After my first failed attempt to get my scooter license, I returned to the Hsinchu Motor Vehicles Office a week later. Thankfully I didn’t need to do the written test again. Once completed and you receive a passing grade, the written test is valid for one year. I paid the $125 NTD fee and prepared myself mentally for my second attempt at mastering the road test. This time I was obviously shaken up. I could still see the fading chalk outline of my deceased confidence at the beginning of the 7-second track from the week before. My hands were actually shaking, making it difficult for me to take the photos for this blog.
Once again, I passed the first three parts of the test, this time with one slight issue. I couldn’t stop thinking about the final part of the track, so I actually forgot to stop signaling to the left for most of the road test. However, I made it to the 7-second track, took a deep breath, and revved the engine. Both wheels went over the sensor bar! In my excitement I went a little too fast, concentrating on the boundaries. I saw the ending coming up too quickly and I still had a few seconds to go, so I slowed down. My scooter started to wobble, I started to sweat, and I could see the tester shuffling to the edge of his seat. I watched as 7 seconds appeared on the light board and I exited the track. Even the tester, the same guy from the week before, stood up and pumped his fist into the air in excited approval as the whole world seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
I received my passing grade and skipped back toward the office. I watched as the last person to take the test also passed and then proceeded to lose control and almost drive straight into a pole. Yet another hazard on the road. I went back to the office on the second floor to receive my golden ticket, but there was one more hoop for me to jump through: the lectures. The lectures are close to 2 hours long and all in Chinese. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it that day as it was the last lecture for the day and the class would extend beyond the time I needed to be at work.
I returned a couple days later, coffee in hand, and fully expecting two hours of an advanced Chinese lesson that I wasn’t ready for. What I experienced was actually much worse.
The lectures are done in two parts, one part is a video explaining the necessity of being careful on the road and how easy it is to spill your brains across the pavement. Then they show videos of actual brains spilling across the pavement. Thankfully, whenever there are brains they blur that part of the video. But bloody knees and people going under cars and large trucks are all perfectly visible. The second lecture is done with an instructor, and he mostly just shows videos of people talking on cell phones, carrying large loads on their scooters, making illegal turns, speeding, and/or not wearing your helmet properly, followed by a horrific crash.
While I thought this was old but necessary news as I see these accidents all the time and have made me a very cautious driver, the others in the room clearly needed a good dose of gore to remind them to slow the hell down. And signal, dammit! During the first lecture, a guy in the room yawned obnoxiously to let us all know how much he thought this was a waste of his time and read a book through the entire video. He got up halfway through to open the blinds and look out the window. He came back to his seat, tripped on the chair leg, and almost fell over the other side. He noisily pushed his desk into the middle of the room to try to catch himself. How did he possibly pass the driving test?! You can’t get this far without passing both tests! I’m going to trade in my scooter for an indestructible bubble or giant hamster ball. (I don’t have a photo of him falling across the room, but I do have a link to one of my favourite photographers on Instagram. This is how I imagine the guy would have looked like if the desk hadn’t saved him: click here.)
Basically what I took away from the lectures are these two simple rules:
1. Everyone’s an idiot.
2. Don’t be one of them.
Don’t open your doors without looking. Wear a helmet and buckle up the strap properly. Signal and check that it’s safe before turning. Stop to help people who are involved in a collision or crash. Don’t weave in and out of traffic. Don’t run through red lights. Don’t drink and drive (Taiwan has a 0 alcohol tolerance, by the way, and police take it very seriously). Don’t be an idiot.
Oddly enough, they missed a very important one: Don’t drive or ride while talking or texting on your cell phone. Don’t be an idiot.
During the lectures, they will take your money, process your information, and print off a beautiful little piece of paper with your photo glued to it that says you’re legally allowed to ride a scooter in Taiwan. So once you finish watching terrible scooter and car crashes for two hours they hand you your brand new scooter license. I was expecting them to say “Good luck out there,” or something to that effect.
Instead of feeling excited to finally receive my license, I just felt sick to my stomach and on edge. Two hours of watching that stuff changes a guy. I felt relief for getting through it all, but after that I just longed for some public transportation.
So … yay?
Photos and What You Need (coming soon)