Monday, August 10, 2009

Results may vary...

May 23, 2008 - Friday

I said I was going to get the report on my driving test posted yesterday, but I didn't get around to it. So here it is, a day late.

Wednesday morning I went back to work, stayed at the office until about 1215 hours and got really nervous in the last hour. I arrived at the DOT building about twenty minutes early and parked. About five minutes later a Spaniard on a Yamaha touring bike joined me. He was in his forties but even more nervous than me, and we passed the time chatting. I leaned against the Bemwäh; he paced. Shortly before 1300 hours I saw Turkovic pass into the building and suddenly wondered whether I could have the same expert twice. I'm sure it's happened before.

But, it turns out he was in charge of the parallel class. Our expert was a guy in his mid-thirties, and very, very pleasant. He explained everything to us, as if this were a first driving class and not the test. I went first on the maneuvers, and he waved me on three-quarters through the 15-second-stretch. I did the 8 and the staggered slalom with no problem, then drove down the hill to wait.

A few minutes later, the Spaniard had gotten through the maneuvers too, and Herr Volker, our expert, walked past to prepare for the braking test. In passing, he asked me what kind of bike I had. (He could tell from the Bemwäh's papers it was a rental.)

I knew what I was going to say could make or break my test result. "Buell," I replied.

He threw up his hands. "Why didn't you bring it? I drive one too!"

Great. Well, better that way than a sucker for racing bikes. Later I explained to him that was getting a airbrush design and so some parts were missing, which is why I couldn't use it for the test.

I got a 8.5 on the brake test, which is good, though he told me I could have done much more, but it's okay, because women especially can have problems pulling the ABS brakes and I was used the the Buell, where there was no way you'd ever brake hard.

Things were going well. Herr Volker got on the back of my bike first, and we left the DOT area. He told me to head toward the Autobahn.

And that's where I made the first mistake - one mistake of four that each could and should have cost me the success of the test. I crossed over a drawn-out security line on the road. He pointed it out to me, and my heart sank. I told myself I'd killed my chances right there.

But Herr Volker didn't tell me to pull out and stop. We continued on, driving the autobahn toward Thalwil. And there, on the autobahn, passing a truck, he said I drove over a drawn-out security line, again. My head spun; I was furious with myself. And still he didn't tell me to pull out.

Taking the turn up toward Gattikon, I didn't move over in the lane to turn right. But he guided me through Langnau and over the Buchenegg pass before telling me to stop and getting off.

He said I'd driven 60 in a couple 50 zones, and that it wasn't necessary for me to pull over so far in the curves, but that I was driving well and carefully and I just needed to watch for those couple things he'd mentioned. Now it was my turn to follow.

I still thought I'd lost out; that the test was run for me. All in all we drove for one and a half hours. The Spaniard nearly ran a red light, occasionally drove too fast and misinterpreted instructions. I was sure we'd both flunked.

But Herr Volker was barely off the Spaniard's Yamaha when he was "pleased to announce" that we both passed. I stared at him and blurted out, "Ohni Seich?" which is a more couth translation of "no sh*."

But it was for real. He said that he was aware that we'd both been nervous and under stress, that what he'd seen in the past ninety minutes wasn't driving but rather following rules, that we'd never drive again like we'd done for the test.

The Spaniard nearly hugged him; I just shook my head in disbelief, grinned and thanked him sincerely.

When we went go get our driver's licenses updated, Turkovic passed us in the hall and congratulated us. I doubt that he recognized me - the sucker. I drove so much better on my first test with my Buell, and he flunked me because I used te back brake too often. I drove very poorly on the BMW and was allowed to pass. It depends on the expert. Turkovic looked the negative, Herr Volker looked at the positive. Thank God.

My cell phone had died and refused to turn on, so I decided to go home really quick and break the news to some people. Linsey was on the computer when I came in, and she congratulated me. I told Mom, who suggested I take Linsey into the city when I went to drop off the Bemwäh. Linsey agreed, and I called up Florian, who congratulated me as well and passed along the same from a school buddy, and then I called Kevin. He'd offered to pick me up from the rental place and bring me home since Florian wouldn't be back from scholl until 1700 hours.

Linsey and I drove to SihlCity, where I dropped her off. I then had to take a rather roundabout way back to Schlieren because of a building site. It took a while, and Kevin's blue Duke was outside the store when I parked the Bemwäh. I gave the little red bike a pat and a thank-you and was awfully glad I'd never have to drive it again.

Kevin was sitting at a table paging through magazines when I walked in. I gave him a smothering hug first and thanked him for all the time he spent with me, getting me ready for the test. He sheepishly shrugged it off and said it was no problem, like he always does.

I got my 1000.- deposit back and Kevin drove me home over the Albis. The Duke is as bad for riding double as my Buell, possibly worse. But boy does it have lots of power. Kev couldn't stay on because he had firefighters training that night, but we agree to go driving the next evening. After trucking Florian into Adliswil to get his Tweety Bird's front tire fixed, I hopped on my beloved Beastie for a run across the Albis.

What a difference to the little BMW. The first thing I noticed was how much softer the Buell's seat was. Secondly, how far off the ground I was. No sitting with both feet flat and knees bent on the Beastie. I had to get used to the blinkers both being on the left again, and the kill switch is flipped, not pushed to one side. The short wheelbase was no problem, though, and I found myself daring to do on the Buell more after those five days on the Bemwäh. It's weird, how fast you can get used to a different bike, and how long it takes to learn the quirks of your own again afterwards. One last night was I really feeling completely comfortable on the Buell again, when Kevin and I went driving. We had dinner at the Chommle restaurant, and I insisted on paying for his meal as a thank-you for the training sessions. He earns barely a third of my salary now, so he didn't press the matter after trying once to pay.

After the meal we returned to Birmensdorf - racing a dang little scooter all the way! The guy passed us doing at least 120 in an 80 zone. If that's not a declaration of war, I don't know what is. We passed him in the next town, and I took over the lead soon after. A couple times I thought we'd lost him, and then I'd see him in my rearview mirror again. I drove way over the speed limit most of the way, and the thought crossed my mind he might be a policeman. When we got to Birmensdorf, I was ready to pull over because I didn't want to lead him to Kevin's house, but just then he turned off and disappeared.

As we drove down into the garage, Kevin said what I'd been thinking - that that could have been a cop, and maybe he was filming us. We decided that couldn't have been the case, though, since he would have passed us and pulled us over. There was plenty of opportunity for it.

We finished watching Minority Report and chatted almost until midnight. We agreed to go for a drive again tonight after I'm done helping at the shooting range, but much as I'd like to go, I don't know if I can. Isaac broke up with Linsey last night and if she wants someone to talk to, I should be there. Tomorrow is Saturday. I'll have plenty of time with then, and we can stay up watching movies as long as we want since Kevin's mom won't be around. Saturdays are good days.

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