Hanged by the Loophole

November 23, 2006 By: erik Category: Complaining, News, Spain 1,540 views

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The driver’s license saga continues…

Good news first. I passed the theory exam. Yay. As I expected, I had to call several times, talk to four people, and deal with them not knowing how to enter an immigrant’s national ID number into the computer.

So I went directly to the local autoescuela (driving school). The dialog went something like this:

Me: Okay, I’ve passed the theory test. What do I have to do to take the in-car test? I’d like to make an appointment to do that as soon as possible.

Her: Well, you have to enroll as a student at the driving school, and take some classes first.

Me: No, I already know how to drive. I just want to take the test.

Her: Well, no driving instructor is going to get in a vehicle with you without giving you some classes first.

Me: [fibbing only slightly] Why not? I can legally drive in Spain!

Her: Imagine that he gets in the car, and you go through a stop sign.

Me: But that’s ridiculous. I’ve never gone through a stop sign in the thirteen years that I’ve been legally driving!

Marga later had a much better response to this stupidity: “But that’s what the instructor has a brake pedal for!!!”

Her: I’m just telling you how it is.

Me: Well, I don’t really have a choice, do I? How much does it cost?

Her: The matriculation is 150€.

Me: [shaking my head in disbelief] What a robbery…

Her: I’m just telling you what it costs.

Suddenly, out of a side office, pops a man, who we’ll call Señor Cabrón1.

Sr. Cabrón: It’s not a fucking robbery! Look, pal, if you wanna go somewhere else, then, by all means, get the hell out!

Me: [taken aback for obvious reasons] It’s a robbery on the part of the government, not on your part.

Of course, that’s not true. It is a robbery on the autoescuela’s part! But I was trying to calm him down…

Sr. Cabrón: When I think that someone is charging me too much for something, I go somewhere else. How dare you come in here with that kind of attitude!

Her: [with an apologetic look on her face] So can I get your telephone number?

Sr. Cabrón retreats to his office, but continues to mumble stuff about jerks coming in and accusing him of robbery.

Me: [with a “what’s wrong with that guy?” look] Sure, it’s [my number here].

Her: Okay, I’ll try to find an instructor for you and give you a call. You can pay me when you come for your first lesson.

Me: Okay. When will that be? I’d like to do it as soon as possible.

Her: [thumbing through a calendar] Well, let’s see… Maybe as early as the 28th…no, that’s impossible. It would have to be…

Sr. Cabrón: [shouting from his office] If it’s fucking impossible, then don’t fucking say it! God, I’m surrounded by idiots!

He continued to personally insult her for about thirty seconds, while she looked at me, partially rolling her eyes and partially wincing.

Her: Anyway, it might be December. The whole process could take three weeks.

Me: Okay. You’ve been very helpful, even though I think what you’ve told me is absolutely insane and unfair. I’ll await your call, but I hope you’ll understand if I look for other alternatives.

And I walked out, all my happiness from having passed the exam replaced with anger at the stupid bureaucracy. This afternoon, I think I’ll go to Laredo to ask around in some other driving schools. Surely there’s a driving instructor somewhere that will trust me not to kill him. I’ll be the least dangerous exam he gives all year, for christ sake!

I’m not a professional psychologist, but I suspect that reactions like that seen by our friend, Sr. Cabrón, are far more likely to occur when they are reacting to comments that have a high level of veracity. I was reminded of this article about societal taboos.

1“Cabrón” is the Spanish equivalent to “asshole”. Funnily (to me, anyway), it literally means “big male goat”. Personally, I’d rather be compared to a large billy goat than an anus.

  • jacob

    This is hilarious, in a sad unfortunate way.

  • Yes, I can see my future self laughing about it. But at the moment, I’m pretty pissed off.

    A quick update: We went to the autoescuelas in Laredo, the slightly larger neighboring town, and they have the exact same price set, and gave us the same story.

    It’s nice how they all get together and set the prices the same for the whole region, thereby forming a functional monopoly and breaking the free market. If they all felt like raising the price another 10€, as long a they did it at the same time, they could, and no one could do anything about it.

    It almost makes me want to start my own autoescuela and undercut them all. 🙂

  • nacozari

    hi from madrid, erik!…i just found your blog article as i have been suffering thru the same crap and typed “driving school hell in spain” into google. your blog was at the top of the results list! just wanted to send a little sympathy your way since i am going thru exactly the same garbage. i have driven for twenty years and never had an accident or ticket, i’ve used stick-shifts, automatics, huge trucks, small compacts, i’ve driven on the left and on the right, in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd worlds, so having to do this at all is insulting.

    i passed the written exam right away, but that didn’t seem to impress anyone into not treating me like a guiri moron, and i have already failed the driving test twice. mind you, both times i failed, the reasons that the examiner gave were completely made up. i think they just have a certain quota of people they pass, and they collude with the driving instructor in choosing who passes. there is a moment i call the “high-corruption-potential moment” right before your exam starts when, guess who meets up?!: the examiner, your driving instructor and the owner of your driving school!!! now, i wonder, what COULD they be chatting about during those 2-3 minutes? the latest soccer match? hmm, maybe what they did last weekend?? or no!, maybe they are partaking in some good old-fashioned corruption! anyway, to provide one example, they claimed i didn’t stop at a stop sign in my second exam (this reminds me of what you were told at the autoescuela), which is simply a fabricated lie. i only came across two stop signs during the whole exam, and at both i did the good ol’ trick of fulling stopping and then counting to 2 in my head. i didn’t commit a single violation in either exam, and in the first the only reason given was that ‘i went a little too slow so it seemed like i wasn’t comfortable driving’ (!) well, i only went slow to seem like i was being cautious, but i never went under any limits.

    besides this, be prepared. the driving instructor does everything possible to make you nervous and insult you. it would be comical if it weren’t so depressing. my driving instructor constantly makes racial slurs, sexist insults, and the like, an attitude which matches his franco flag keychain. if he sees a group of immigrants waiting at a bus stop, he says things like ‘look at all those monkeys standing around doing nothing, lazy bums’…yet you are forced to remain silent, lest during the “high-corruption-potential moment” he might decide you will not be one of the passers. this is especially sad because i’d say about 50% of the autoescuela students are latin american and african.

    there is not an inkling of any type of teaching method in the classes either. this is obviously just a person who passed a knowledge test in which teaching skills played no role whatsoever. the ‘method’ consists of just saying ‘¡qué coño haces?!’ every time you make the slightest move in a direction the teacher claims to be wrong. on occasion, i’ve said to him, ‘well, if i’m doing it wrong, then tell me how to do it right’, and his response has just been, ‘tíº ya deberí­as de saberlo, coño’…

    anyway, good luck, but my recommendation is almost just to drive illegally. no big deal anyway probably, since the justice system here is so pathetic it would take them decades before doing anything to you if you were caught.

  • Thanks for that long-winded, lowercase comment, nacozari. I did finally pass, and am now a licensed driver in Spain. But I think that I got lucky with my examiner.

    Most of the saga is available with a blog search of “driving test”.

    I wish you luck in your future exams. You think you’re mad now, wait until they tell you that you have to use the “L” for a year! That was the last straw for me, and I’m just not doing it. If I get stopped, I’ll show my US license, and stutter some words like “americano” and “turisto” and “visitando”. There’s no way a Guardia Civil is going to care enough to attempt communication. The only way you’ll really get screwed is if you have an accident and the insurance company starts investigating.

    P.S. I love that I’m the number one hit for “driving school hell in spain“. 🙂

  • did you actually take lessons with that school?

  • Yes, Sharon, I did. I looked around, though. It turns out that all the prices and attitudes were identical everywhere. It’s a sort of agreed-upon artificial pricing structure. Stupid, stupid, stupid.