Saturday, March 29, 2008

License to D[r]ive

As I was sitting at home this afternoon letting useless worries chase themselves around my head, I suddenly grasped that clichéd wisdom of focusing on the things you can change instead.

I am going back to work now, and there isn't much I can (or even honestly think I should) do to change that in the short term. I've found a nanny, and I need to trust her to do her job. I need to trust that le Petit and I will both find a solution that works for us in time.

The Big Thing I Can Change kicked me in the rear. If I finally get my French driver's license, my commute will be cut from one hour and fifteen minutes to a much more reasonable forty minutes. That will be an hour and ten minutes more each day I get to spend with le Petit. I suddenly felt the difference that will actually make.

So why haven't I done something as simple and obvious as getting my license, you ask? It isn't nearly as simple here in France as you would think. You must contract with a driving school to prepare for both the written and practical exams which, unlike their American equivalents, are actually tricky. Your driving instructor arbitrarily decides how many hours of practice you need before you take the practical exam. Rumor has it that many are in cahoots with the test inspectors so that you fail at the smallest error and are sent back for more instruction. The whole experience is long and expensive. And, I keep reminding myself, I don't even have a car.

What was holding me back, however, wasn't the headache of the logistics or the money it would cost. It was, simply and honestly, that I am a true wimp.

After five years of living in France and despite my mastery of the language, I am still afraid to make phone calls. I try to unload all administrative tasks on my husband. I'm getting better at screwing up my courage, but in general if I am not absolutely-positively-there's-no-way-around-it required to arrange something, I won't. I even have trouble making hair appointments, and walk around shaggy-headed for months.* That's how bad I am. The dirty little secret is that I wasn't much better back in the US.

But now I am Mom, and I have no excuses for not facing the hard stuff, especially when the so-called hard stuff is peanuts.

So as I was sitting around feeling anxious and scared I looked at le Petit, who was particularly cheerful and smiley today, got myself out of my defeatist funk and called not one but two driving schools. I found out that it will cost:

80€ - inscription fee
200€ - preparation for the written test
80€ - written test fee
45€/hour for driving practice, with a minimum of two hours to evaluate my current level
120€ - practical test fee

Which comes to a grand total of 570€ if they determine that my driving skills aren't as rusty as they, ahem, may actually be. Exactly when was the last time I tried to parallel park? But that doesn't deter me. I'm fired up and ready to do this, and I will sign myself up on Tuesday of next week.

Then, hopefully in a couple of months and despite my fifteen years on the road I'll get to wear the A for apprenti on the back of the car, marking me as a novice driver. Oh yeah, and car, what car? I cannot legally drive my husband's company car on a regular basis, but my mother-in-law has offered to look into insuring hers for me (!!!).

Of course, since my epiphany this afternoon I've started dreaming of buying this or this and driving off into the sunset. Or perhaps, heady with my newfound guts, I'll get my motorcycle permit. I already can see Parisienne Mais Presque on an oh-so-European Vespa. Or heck, why not a Harley-Davidson?

You see, once I finally get going, I'm gone. Hit the road!

*This is also because, try as I might, I cannot find a good hairdresser in Paris and have resigned myself to going gray before I get a decent haircut. But that's a topic for another post.


A said...

Go for the Harley! Or, if not, the Peugeot - that's a hot car. Also - going back to work would be *hard*. I'm wishing you luck. Go you for doing something practical to work through the hard feelings, and cutting down a commute is always good.

Aubrey said...

(that 'a' comment was me. Had my login wrong. Oops!)

Mom in France said...

Bahhh! The dreaded driver's license. For me it's not the expense it's the hassle and time required. A friend of mine, American mother of 3 needed the get a license for their 3-year stay in France for the insurance. It took her only 13 months of regular class attendance + the driving lessons. It's here that you learn first hand about the french style of teaching. Instead of being encouraging you end every session by being told how much you suck and how much more you need to do.

Needless to say, I don't have my license either. It hovers out there on some distant to-do list. I guess when my old one expires. ugh.

Isabelle said...

You know what sounds crazy? It might be easier for you to find a new job closer to home than getting your French driver's licence!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

I refuse to be discouraged! But yeah, it will take a long time, and it might very well be easier to find a job closer to home! Heh.

But, I don't want to change too many variables, my job isn't too bad and it is a known quantity. And, well, I've gotta do this thing sometime.