Yesterday was a busy day for the Pict household as two milestones were achieved: I registered the smallest Pict at Elementary School and I sat my first American driving test.
This is how you register your child for school in Scotland: you go along to the relevant primary school with your child’s birth certificate, you fill out a brief form and that’s it. Five minutes. Your child is enrolled to start school in August.
This is how you register your child for school in America.
Firstly, you download a whole plethora of forms from the School District’s website. The printers spews out paper for quite some time. You then have to take your child to a Doctor for them to perform a medical and fill out a form. In our case, this involved us also having to register the youngest child with a medical practice and talk the doctor through our medical notes from Scotland. That took a couple of hours of my life. Then you have to take another form to a dentist to perform a dental check on the child in question. Again, this necessitated us registering him with a dental practice. Mr Pict was going for a filling anyway so we just had the little one piggy-back on his appointment. Then yesterday morning I had to take those forms, plus our rental lease (to prove our eligibility for the catchment area), plus birth certificate and a second form of ID to an appointment at the school. The appointment was with the school secretary and the nurse. There was a lot of photocopying and further form filling involved. It took about half an hour. He now gets to start school in September, which at least makes all that time, effort and paper worthwhile.
This is a family milestone as it means that come September all four of our children will be in school.
April Fool’s Day might not have been the most auspicious choice of date for my driving test, the second of yesterday’s milestones. Mr Pict had passed his US Driver’s test first time but he has had years of experience driving in America whereas I have had five months. I was not feeling very confident. I knew I could handle the rest of the test but the parallel parking had me pretty resigned to failing. In Pennsylvania, parallel parking is a compulsory element of the practical test. Failing it is an automatic fail for the entire test. Indeed, they start with it precisely so that they can forego the rest of the test if it is failed. One teenage girl in front of me experienced just that. I was a decent enough parallel parker in Britain but here I have found my spatial awareness to still be somewhat lacking when it comes to parking. I am used to judging the width of the car and distance from the kerb based on sitting on the other side of the car. It has not yet adjusted to me sitting on the left hand side. Given that I had one chance to get the parallel park perfect and just three maneouvres within that one chance to get myself perfectly within the space, I was not feeling very assured of my chances of passing first time. I’m a glass half-empty person.
I arrived in time for my test and joined the queue of cars waiting to set off on the test circuit. I had not been remotely nervous before that point but I am neurotic about punctuality and when my allotted time came and went and I was still parked up in the queue I did start to get a bit twitchy. I was also the only adult taking my test. The thought that the half dozen 16 year olds in the car queue might pass and that I – with over two decades’ driving experience – might fail made me feel twitchy too. Failing this driving test could be potentially humiliating as well as being a personal setback. Thankfully I had a chatty examiner who asked random questions about me being from Scotland and that put me at ease again. The parallel parking went fine. I came close to clipping the barrels in front as I was so anxious to be inside the white lines of the space – as even having a tire on the line would be a fail – but I missed them and got lined up in the space in two moves rather than the permitted three. The examiner asked me to drive on and that meant I felt positive I was going to pass since the only ropey bit was over. The “course” involved doing a circuit of the adjacent mall car park. There were lots of stop signs but that was it. I would be amazed if the driving part even took as much as five minutes. Compared to my British driving test all those years ago, it was extremely simple to pass.
So that’s it. Despite my pessimism, I passed my US driving test. I now have a Pennsylvania driver’s licence. I now have a form of ID American people can comprehend. I can now file my International Driving Licence, which would have expired in September. We can now shave money off our car insurance. I can now tick another major thing off my To Do list.