lessons, but when you’re 36, it’s not so easy to find a qualified driver to sit next to you while you practice driving.  This adds another wrinkle to the ridiculous system — Amy will have driven far less in the weeks leading up to her exam than she had done in the weeks and months leading up to her arrival here.

The only way we’ve been able to see other parts of Ireland is for us to rent a car (although we own one) and have me drive (though I haven’t shown that I know the first thing about Ireland’s laws by taking a written test).   Yes, here is where it gets even more absurd.  Amy has a provisional license, and she has insurance to drive our car, but legally she can’t drive without a person sitting next to her who has had a full Irish license for at least two years.  I don’t have an Irish provisional license, so I can drive on my American license, but can’t get insurance on our car because I don‘t have an Irish license.  Therefore neither of us can drive our own car because Amy has the wrong license and I can’t get insurance.

However, when we rent a car, I can get insurance through the rental agency, which means I can drive a rental  on my American license and the rental agency’s insurance, but Amy still can’t drive because she’s gotten her learner’s permit.  Further, if any of you American readers fly over here, rent a car, and drive all over Ireland, it‘s perfectly legal, but since Amy has taken a written test showing she understands the rules of the road here she is legally barred from driving these same roads.  Got it?

So, now Amy waits.  They told her they did put her on a priority list but we really don’t know what that means.  We assume that if someone cancels, they’ll call, so now she may get a call some morning asking her to come in and take the test later that day.  This would mean she will have to cancel work appointments, find a driver to come with her (if she shows up at the test site in her car with no qualified driver with her, they will fail her immediately since she will have driven to the test site illegally), race home to get the car, then off to the test site, whichever one it is.  Or, they may call when we’re on holidays (we head to Spain for two weeks beginning the last week in October).  Actually, we pretty much know that will happen because it would be the most inconvenient and mean even more waiting.

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