When we were sorting out the MR2 and the Mazda – which we are fostering for a while – the insurance company refused to cover me without a New Zealand driving licence.
It seems Kiwis are pretty relaxed about car insurance – amongst other things – and many only insure new cars. Allegedly 200,000 drivers in NZ are uninsured, one of whom we bumped into last month. Well, technically she bumped into us when Husband, in full compliance with the Left Hand Rule, gave way to someone turning right and the car behind attempted to drive up the MR2’s exhaust pipe.
Anyway. Being a former project manager and mildly obsessive/compulsive and my father’s daughter, driving uninsured was not an option. I’m not too concerned about potential damage to my car – that’s the Mazda, which is known as ‘my car’ or ‘your car’ depending on who is talking at any given time, Husband or me, and let’s face it, it’s usually me so for the sake of simplicity I’ll stick with the former. My car still projects a striking olfactory presence, has more rust than metal and a dent in the front bumper where a rubbish bin misjudged Husband’s sense of distance.
No, what I’m worried about is some drunk, coked-up Kiwi pop star crashing into me and bribing the police with wads of cash and a few personalised autographs to allege it was my fault and hitting me with a repair bill for NZ$ 300,000 for damage to the bodywork down the passenger side of his Audi R8. (Agreed, that scenario is pretty unlikely: there aren’t any Kiwi pop stars. Let’s say some All Black high on testosterone and steering with his feet.)
Happily and improbably, I had excavated my UK driving licence during the final site dig in Dubai. Carbon dating placed the artefact circa early 1990s, but it was valid until 2036. To convert it to a NZ driving licence, I had to take the driving theory test.
Since it has been years since I’ve sat any sort of exam, perhaps it’s not surprising that I was nervous. It didn’t help that anyone I mentioned it to said, “Don’t worry, mate. Test is a piece of piss,” or “Nah mate, my cousin passed and he’s a blind epileptic autistic midget. Aw yeh, couldn’t even reach the pedals, mate. You’ll be sweet AS.”
Eventually I bought a Road Code and sample test paper from the BP garage. Unfortunately, I didn’t do so well on the sample paper. I was gripped with false confidence by its striking resemblance to a piece of piss – and because it was multiple choice. Normally I’m GREAT at multiple choice exams. It’s a 50% chance of getting the answer right, since two options are usually misdirecting rubbish and can be instantly rejected.
The very first question disproved that theory. I scratched three of the four answers before getting the right one:
If you miss your exit on a motorway, you should:
(a) reverse back to the exit
(b) make a U-turn back to the exit
(c) drive on to the next exit
(d) stop and take a photo
In fairness, I spent the last 10 years driving around the Middle East where options a, b and d are valid manoeuvres.
I spent the next three weeks frantically swotting up on the Road Code. During this time, conversations usually went along the lines of:-
Me: “Aw, f-!”
Me: “It’s ‘d’. Wanky wanky shit bollox.”
Husband knew all the answers, which was intensely annoying. I’m not talking about things like:
What side of the road should you drive on?
(c) down the middle preferably on two or less wheels
(d) if you drive fast enough your car will become airborne which is technically not ON the road at all
No; I’m talking about the sort of minutiae most normal people file in the dark recesses of their mind to make room for, you know, useful stuff.
Me: “Ok, question 281: if a load extends more than one metre out the back of your vehicle, what colour flag must you tie on?”
Husband: “Permissible colours are white, red, orange or fluorescent yellow. The flag must be at least 30cm by 40cm in size. The load must be firmly secured and not touch the ground.”
Me: “I didn’t ask you- that- the last things.”
Husband (primly): “Niamhie, you need to know this stuff.”
“I do! It’s just I haven’t read that bit yet-”
“What if you get a question about carrying a load on your car?”
“Shh! I’m READING, you occasionally deeply unpleasant individual.”
After a while, I was having dreams of parking on a fire hydrant in the middle of a railway crossing with out of order traffic lights. I was fully prepared, absolutely crammed:-
“Husband! Test me! Ask me anything!”
“Aw Niamhie, do we have to do this again?”
“You want me to pass, don’t you? Grill me on reversing into a driveway! Or the four second rule!”
“*sigh!* Ok. If driving in a 50 km/h area, the horn-”
“-on your vehicle should not be used between the hours of 11pm and 7am except in the event of an emergency. If you are having difficulty preparing for your test due to a language or reading difficulty, you should contact Literacy Aotearoa on 0800-900 999. Next!”
“Come ON! Hit me!”
“If a flock of sheep are coming towards you on a country road, you should (a)-“
“Offer the farmer a fair price for the best looking sheep. Ha ha, only joking. The answer is (d) slow down, pull over to the side of the road and follow any advice the farmer may give you. Although, I don’t fully agree with that. I mean, if a farmer were to give me a fashion tip, I’m not sure I’d follow it.”
“All right, that’s it. No more.”
When Husband started having nightmares about beating me to death with The New Zealand Land Transport Road Code 2007, he packed me off to do the test. In the end, the most challenging part was the mandatory eye exam. I had to guess a couple of letters and the peripheral vision exercises were a joke.
“Which light is blinking,” asked the 12-year-old Test Official, “left or right?”
“Th- they’re both blinking,” I said. In fact it was like a war zone: I was seeing flashing lights all over the show.
“You should see one blinking more than the other.”
“Oh, right. The left. No! The right. No! The left. No-”
“Ok,” she said. “What- I passed?” She shrugged.
Apparently I must have, because she issued me a NZ driving licence