And you thought your local DMV was bad…

March 1, 2004 2:04 pm Published by

When I moved to the Outer Banks in 2004, I went to get the NC driver’s license. A nice polite lady told me the rules, checked my eyes and handed me the test. After 30 minutes, she said that I passed and that if I wanted to wait until one of the instructors comes back, I could go for a driving test. I couldn’t believe what I’ve heard, and happily, I said, yes. I took the driving test within 30 minutes; it was 5-minute drive around Manteo. The instructor was very quiet, only told me where to go and asked me three questions about the signs we passed. When we got back in the parking lot, she said I drove well and that I passed the driving test. We went inside; they took my picture and printed my driver’s license. I was thrilled with the services and the way they treated me. However, there were so many people in the waiting room complaining that they didn’t get it all done during their lunch break. That’s when I thought I should share my story. They don’t know how lucky they are to get their driver’s license in a day.

In Kosovo you have to be 18 to get a driver’s license. We have to go through an extensive medical checkup to ensure that we’re OK to drive. The worse one is a psychiatrist; they make you start doubting yourself. We have to learn and past first aid test. Then spend 30 hours learning to drive. During the 90’s there only a few Kosovar women that drove cars. I could count three. One of them was my elementary school teacher that I adored and was a role model for me. It wasn’t the culture that prevented women from getting driver’s license, it was the corruptions of the police. Still, I was determined I was going to get it. Lucky, my father encouraged me to try and was willing to pay for it. The registration, class fees and books came to a total of 530 Deutch Marks (approx $1100) a hefty price tag for any middle-class family.
My Kosovar Albanian instructor put a lot of effort into teaching me to drive, and I studied a lot for the written test. After a month, I felt I was ready to take the written test.
Out of the 50 candidates that showed up for the test, there was only one other woman. Everybody looked at us like what the hell do you think you are doing here?
The test was monitored by a Serbian police officer from the Traffic Unit, a Serbian Traffic Inspector from the municipality, the driving school director and one of the Kosovar Albanian driving instructors. The Serbian traffic officer, who could barely move from all the weapons he was carrying, told us the rules for the test and set the timer. I opened the test and went through every page before I started answering the questions. At first glance, I didn’t think the test was that difficult.
I finished quickly and was told to wait outside until all the tests were graded. The officer said he would post two lists on the door, one for those who passed and one of those who failed.
After two hours the lists finally came out, and I was shocked to see that I failed. I scored 70 points, failing the test by 2 points. I couldn’t believe it because I was so sure I’d passed. I went inside and asked them to show me the test because I wanted to see where I made mistakes.
The driving school director refused to show me the test and told me to get out of his office. The Serbian officer heard our discussion and came storming back into the office. He demanded 500 DM (approx $1000) from me to get my driving license. Surprised, I looked at him and said, “You will never get any money from me like that so don’t even try it.”
“Then you will never get your driving license and get a hell out you stupid, naive girl,” he replied rudely, pointing his gun at me. I wasn’t scared but wasn’t going to take any chances of getting hurt.
I studied even harder for the next test. The night before the test I had a dream that I failed the test and that I got beaten up by the Serbian police officer. This time was worst. I failed with only 68 points. I asked them to show me the test again: I was hard headed and wouldn’t leave their office until they showed me my mistakes. My driving instructor invited the Serbian police officer to go have a drink. A Rakia (licorices flavored liquor, similar to Ouzo) so the driving school director could show me the test. There was supposed to be only one answer for each test question, but somebody had put a checkmark on extra answers. It was evident that someone else had marked my test because the pen color was completely different than the one I used. I politely told the driving school director that those were not my answers and pointed out the obvious ink color. He didn’t care what I had to say. Abruptly he told me I failed and to get out. I didn’t want to leave, but unfortunately, the Serbian policeman and my instructor came back and saw me arguing with the director. The officer grabbed me by my shoulder and pulled me outside. I threatened to sue him and mentioned a famous Serbian lawyer’s name. He laughed and said, “Oh yes, who are you going to complain to, your dear Mr. Rugova? Or perhaps to a Serbian judge? Go ahead; please do hire that lawyer you will only contribute to us with some more money.”
I was angry, and I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. That was the first time that I felt that angry and helpless. I felt bad for wasting my father’s money; however, I was determined to get the driver’s license.
The next test was going to be in two weeks. I had a dream that I passed the test and I hoped my dream would come true. This time a different Serbian police officer was monitoring the test, but the municipality Traffic and Albanian instructors were the same. The Serbian police officer just sat in front of us during the test and didn’t say anything. I finished the test, went outside and waited for the results. I was on the passing list with 74 points. I was so relieved and happy. Afterward, the Serbian policeman came up to me and said, “Congratulation, we got half of the amount of money we wanted to get from you”.
I looked at him and said, “Well at least that money didn’t go into your and your coworker’s pocket.”
“It went to my police department,” he told me. “Every time we reach the amount we need, we all get a raise, so thank you.” Words cannot describe how mad I was. But before I walked out the door, he said, “If you don’t want to go through that problem again you can give me 250 DM, and you will have your driver’s license in your hand by tomorrow.”
“No thanks,” I told him. “I am not ready to contribute to your raise again.”
“I see you still didn’t learn your lesson,” he said darkly. “I will get it anyway, it’s just little bit at a time.”
I left without saying another word. I was happy for finally passing the test but mad at what the policeman told me. It seemed like he knew about me and the confrontations I had with the other Serbian police officer. Apparently, I’d gotten on their Cerna Lista, the Black List. I knew that the driving test wasn’t going to be any easier than written test but now really believed I was going to get my license.

My driving test was the next day. I had to do the polygon first then if I passed that I would have to drive around the city. I was surprised to see how many people showed up for the driving test; especially the ones I knew had not passed the written test a day before. Obviously, they’d paid bribes to the Serbian police. Of the thirty-something candidates on hand to take the test, I was the only woman and I was not comfortable.
I had a feeling, I wasn’t going to pass the polygon but at least they couldn’t fail any candidates unfairly because there were so many witnesses around. I passed the first part of the test, which consisted of reaching a certain speed in a short distance and stopping directly in front of a white line. Then I did a three-point turn between traffic cones and did well with that too, but I failed the parallel parking part of the test. The cones were set so closely together, I didn’t know how anybody could park between them.
I hoped to avoid another confrontation with the Serbian policeman but of course, he had to make some comments.
“Whose fault is it this time?” he mocked.
“Mine,” I admitted, “And yours for making the parking space so narrow. I don’t believe you could pass it either.” He laughed and was saying something else, but I just kept walking away and tried not to let him make me mad.
The next test was in two weeks. I signed up for two hours of practice before the real test. I had a dream that I failed again: thus far my dreams had been a pretty good indicator of what was going to happen, so I was sure I was going to fail once again. During the practice, I’d put the cones as close together as I could so I could try parking in a tight spot. When it came time for the real test, I passed and the Serbian officer started clapping as if he was happy for me, but I knew he was just making fun of me.
I was the third candidate in line to take the final part of the test. I had four people in the car with me: the director of the driving school who sat in the front seat and in the back seat was the Serbian police officer, a Serbian inspector from City’s Traffic Department and the Kosovar Albanian instructor.
I wasn’t nervous or scared even though the Serbian officer and I had confrontations during the written test. He told me where to go, and I did all right initially. The traffic was very heavy and there were a lot of careless pedestrians walking around.
We went around the Urgent Care Clinic on the one-way road and he threw his cigarette pack out of the window and told me to pull over. In front of me was the sign indicating there was no stopping or parking at any time. I pointed out the sign to him and said I wasn’t allowed to park there. He put the barrel of his machine gun on my shoulder and in a very mean voice told me, “Uradi kako ti kazen”, “Do it as I tell you to do,” so I did. He made the Albanian instructor get out of the car to pick up his cigarettes. After he got his cigarettes, he told me to put the car in reverse and drive backward.
“Sir,” I said, “we are on the one-way road and driving in reverse is not permitted plus cars are coming behind us, we could get into an accident”. I said it as nice as I could trying not to sound a smart-alecky, but to make the point that I knew the rules. Angrily he put his gun on my shoulder again and told me to drive reverse.
“I see you want to make me fail this test, but you can’t make me break the law,” I told him. He cursed at me in Serbian and told me to drive back to the base, but I didn’t want to drive them back with his machine gun on my shoulder. I got out of the car, slammed the door and left them in the middle of the road with impatience drivers honking behind them. I walked away without looking back.

The next driving test was in two weeks and I practiced the polygon with one of my friend’s car because he had the same type of car as the driving school. The night before the test I had a dream that I passed the test. I was excited to try the test again. Once again my dream proved to be a reliable gauge of the future. I passed the driving test and there was a nice Bosnian policeman who didn’t ruin my day. In the end, I wound up spending 690 DM (about $1,300) even though I could have bribed the Serbian officer with 500 DM and avoid all the trouble.
The next morning I had my driver’s license in my pocket. I drove around the city with my friends and went out in the evening to celebrate. I still enjoy driving, and I only got one illegal parking ticket in my life so far.

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