Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Minnesota DMV: Let's Learn Passive Aggressive Road Rage!

Many of my friends have already heard this story, but it must be recorded on this blog.

With my recent scooter purchase and now committed stay in Minnesota, I decided to head over to the DMV with several goals in mind:

1. Attain a Minnesota Drivers License.
2. Attain a Minnesota Motorcycle Permit. (For reasons I will explain in a minute.)
3. Register and get plates for my car.

One of these goals were accomplished. I'll give you a hint: It wasn't the first two.

Minnesota is, to my knowledge, the only state in the Union that requires a separate written test in order to transfer a license from another state. That's right: Even if you've been cleared to drive by, say, New York State, you must first complete Minnesota's written test to get 10,000 lakes of driving approval. While this seems ridiculous and actually, according to my lawyer mother, unconstitutional, I figured I'd breeze through the exam since, you know, I've been driving for a good seven years now and feel I've gotten the hang of things. Oh. Ohhh, how wrong I was.

So this computerized, multiple choice written test was 30 questions long, and I was required to achieve a score of 80% correct in order to pass. First of all, 80%? Where I come from, that's a B-, not an F. But that's neither here nor there.

What is here and there, friends, is how stupid most of these questions were. When I say stupid, I mean filled with dumb specifics that were designed to make you fail if you hadn't studied the MN Driver's Manual which is filled with said specific information. Some of these questions included the following:

1. When approaching a school bus with its stop sign extended, how many feet behind the bus must you stop?
a. 20 feet b. 30 feet c. 50 feet d. 70 feet

Anybody got the answer to this off the top of their head? Didn't think so. Honestly, who even cares? Everyone knows what to do in this situation. You stop, and wait for the children to exit the bus and receive their Juicy Juice on the safety of the curb. So I know how to handle that situation. A better question would have been

When approaching a school bus with its stop sign extended, do you
a. Hit the children crossing the street
b. Stop and wait for the children to cross the street until the stop sign is retracted and the bus moves again.

I know the answer to that one.

Another question that almost made my brain explode with anger involved slow-moving vehicles carrying this sign:

The question, however, had nothing to do with my driving, at all:

Vehicles carrying this sign must be traveling
a. 10 MPH or less b. 20MPH or less c 40 MPH or less d. 50MPH or less

Bluhbluhbluh, what!? Seriously? Why do I need to know the speed of THAT VEHICLE? I should be concerned with my speed. I'm not taking the written test to drive THAT VEHICLE! So I got that one wrong too, you know, because I've been driving my car for the last seven years.

Finally, I'll share this one with you. I've now run this one by a number of my friends, and everyone seems to know the answer, except I didn't.

What does this sign mean?
a. Curves ahead b. Slippery conditions c. Slow for animals d. Fuck you, New Yorker!

OK, so I didn't choose b., the right answer, because I believed the sign to be quite similar to this one,

which, if you think about it, could mean this same thing. Think about it. The arrow moving in a curvy direction denotes a curvy road. But he car moving in a curvy direction could also mean that. And let's be real here: If conditions are slippery or icy, don't you think I know that already? Is that sign going to turn what otherwise would have been, in my mind, a dry sunny day, into an icy, slippery rainy day?

Alright. So I failed that test, because there were several other questions like that.

But, I mean, come on! Constitutional issues aside, a written test to ascertain whether or not you know how to drive already should not be difficult. It's not like I'm taking the test to get into the grad school of driving. Driving is pretty fucking common sense oriented. It's mostly a matter of, don't hit shit. That school bus over there? Don't hit it. Pedestrians? Other cars? Don't hit them. Go when the light is green and stop when it's red. Look at the speed limit and stay below 10 mph above it. Turn off the car after you park it. Shit like that. Minnesota doesn't believe I can do all of this.

I told the gentlemen at the DMV, who by the way, were really nice and sympathetic, that this test was bullshit. I explained to them that I spent my formative driving years maneuvering the streets of Manhattan. Do you have any idea how difficult is for a 17 year old with his permit to drive around New York City? Crazy Taxis going 90 on tight two way streets, fucking delivery bikers everywhere, no right on reds, changing lanes can always mean disaster, constant construction, etc. etc. After that, I think I can take on LaSalle at 4 in the afternoon and parallel park by a lake. Minnesota doesn't believe I can do all of this.

We now move to the motorcycle permit test.

As above noted, I do not own a motorcycle, I own a scooter. But my scooter is just powerful enough, engine-wise, to be technically classified as a motorcycle.

(50 cc's and below is considered moped, above that is considered motorcycle, for which you need a motorcycle license. I do not even know what "cc's" mean, but whatever. My scooter is 80 cc's.)

So I took this written test right after failing the drivers test. To be fair, I should have studied for this one. But I figured that since I'd ridden a scooter before, had been driving for a long time, and all of it is basically common sense, I'd be fine. Ah. Ha. Ha. Nope.

This test, as well, was riddled with specifics. Measurements of safety in feet, when to use front versus back breaks, and others.

But the more frustrating element of the motorcycle permit test was that HALF THE QUESTIONS pertained to MOTORCYCLE GANGS. Motorcycle gangs, folks.

How do you stagger riders in the gang?

Do you put more experienced riders in the front or the back of the pack?

How do you make turns?

When do you go into single file configuration?

I wanted to stop the test in the middle, stand up, and yell at the administrators, "What is this, an audition for "Easy Rider?" I don't have a motorcycle! I have a fucking scooter! I plan on using said scooter to go to the grocery store and back. I have no immediate plans to join a motorcycle gang, or even a scooter gang for that matter! If I do do that, I will continue to take this bullshit exam, but otherwise, first blow me then give me a fucking permit to drive my little scooter down your little fucking Minnesota streets!"

I didn't say this. I just failed the test. So now I have neither a MN Drivers' license nor can legally ride my scooter in Minnesota. Great. The good news is I can return and take the test once per day, if necessary. I guess I'll fucking study in a way that doesn't include, you know, actually driving, which I'll note again, I already have a license to do.

The final goal stated at the top I was able to accomplish quite easily and quickly, so thanks, DMV. Thanks for a whole lot of nothing that took a whole lot of energy and frustration.

The great, proud state of Minnesota.

Thanks for reading today.


  1. Thank you for not joining gangs or mowing down children. ~Citizen

  2. Fabulous writing. I had to take my test today because of a recent move to MN. After 16 years of driving, I passed barely with an 80%. One more wrong and I would have failed the test. Mind blowing.

  3. NJ used to be the same. A friend of mine kept his Ohio license for the first 10 years of living in NJ because of the bother with the written test. Sometimes budget cuts help: NJ finally eliminated the written.