Driving Theory Test Attempt #1

Despite taking practice tests for the last four days, I failed my multiple choice theory test today by (ready folks?) one bloomin’ point.


I was struggling with the Hazard Perception practice tests over the weekend, but had finally figured them out.  (Clicking in a “repetitive” pattern makes your test invalid and then you get a zero.)   I knew I was pushing the multiple choice part since I didn’t have much time to study last week and had only passed a few practice tests. Apparently I haven’t memorized all my signs.

Easy signs

Complex sign

But I really thought I passed.  I’d memorized half of the questions and answers by now after taking so many practice road sign tests.  Just booked the next one and am racing against the clock to pass the Theory test so I can book for the driving test, which usually has an eight week waiting list.  You can’t book that until you pass the Theory test.

More of this

And this

After July 18 I can’t drive on my US license anymore, so we’re trying to get me in before then.  I’m thinking there’s going to be a month or two where I can’t drive again.  Roundabouts still make me nervous.

At least I know what to do if I come across a herd of sheep and a shepherd asks me to stop.  (Answer:  stop and turn off the engine.)

The Art of Complaining

Ok, I give up.  I’ve tried to be a bit more soft-spoken, but apparently you can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the brash American out of the girl.   And the brash quality I’m missing today is complaining.   I’m sure there are Brits who can complain with the best of them, but unfortunately, I’m currently in a microcosm of character.  The nerve of these people, what with their gratitude and discipline, talking about how fortunate they are.  Don’t they know that it’s all a race to get as much as possible in this life?   Haven’t they heard of self-centeredness?  Sheesh.

Last night I was flipping channels, killing my usual zombie time where I can’t sleep but I’m just waiting to get sleepy, and I found Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.  He was showing the footage that didn’t make earlier shows—asides about how much he felt like retching from the previous night’s debauchery.   He had one great line, coming out of his hotel in Iceland to a pitch-black, bleak morning, wearing a puffy jacket and sunglasses, joking about how what he really felt like in that moment was being around lot of people and cameras, being friendly, and consuming the grilled intestinal parts of various animals.

Yeah, I guess it sucks to be even Anthony Bourdain sometimes.

Poor you!


But it got me thinking as to why he’s so refreshing lately, and it’s gotta be because he doesn’t hold back with the complaints.   I think I’ve said this before on BPRB—I really miss fast-paced, neurotic, dramatic people.  Throw in some well-placed complaints and I will worship at your feet right about now.

Here’s what the Brits don’t seem to realize about complaining—it’s an art form.  With hyperbole, a flair for character and jabby one-liners, it’s just street theater.  And who doesn’t like a little street theater?

Can we all just please stop and acknowledge how much it sucks to be herded into the Tube Station at Oxford Street during rush hour like a herd of cattle to slaughter?    Can we?   Oh please?

Shoot me.

I don’t cram myself down to the platforms every day, and would be so much more crabby if I did.  Is that possible?   More crabbiness?   (Ah, the neighbor kid just started playing his video games two feet from where I’m sitting, on the other side of the wall.  Beep, beep, boop, beep-boo-bee-bee-bee.   Yes, heightened crabbiness is possible.)

That was one good thing about teaching high schoolers.  A lot of them didn’t have game faces yet.  They’d come fainting in to my classroom, surrendering their massive backpacks to the desk with a thud.  Then they’d launch into a monologue about their horrendous day.    I don’t miss a lot of things about being in the classroom, but I do miss the teenage sense of drama and melodrama, a quality I’ve decided to hang on to for, oh, maybe just a few decades longer than necessary.

Perhaps the best moment of British complaint I’ve seen was on the television shows Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women.

I am a grumpy old woman trapped in the body of a not-yet old grumpy woman.

As curmudgeons go, they’re ok, but I think Anthony Bourdain might have them beat, with the ability to sun himself in the Mediterranean, devour the best food on the planet, and still somehow maintain his capacity for the tragic.

Anyone know of any local complaint-friendly venues?   Complaint salons?   Any pound-per-minute complaint hotlines?

The irony is that the Brits, as far as I’m concerned, should get a free pass to complain whenever they want with the gloomy weather. That’s enough right there.   Add in the ultra-crowded conditions and ridiculous cost of absolutely everything, and everyone should have a Recommended Daily Allowance of complaining.   You should take it in the morning with your Omega-3 Fatty Acids or your flax seed.  Truly, they’re looking a gift horse in the mouth.   I guess someone else will just have to do their complaining for them.   Good thing I’m here.

It’s Midnight at Gatwick: Do You Know Where Your Husband Is?

Two pieces of advice for all those moving to another country:  1) memorize contact numbers like your life depended on it, because it kinda sorta does, and 2) always be clear on where you’re meeting if you’re ever separated in an airport.

Why am I dispensing such sage advice?  Because last night I lost my husband.   At midnight.  At Gatwick airport in London.  Just call him on your cell phone?   Of course, cell phones.  I do have one!  And I’ve managed to finally memorize my own new cell phone number, after making a song and dance out of it.   (No one will ever see, or hear, this dance.  Don’t worry.)   But I’d yet to manage memorizing my husband’s cell phone number.  It was on my list of things to do–a very long list with a lot of exclamation points.

But back to the phone.  The phone had died after two days of our long weekend away on my husband’s off-site work trip, and he had the charger in his conference room.   The last day of the trip was a bit crazy as we checked out in the morning, were in different places all day, and our luggage was moved around by staff.   Packing was haphazard, and we were rearranging all of our liquids/not-allowed stuff into check-in bags and carry-ons on the airport floor minutes before check-in closed.  Needless to say my phone didn’t get charged.  It actually stayed into my weekend bag which got shoved into my check-in stuff.

All this should have been fine, right?   I was with my husband on the flight home.  But we got into separate customs lines since I have a non-EU passport*, and when he got through first, he waved from the other side, which I took to mean that he would head towards baggage claim.  Usually I get through the line first and get the bags, but it was at least twenty minutes before I got through.  I assumed he would have the bags and would be waiting for me, then we would go, both of us tired and we still had to find the shuttle to our parking lot and then drive an hour home.

But he wasn’t anywhere in baggage claim.  All the others from the trip were gone, and I saw a few lone pieces of luggage riding the conveyor belt.   The status for our luggage on the board read “ARRIVED.”   There were only three different carousels, and I was definitely at the right one.  Still, I waited a few minutes thinking he may have just stepped away to the facilities.  After about 5-10 minutes, I decided to head out as we’d met before at a coffee shop right outside.  I figured that I must have misunderstood where we were to meet and as I am absentminded, he probably said something about the coffee shop earlier but I’d forgotten.

But he wasn’t there either, and after I waited about ten more minutes I started to panic.

I realized that without my cell phone, I had no way to get home that night, that I didn’t know where the car was parked since he had the ticket and I had no way to contact my husband and no other memorized numbers of people in this country.  The crowd at the airport was becoming thin, as one would expect for past midnight on a Monday.

No problem.  I’ll find someone on airport staff and see if he or she can announce a page.  “Mr. M., please meet your party at the Costa Coffee Shop.  Paging Mr. M….”   We’d have a little laugh and then be on our way, luggage in tow.   Ha, drama, hee.  Hee.

But I couldn’t find anyone and the Airport Information office was closed.

Finally I asked the Costa workers if they knew where I might find someone to help me with a page.  At this point it had been about an hour since I saw C. wave at me from my line at Customs.  There was no way that he was still in there.   I’d checked the missing luggage office to see if he was there dealing with any missing luggage, but he wasn’t.

Instead of picking up the Magic Airport Phone that I’d imagined, the Costa guys, who looked like they were about twelve and had never had that pre-cell phone feeling of sheer terror when losing someone in a ginormous mall or parking lot, just looked at me like I’d requested their livers.  They waved me in the general direction of Departures, which was completely deserted.  Not one staff person anywhere.  I was afraid to wander too far from the Costa in case C. went there looking for me.   The rational thing to do seemed to stay put, but that was becoming difficult as I imagined that perhaps something bad had happened to C.  Of course I’d read the recent, vague terrorist warnings so immediately began mentally flipping through various possibilities.

This is the point at which having an active imagination is not fun.  Especially if your brain moves very quickly.   About ten really scary scenarios flashed through my mind in less than a minute, and soon I’d convinced myself that my husband had vanished.   Add a little adrenaline habit and you’ve got yourself a film starring Jodie Foster or Franka Potente.

I started planning for the worst.  I would just have to spend the night in the airport, and eventually get in touch with my mother via her cell phone to get my husband’s cell phone number (I was envisioning a collect call, but later realized this was probably impossible due to the lack of pay phones).  The next day I’d take the Gatwick Express train to London and from there go back home to Kent.  At least I had some cash, and I had a key to the house.

Finally I found a maintenance worker who directed me to some secret supply of airport staff all safely hidden behind door #3.  There were about twenty of them all huddled behind a small desk.  Maybe they were having a meeting?   Maybe they were hiding from freaked out expats who couldn’t find their husbands and didn’t have cell phones?  Too bad.  I’d found them.  I explained the situation to a woman who seemed nice, asked about a page, and edged toward the Costa again so I might avoid missing C.

She asked me to tell the story again, in what seemed like an attempt to buy some time. What was the deal with pages?   Was it like declaring a person missing–did you have to wait 24 hours?   Why wasn’t the Queen notified that I COULD NOT FIND THE ONLY PERSON I REALLY KNOW IN THE UK?

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only about 20 minutes, lo and behold, off in the distance (rapture!  little pink flowers!  bunnies!), there was C., talking to another airport staff person!   He’d put his jacket on so was in beige, while I’d been looking for a blue plaid shirt.   Duh.  And he said he’d thought that I got held up in customs, so had gone back to find out if I was still in there.   It seemed like we were both at baggage claim at the same time and never figured out how we still missed each other.


Long moment of appreciation, relief, etc., followed by the inevitable Whaaa??  How could we really have not seen each other?   Then the trek to find the right parking bus stop which took about another hour.

I recited C.’s cell # all the way home, wrote it down before bed, and vowed to keep a list of contact numbers in ten different bags.   No song or dance required.

*Word to the wise:  we just found out that spousal visa couples can legally stand in the non-EU line together.  They allow this to prevent fellow travelers from getting separated.  Great idea….

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