Red tape may be the single most thing I abhor in everyday life. From the age of eighteen, each new liberating experiences is doused in protocol, suffocated by form filling and smothered in red tape.
Being in my twenties in the noughties in Ireland meant I was born into a society where it was easier secure a mortgage, on a house selling for Eu. 200,000 with an annual salary of Eu. 28,500, than it was to, obtain a driving license, then tax, insure and NCT your first car. I remember the farcical scenario well. In order be able to drive any car, you must first hold a provisional driving license, you were also not allowed drive with this license unless there was a qualified driver in the passenger seat at all times, to get insurance on your first car, you should have driving experience and be a named driver on a previous policy, not always possible. To tax the car, you needed insurance, to insure the car you needed experience, to gain experience you needed the provisional license, to tax the car you needed an NCT, to the drive to the NCT centre you needed insurance, to driver alone you needed a full license, to get a full license you needed to pass the driving test for which there was a long wait. Buying the car was no problem.
My day had come, it was my driving test, I was nervous but I remembered the advice someone kindly offered me. On the day of the test, have a baby seat in the back of the car, thus implying you are a mother, therefore a responsible twenty one year and not the devil-may-care come-day go-day airy-fairy- waif you may seem on first impressions. I followed the advice and placed the bulky baby seat in the back of my 12 year-old- imported Nissan Micra, (complete with colour coded bumpers and Bose speakers). I proudly completed the three point turn at the top of Sarsfield Road, in two go’s and one hand. Confident that my driving prowess was being appreciated by the grey-haired, grey-suited and grey-faced instructor, who continued to place ticks on his clipboard even as we pulled in speedily to the driving test centre. My cocky decline started when I heard those immortal words, “Denise, you are a lovely girl………..” I had heard these words many times before, from teachers, from ex-boyfriends, at the interview for nursing and now at the driving test centre. He failed me. Pouting I took the baby-seat from the back of the car and re-opened the rules of the road book. (This was before it was an app).
Three long months later with a more humble attitude, I passed the driving test and from that day on, I embraced all my bad habits, unaware that in the future I would be living in Abu Dhabi and had to seek a Emirate issued license, I thought the next driving test wouldn’t be until I was eighty or something. Happy Days.
This week, in Abu Dhabi, I had to get a driving license. The long fingered approach had worked for almost a year and it was now imminent. My bad habits etched into my every day driving so deep that I wasn’t sure I would pass the test. Handing over my paperwork in the “ladies section” to the cloaked assistant and handing jelly-tots to my increasing impatient toddler, I felt the stress levels rise. She muttered behind the black chiffon, he roared at the top of his lungs. She handed me a form, he tore it in half. She asked me to face the camera, he threw jelly tots at it. Beaten down and weary, she said, “two hundred” assuming she meant dirham’s and not jelly-tots I handed over the bail, with a look of “please release me” in my eyes and Hey Presto, there it was, without practical, theory or eye test, my driving license, a single card complete with my photograph and a shiny government hologram. So much for the empty baby-seat, a real live kicking toddler is what you need to bypass the red tape!