The DMV in San Luis Obispo is trying to kill me

December 12, 2023

Dell Franklin

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “The ballplayer’s Son” is currently on Amazon.

Preparing to take the DMV written test for the fourth time, my morning was hellishly anxiety-ridden, a period so stressful I felt I might end up a raving basket case in the ER, and, since I was in San Luis Obispo, a hospital was within crawling distance. In fact, one of these days an ambulance is going to pull up to the DMV and roll some poor decrepit geriatric out in a gurney—strapped down—after grappling with the fucking written test that is forced upon seniors after they turn 70.

In embarrassment and disgrace after already flunking the test three times, I had to start the process all over again in the notorious DMV hellhole.

During this aftermath of abject failure and humiliation, the pressure and stress to pass this viciously tricky test mounted by the day, so much so I refused to look at the DMV booklet I had already poured over for hours, and in fact hid it under a sheaf of papers and magazines on a bookcase across the room in my living quarters so as not to be reminded of my failure and further beat me down into a demoralized and near psychotic wreck dreading the next test.

My confidence was shattered. I had two months and three more tries to pass the test. The first month passed and I did not dare retrieve the despised booklet.

I was bitter that some questions were not even Iinthe goddam booklet and had nothing to do with driving. I had not had a ticket since the ’80s and was seething with more and more dread and hatred as I realized soon I would have to read the damn booklet all over again and also go on line and take repeated DMV tests.

If I flunked the test three more times, it probably meant I should call relatives and have them find a place for me where people could keep an eye on me. My entire life of playing tennis, cooking my own tasty meals, hitting the Schooner’s Wharf and sipping vodka, and generally enjoying my deck, at 80, would end.

Two weeks until the test, I uncovered the booklet and placed it on my front table where I read and eat and watch TV and loll on a recliner—under a magazine. Yes, having it exposed constantly would further rattle my sanity.

Seven weeks passed, which meant I had to get moving! I might have to take the test three times in one day if I flunked it, and did not want to imagine what I turned into if this happened.

No, I did not want to face such a harrowing situation and was filled with even more hatred of the assholes creating these sneaky tests in some bureaucratic boardroom—the worst kind of slimy, sleazy, officious techie geeks.

So, the night before the test (I had five days until my time was up) I went through tests on ine. In the morning, I spent another 45 minutes on tests, flunking one. Then I spent 45 minutes in the Cayucos beach parking lot studying the booklet. I got halfway through it. Then, at the DMV, I spent another 45 minutes studying in my car, finishing the booklet.

By the time I got to the booth where you take the test on a screen, my hands were shaking like somebody who had been drunk for a week and just woke up. My heart was beating too fast. Then, my thumbprint wouldn’t take on the screen and the most patient woman in the world (an employee) helped me get to the test while I gritted my teeth and muttered my damnation of the DMV for forcing me to be in such a teeth-chattering state.

I started the test with no hope, but then, after missing one, I realized this test so far had no trick questions. My fingers were shaking so badly I had to work to check the correct circles. I went on a winning streak and suddenly the screen lit up and announced I had passed—CONGRATULATIONS!

My mouth was bone dry. My heart beat like  a parakeet’s. I was hyperventilating. Sweating profusely at the armpits. Had a blazing headache on the right temple. My legs were jelly. I turned around and hollered at a woman behind a cove of desks, “Where do I go if I passed?”

“Get in line,” she said.

I got in line. I did not feel relief. I glanced at the booths where several fellow seniors were retaking the test. My heart refused to slow down and my hands continued to shake, and then a woman employee told me I’d failed, but another employee, a guy, motioned me over and began working on his computer.

“Failed?” I shouted. “The damn thing said I passed!”

This guy knows me. He’s dealt with two of my past failures. “Relax, Mr. Franklin,” he said calmly, as if used to such situations. “You passed.”

I walked out in a daze, still shaking and hyperventilating. I went to Trader Joe’s and Big 5 and eventually slowed down, and, on the way home, played some Beach Boys.

(An article in the LA Times a month ago featured furious seniors complaining about the DMV written test, and evidently, starting in 2024, it will be made easier for seniors).


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Sounds like a danger to everyone else on the road imo! Catch a ride, take a bus, ride a bike like the city so desperately wants you to. There are other options than being behind the wheel. This seems more about ego…

Ricky2 Please address the Policies, events and arguments, not the person.