Tuesday, October 18
My appointment to take the written test is scheduled for 8:00am, so I call an Uber driver nice and early and we arrive at the driving school at 7:30am - plenty of time to spare. I walk up to the front door. The CORRECT door. The door you can actually get to because it actually has stairs leading up to it. But first, of course I had to snap a picture for you all of the other door that threw me off last week.
After snapping this picture, I walk up to the correct door, give it a pull and...it's locked. Oh, okay, they must not open until right at 8:00am, then. I'll just wait.
Well. It's hot. Like real hot. It might be only 7:30 in the morning, but it's already pushing 90 degrees and the humidity is making me feel like I'm sitting in a warm bathtub in the middle of a steam room, and there's no escaping it. Plus there's no shade to wait in. Full sun exposure. I walk up to the door a few times, trying it again, just to make sure they haven't unlocked it yet. I feel like I might see some figures moving around inside, but I can't be sure because the glass door is coated with a very dark sun protection screen. I figure they must be the employees and I don't want to look like I'm being pushy, so I give it a few tries, but not too many. At about 7:45, I finally give up and go sit on some nearby steps, with the sun beating down on me.
At about 7:49, I can't take the heat anymore. The back of my shirt is soaked through and I can feel the moisture literally dripping down my arms. I look down the way (past the No Stairs Door) and realize there is a QNB ATM inside of a little tiny room, attached to the outside of the building. And the little tiny room has a little tiny air conditioner in it! So I go into the little tiny room and decide to wait in there until 8:00. I get some cash out with my shiny new bank card. I check my teeth in the security mirror on the ATM. I reach my arms out as far as I can to see if I can touch both walls at the same time (almost!). I gaze out the glass doors at the view of the construction across the street. I look at the overflowing trashcan, bored and curious to know what other people have done in this little tiny room to pass the time.
At 8:01, I exit my frosty little haven and walk up to the front door again and give it a yank. Hmmm. Still locked. I stand next to the door for a few minutes, then try again. Still locked.
Now it's about 8:10 and I'm starting to feel like something's just not quite right. Why are all these cars parked out front if no one is inside? Why is no one else out here with me, trying the door and/or waiting to get in? Why did they schedule my test for 8:00am if they don't even open the doors until after 8:00?
That's when a man walks up to me (I can only assume he'd been sitting in his car watching me for 40-plus minutes by this time). He says, "Mam. Door. In back." And he points to the side of the building. So I walk around the side of the building to the back, and sure enough. Double doors. And lots of PEOPLE milling about outside of them. Going in. Coming out. Chatting. Laughing. Talking. Living their lives like these doors have always been here for them to come and go as freely as they would like. It feels like I've walked into an alternate universe - like this happy little world has always existed back here behind the building and I've just been waiting, hot and lonely and confused, out in the FRONT of the building, for my whole life.
I open the double doors to go in and there are probably 60 women sitting in the waiting room. The same waiting room that is attached to the door I've been trying to open for the last 45 minutes. And you can see OUT of that sun shaded door just fine. From almost any spot in the waiting room, you can see out that door into the brightness. So I'm pretty sure these 60 women have been watching me walk up to that door and trying to open it repeatedly for the last 45 minutes. Awesome.
I go to the number-taking counter to try and get a number. A very confusing process on it's own as the guy who pushes the "Take a Number" button for you (I call him the Take a Number Button Pusher Guy) speaks little to no english and I'm confused about whether I'm even SUPPOSED to be taking a number, since I have an 8:00am appointment. For which I'm now 10 minutes LATE. So I just hand him my paperwork and wait to see if he will deem me worthy of a number. Take a Number Button Pusher Guy looks at it, yells over to another guy, who comes over to look at it with him. Two more guys come over, and the 4 of them engage in a passionate argument in arabic about what to do with me. Finally, Take a Number Button Pusher Guy pushes the button and hands me my number. I'm number A041. I look up at the screen. It's on number B007. Hmmm. Okay. I turn back and briefly consider questioning Take a Number Button Pusher Guy about this, but quickly realize that this would be useless and he seems a bit excitable today anyways, so I go find a spot to sit and wait for the alphabet to come back around from B to A.
They finally call out number 41 ("Nimba foooty-on") and I am led into this little room with a bunch of computers. A man who is overseeing the computer room (I call him Confusing Gestures Guy) says something I don't understand and gestures at me to spin in a circle, jump twice in the air and then climb along the windowsill to the chair at Computer 1. I interpret this to mean that my computer is Computer 1, so I go and sit at Computer 1 and click "Start". I begin clicking through the road signs and quickly realize that I don't even recognize about half of these signs. I've been studying THE WRONG THING. I had a small sheet of road signs I'd been studying for the past several weeks, but about 75 percent of the actual road signs were not on that sheet! We're talking crescent moon symbols (apparently that's for "Ambulance"), blank circles with a bunch of lines slashed through them ("End of no Prohibited zone"...?!), camels ("Compulsory Animal Crossing"), all the random things you could think of and more!
Feeling even more flustered now, I rush through the test. After clicking on the last answer, a big red box immediately pops up. "YOU FAILED!" I stare at the angry red box on the screen, trying to fight back the stubborn tears that are clouding my vision. I manage to compose myself, get up from my seat and walk up to Confusing Gestures Guy. He looks at his computer, takes my paperwork and puts a slash through a box, then hands it back to me and says something I don't understand. I make a guess that he's gesturing for me to leave, so I walk up to the door and try to open it. It won't open. I try again. Stuck. Pull on the handle a little harder. Still stuck. I stand there, staring at the stupid door, picturing myself trapped in this room full of my own failure for the entire rest of the day. That's when a lady walks up behind me and reaches past me to push a button that reads, "PUSH TO RELEASE THE OPEN TO DOOR". I start to follow her through the door, but she turns around and says, "No. You wait. You supposed to wait here. For him." And she points to Confusing Gestures Guy. I try to explain to her that Confusing Gestures Guy has already gestured for me to leave, but she doesn't understand, so I just stand there watching the door close in my face. I turn around and head back towards Confusing Gestures Guy, who again indicates that I should leave the room. So I turn back around and push the "PUSH TO RELEASE THE OPEN TO DOOR" button and walk through the door back into the waiting room.At this point, I'm beyond flustered, so I put my sunglasses on to hide my tears of frustration, disappointment and embarrassment. I walk back up to the counter and hand my papers to a lady. She looks down at my papers, and writes down a date for me to come back and re-take the written test.
I swallow my pride, clear my throat and walk back up to the Number Button Pusher Guy's counter. I ask him where I can buy a book to study, and he tells me to walk over to the other building and I can buy one there.
So I walk through the sand in the steam-room-heat over to the next building and buy my study book. Which was a surprisingly painless experience, other than the fact that the cashier REALLY wanted me to give him exact change and I didn't have exact change, which seems to be a reoccurring thing here. Everyone wants exact change, down to the riyal (one riyal equals about 27 cents). But here's the thing, businesses of Doha: If you never have "change" to give back to your customers, then how do you expect your customers to ever have "change" so that they can give you exact "change" when they pay? It's like there's just no "change" in this whole country! Anyways, book in hand, along with some rare "change" that the cashier begrudgingly handed over, I call for an Uber driver to take me back home.
Back home, I crack open my study book and proceed to spend the whole next week studying Chaper 3: Road Signs.
Fast forward to yesterday morning, when I was scheduled to re-take the written test. I call a driver, arrive to the driving school with 5 minutes to spare, get my number from Number Button Pusher Guy (did he actually have a hint of a smile on his face today?), and sit down to wait for my number to be called. The number screen still reads "B007". My number is called right away. I enter the computer room and Confusing Gestures Guy indicates that I am at Computer 3 today. I sit down at Computer 3 and breeze through the test. There are 2 signs I have NEVER seen before (yellow squares, one plain and one with a slash through it), so I make my best guess, and I must have guessed right because after clicking on my last answer, a green box pops up on the screen. "YOU PASSED!" Phew.
I get up from my seat and walk over to Confusing Gestures Guy. He looks at his computer and then gestures for me to spin in a circle and follow him over to this big picture of the inside of a car engine. I skip the spin in a circle part (I got this down now!) and follow him over to the picture. He points to various parts of the engine (Shawn has been grilling me on this for the past 2 weeks now because I don't know an oil dipstick from an exhaust manifold) and I have to tell him what he's pointing to. I know I got battery, dipstick and wiper fluid correct. I'm not sure about the others, but I guess it was good enough for him because he smiles and gestures for me to walk to the opposite end of the room, spin in a circle, jump once in the air, and leave the room. I proudly walk up to the door and push the PUSH TO RELEASE THE OPEN TO DOOR button. I hand my paperwork to the lady behind the counter. After a bit of confusion and a short encounter with Number Button Pusher Guy (I thought she was telling me to go take a number so I could do the Road Test that same day), I was sent back over to her area and she summoned me to come up and take my paperwork back. She had written down the date I'm scheduled to take the Road Test. Next Tuesday, 7:00am.
To be continued...!