Early in January, I went for my driving test, and passed it easily enough – I actually got a very good score – 98 (I lost 2 points for parking too close to the car in front). I am thinking of getting this shirt now.
The test itself was very easy. Show your hand signals, drive around a little, change lanes, park on a hill, parallel park, all it took was fifteen minutes. I suppose the test was easy because my training was fairly thorough – I got 10 hours in total, including some highway driving. Then, an hour before the actual test, I got an intense bombardment of driving drills and hints for the test.
Ironically, after the test, I had to wait an hour for the bus to take me back to the office. When I got back, I contacted my relocation person to find out if my month of free rental car perk could still be used. I wasn’t too hopeful, but in fact it was still good – I picked up my rental silver Toyota Yaris the next day:
It has California plates. I am sure that all the strange things I have done on the road have unfairly solidified whatever negative stereotypes the locals have of Californian drivers. The fact that it was a Yaris was fortunate, because that is the type of car I was thinking of buying. Originally I wanted a Prius, but boy, they are not cheap – going for the Yaris saved me almost ten thousand dollars. So in the end I got a 2009 Yaris with a few extra options (rear wiper, larger battery, immobilizer, paint and chip protector sealants, and a few other things):
And boy is Toyota thankful I bought a new car from them in this economic climate (they have called me three times over the last week to ensure I was happy with the experience):
The actual paperwork and red tape took just under two hours (did it after work one evening), and it was all fairly easy. I could not drive the car home that day because I didn’t have insurance, but that was also quite easy to organize – one email to the bank, fill in an electronic form and I was all done (and not too expensive either – a little over $100 a month). At the moment I am still driving mostly the rental, because I want to break the new car in gently. The best thing about the car is that paying off the car loan will drive up my credit rating so that I can get a better home loan in a couple of months.
There have been some interesting moments. Every morning I have to defrost the car (ice layer on all the windows) with a big pot of hot water. Petrol pumps in this state are all do-it-yourself. the first petrol station we went to had something wrong with the pump, and I could not fill the tank. It was a prepaid arrangement too, so I ended up not taking all the petrol I paid for (only later did I discover you can get change if you don’t…). Fortunately, the next place we went to you paid with a credit card after you fill (all done on the pump), and that one worked fine. Other interesting moments have come up – mostly around getting lost. I decided to get a Garmin Nuvi 260 GPS receiver to help with getting us to all new interesting places, but the routing algorithms are a little odd – once the thing was telling us to go in the opposite direction to our destination, and another time it was insisting that we do a u-turn on the freeway. But slowly I am getting used to its quirks. So far, the worst part about the car is the cost of parking in downtown Seattle – it usually runs about $5 an hour (for perspective, it costs $25 to fill up my tank with petrol).