Driver’s license maze

Sept. 26, 1994
our newest driver was ready to take his road test. As we drove up to the Municipal Auditorium, a long line of parents and teenagers greeted us.

“Let’s come back tomorrow,” the testee mumbled.
I started to agree when I happened to overhear another mother talking.
“We’ve been here four times to take the road tests. He had to run laps when I took him out of football practice early to get here. When we got here, they weren’t even giving the road tests that day, after all.”
I had flashbacks of all the mornings we had rushed out of the house to take a written test only to discover the test had been canceled due to holidays, vacations, sickness or another schedule change. I decided to stay.

The officer checked the paperwork on the first couple dozen of the day’s testees and headed for the parking lot.
The test took about five minutes. We were about 36th in line. The trooper assured us he would get to everyone.
The scheduled two hours of testing stretched into three. The line of testees stretched along the patio. Waiting mothers chatted nervously.
One by one, the teens went to the parking lot, started up the family car and waited with fingers drumming nervously on the steering wheel.
When a now-relaxed teenager, with the trooper, pulled into the unloading zone the next testee pulled up behind them. The smiling officer, stamped the permit and climbed out.
Before the trooper could take the couple of steps to the next car, the mother tried to thank him. He smiled, “Hold your thanks until you see the bill for insurance.”

She laughed and took his place in the car. Arkansas’ newest driver and parent drove off, leaving those waiting to wonder what really happened during those five minutes the family car disappeared from view.
The trooper opened the next car door, slid into the seat, fastened his safety belt and left for another ride around the block.
As the afternoon became evening, the trooper rounded up the final third of the potential drivers and told them to make like a wagon train and circle round ready to take their tests.

Our mini-van was near the end of the line, but the trooper was still smiling as he climbed in and buckled up for the three dozenth time that day.
Five minutes later, I, too, was on my way home with a proud teen showing off the stamp of approval on his learner’s permit.
“If you get up early tomorrow,” I said, “we can go to the Revenue office at 7 a.m. and you’ll have your permanent license with your picture on it before school starts.”
“I’ll be ready.”
We were there before 7 a.m. and out by 7:20 a.m. We were through sooner than expected because the man ahead of us was there to take the written test before trading in his out-of-state license. He actually thought that the office where licenses are issued would be the location for the written exams.
I welcomed him to the licensing maze of Arkansas. “If you want a driver’s licensing manual to study before you take the written test at the Municipal Auditorium today, you have to go by the police station to get one.” He didn’t need one.

And we don’t need one either. It’s at least another year before I have to enter the licensing maze again. Thank heavens.
(Joan Hershberger is a newsclerk at the NewsTimes.)