When I came back from the UK with a ten week old son and a 20 month old daughter the last thing on my mind was converting my UK driver's licence back to a South African licence.
To be honest, I was finding it hard enough to remember to bath and brush my hair let alone worry about paperwork! It was the last thing on my mind.
As we settled into our life in South Africa buying a house, finding a job and raising two children it still didn't enter my mind. Until I went to a braai and someone was talking about their recent experience of trying to convert their UK driver's licence back to their South African licence. Well actually they called it their "nightmare" but I smugly thought I'd have no problem (sometimes my ostrich mentality can astound even me). Turns out I was wrong. After much investigation and going from department to department I was informed that I would have to do my learners and driver's licence again as I had waited too long to convert back!
So off I went to the licencing bureau armed with my UK driver's licence, my original South African ID book driver's licence and my smile. None of which they were interested in.
The first sign of things to come was when the man handing out the forms to book your learners licence seemed unable to understand that I wanted to book a test for myself, not my child. He seemed to find it really funny that I was trying to do my learners at my age. After he had finished laughing he gave me the appropriate forms and barked orders at me. I was just about to tell him that my first language was English and he didn't need to treat me like an idiot when I saw a crudely handwritten sign stuck to the wall which read "Don't confuse my personality and my attitude. My personality is mine, my attitude is a reaction to your behaviour". Since his personality wasn't that great I decided that I'd rather not experience his attitude and keeping quiet I went and sat on the bench outside.
Once I had all the paperwork done I joined the queue to have my eyes tested. The eye test itself was very quick once you worked it out (it would be asking too much for anyone working behind the desk to actually stop their conversation and explain what you need to do). Initially I thought I had to tell them which way the E was facing but after a few minutes silence I worked out that there was a joystick on the bottom of the machine which you had to move in the same direction. Having passed my eye test I was then allowed to join another queue and book my learners.
Writing my learners was easy and went smoothly. You get an hour to answer sixty questions. I personally think that if you take longer than 20 minutes you should fail but there you go, that's just my opinion. I was handed my marks and told to go back to the first room and get forms to book my driver's licence. The same man was waiting for me and he handed me some more paperwork, told me to fill it in outside and then return for my eye test. I tried to tell him I had just had an eye test two days before but he told me that didn't count and I had to do it again. I decided not to argue and just joined the queue.
Once I had finished my eye test I had to join another queue to book a date for my licence. This proved more difficult than I expected as according to the system I have a driver's licence. No one seemed to know how to deal with this problem and after a number of people were called and consulted they decided that the best way forward was for me to write a letter explaining why I was doing my licence again. I tried to explain to them that I was only doing my licence because they had told me I needed to do it but this seemed to confuse them even more. I finally gave up and decided that since they wanted a letter I needed to give them one. I went away to write a letter which pretty much said "I am doing my licence again because you told me to" and handed it to them and received a test date.
Having heard that the rules had changed since I last did my test, and that the K53 system can be quite confusing, I actually booked a few lessons with a driving school. I did the lessons and headed off for my test.............Which lasted all of 6 minutes!
Apparently, according to my very unfriendly instructor, I rolled - which is an instant fail. Seriously, I am the first to admit when I mess up. If I had made a mistake I would have stepped up and taken the fail but as far as I'm concerned I did not roll! I was reversing into my parallel parking and I slowed to check my distance from the curb and the examiner decided that I had rolled. When I questioned her she told me that I should have stopped, pulled up my handbrake, checked the curb, done all the crazy observation checks again, released my handbrake and continued. I'm sorry, but as far as I am concerned this is ridiculous! I think the whole K53 driving system is crazy! You spend so much time looking around and pulling up your handbrake that you are in very real danger of rear ending someone (or getting tennis elbow and putting your neck out).
Anyway, once I had stopped sobbing and could actually talk again I discussed the whole sorry story with the examiner. She finally showed a human side and admitted that most "older' drivers fail as they don't know the K53 procedures. She suggested that I book another test and then go for a few more K53 lessons. So off I went again to see that oh so unfriendly man and have my eyes tested - again. I have another test booked in October and I'll be going over my K53 rules on a nightly basis. I can honestly say I now understand why people buy their licences in this country. If I wasn't such a law abiding citizen I just might be tempted.
About Being ImperfectMe
It's okay to mess up. Really, I mean it. Those times when you think there's no going back, or forwards for that matter, are the most important times you'll ever have. They are the times when your life takes a shift and goes off on another path be it good or bad.
They are the times that are all important for your personal growth (and your stomach ulcer, because let's face it all hard working, self respecting people have one). They are the times when you find out who you are, how far you'll go, who your friends are and what your social life will be like when the dust settles.
So, who said we have to be perfect anyway? Why do we all strive for the unobtainable? In an Oprah world we would all hit rock bottom, have an ah-ha moment, sell all our worldly goods, learn to meditate, have an epiphany and obtain a perfect life, but let's face it, how likely is that to happen? The reason we admire these people is because the chances of all of us doing this are next to none and in reality it's more likely that we'll just go on to mess up again, repeatedly. And that's alright.
The problem with life, as I see it, is that we all try to do too much too well. This note is not an anthem for mediocrity but if you look at all the different roles we play as wife, lover, mother, business woman, etc, it should be easy for the average person to realise that we can't do it all perfectly. So instead of driving myself mad with self-flagellation I've decided to forgive myself and have a good laugh while doing it.
Let me introduce myself. I'm a 44 year old mother of two who has no clue what I'm doing. I don't have all the answers, I don't even have half the answers, but if writing this note makes one person who reads it feel less inadequate then I'm headed if the right direction.
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