Observing Sweden – Driving Me Crazy

One of you asked about my progress with my Swedish driver’s tests. As the nun said, “It is not good.” As most of you following know, I’ve gone through hours of alcohol & drugs class. I have passed the famous icy road test, (hit the bakes at 60 Kph brakes to see if you can keep from spinning out), and have paid fees to take three pre-test, tests. Socialism is so expensive.

I’ve paid for driver school, and had 3 private lessons in a car which they provide, and is unlike my own. I’ve paid for books, and a computer on-line practice site. There are seven varieties of the computer tests, each variety having its own variations of the tests. Must be near a thousand possibilities. Takes me twenty minutes to do a test, which is faster than required, a half hour is allowed. Answering the questions is like being in Las Vegas. What will come up next?

“If a 3,500 kg trailer must be left at the said of the road, what lighting it have: A. white lights in front and back. B. Fog lights and tail lights in back white lights in front. C. White lights in front and yellow lights back.”

Got me with that one, only seen it come up once in all the 107 practice tests I’ve taken since May of this year. That’s more than 30 total hours of on-line practice. I got good at them I never failed to pass a practice test . . . at home. I felt secure and confident on entering the driving tests building, two floors of first class, modern architecture. There was even a fair sized library with thousands of books about drivers, cars, rules, laws, and such.The Swedes are very series about driver safety. Their goal is to experience a year with no fatalities in the rear future.

I went up a flight of stairs with twenty others, (seven Swedes, the rest of us from other places) to a test room with computers, desks, and earphones for translations for those who could read Swedish, or English. Cell phones must be turned off. An administrator walked up and down an aisle between computers, keeping an eye on things.

I saw only 5 familiar questions on the test. Some of the others required only logical answers, but the rest . . . I was clueless. After ten minutes it was obvious I wasn’t going to make 63 points and I kind of slacked off, answered all the questions, but without thinking a long time about the ones I didn’t know. It takes 63 points to pass the practice tests for P/Cs I was given. “You either know it or you don’t,” I told myself. Young Swedish guys were first to finish, then myself, a mix of other races left behind, still thinking and with time still left to do that. I scored 51 on a test and found out I only needed 53 to pass. I could have been a contender!

Now I’m reading the book the school gave me ─ lots of pages. Wife says I should keep doing the computer tests. They might be the questions asked next time? It’s like Vegas, but I guess I get to play as long as I have money. I will try again, and have a feeling I will get to pay a fee to take the test again.


It gets worse!

Even after failing the computer questions you are moved on to take the driver’s test, which worried me a lot after driving with my practice driver from the school. They’re nuts about slowing down for cross streets and that possible running away bus that hurls itself at a you from a blind spot.

“Made that left turn too wide. There may have been a car there,” the instructor tells me.

“But it was obvious there was no a car there.

“Doesn’t matter on the test,” he says.

On being older.

The practice tests had questions about people who were 75, or more. “Not as able to think about more than one thing at the same time.” Stuff like that. I feel driver’s license people’s hawk eyes watch me like a rabbit. “Look Ingrid, these goes one of those old fukers. Don’t let him pass the test!”

I had to take the test in the driver’s school’s car, which has a passenger side foot brake the instructor can use to avoid certain death if headed in that general direction. An employee from the driving school dropped me off, and a few minutes later the inspector showed up with her laptop and with a twenty-something woman who’d just failed the test. Bad sign.
We got inside the car and I was asked some simple questions for official records, “Did I have any other European driver’s license?” Stuff like that. Then it began.

Another trick. I need to safety check the car before I drive. I’m told to turn on the front windshield wipers. I was clueless. I knew about where the switch should be, but no idea what it looked like, or how to operate the thing if found. I found it, and managed to fumble the thing on. “Now the washer fluid,” she said.

That’s when it all went sideways. The back window washer came on. I tried to turn it off and somehow manage to get the front window wiper going at top speed. I flipped every switch I saw and couldn’t turn the damn things off. I must have gone through maybe 30 seconds very fast intermittent, spasmodic, squirtings, and wipings. It seemed much longer at the time, but at last I got the damn things stopped. I saw her writing on her laptop, “Old man. Do not pass.” Something like that.

I was totally rattled and wanted to tell her, look, there’s no sense going though the motions. Why don’t you just fail me now and we’ll save time. But I drove on. Not knowing is the strength of man and beast.

Do you know what the speed limit is where we are?” she asked when we were on the road.
I’d glanced at it, but had no memory of what it said. I was sure I wasn’t over the limit. “Not really,” I told her.” Another mark in the book. “It’s 100 Kph here. You’re only doing 80 Kph. You will slow up other cars, behind you.” Made no difference that there were no other cars behind us.

“Turn left at next crossroad,” she said. I turned right, realizing what I’d done too late. There was some kind of a parallel road running alongside ours, and a connecting blacktop lane between the two. I had no idea if it was legal to drive there, but took a chance and used it to back up, with expertise, I must admit. I got us turned around and got us started back the way she wanted.

We went in to town next and into one of the many roundabouts in this area. This one was without the usual divider lines. I drove to far to center and failed to look and see if someone was coming at me from an exit to the right, even though I have already scanned that exit when I entered, and had the right-of-way.

She was on the keyboard again and made a few final pokes as we entered the parking lot where we began. Something about the way I crossed into the area, something unsafe.

I figure we’re up to about $700 now in fees and driver school costs. I will be taking 3 more practice drives with instructors, and another computer test, then the on-road driver’s test . .  .  . again.

I want my life back!

About Bruce Louis Dodson

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat now living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, cat and dog. He is an artist and world traveler who writes fiction and poetry and practices photography in his less than copious free time. His work has appeared in: Barely South Review - Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology . The E-buffet, Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review: India, 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books - Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad - Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves, Pirene's Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology - Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac and mgv2.
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12 Responses to Observing Sweden – Driving Me Crazy

  1. I tried not to laugh because I know your pain, but one day you will look back on this and laugh too (????lol)

    • Lesley, I hope you’re right. You probably are, though I’ve begun to wonder if I will ever be able to pass these final tests.
      I know a psychiatrist who has had clients come to her after failing the tests four or five times.
      They can make you crazy!

  2. ShimonZ says:

    a valiant effort… it sounds like a glimpse of the future… terrifying…

  3. I’m sorry to laugh so hard as you bleed on the car seat, but I can’t resist. I’d probably do it if I were riding along in the back seat. I admire your mighty effort to become a full participant in that strange world.Have you asked your wife if she suffered so much adjusting to the U.S.? Thank her for her efforts. Now you know.

  4. My goodness. This sounds stressful, indeed.

    I’d like to help. Tell them that you have heard nothing but good things about Swedish design and manufacturing. Tell them your blogging buddy over here is still driving a Volvo that was driven off the Gothenburg factory in May 1987 (vefore some of your testers were born) and puts in a good word for you.

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