The biggest obstacle facing you as you intend to renew your driver’s license is passing the prueba psicotécnica, which is a dreadfully long-sounding term which seems like a test to see your potential of going postal out in the middle of traffic jam, but is none other than a mild medical check-up to ensure your senses are more or less doing what they are supposed to.
Things looked a little shaky at first. I tried calling the clinic nearest my apartment but the number had been disconnected, which was not encouraging. So, I walked over noticed a big “For Rent” sign on the window where the place should have been. That was an even less encouraging. The doorman gave a calling card of a place not far from there where I could get everything done.
I gave them a ring and they told me I could stop by and do the test whenever I wanted and that no appointment was necessary, so I went over in the evening and found I was the only client there. It was nearly closing time, but they said that was not an issue.
The woman at the desk took down my information as well as a digital photo and then the doctor, or medical assistant of some kind, I really don’t know what her position was, sent me down to the end of the hall for the physical.
She was a sweet elderly woman. Ii was a little like having my kindergarten teacher revise my vision. She was so constructive and reinforced all of my correct answers with near applause. I sat down at a chair on the far end of the room and she directed my attention to one of those vision charts with letters used for these things. She told me to close my left eye and pointed to a letter the size of a billboard and said, “Now, read this one for me.”
“H” I responded firmly.
“Muuuy bien!” Muy bien?? What was she talking about? I would have been deemed legally blind if I got that one wrong. She continued. “And this one?” It was slightly smaller in size but still pretty close to a plate.
“Muy bien!!! You are doing a very good job.” And so on. She moved on to the other eye and we had the same results. I was half-expecting a lollipop at the end.
Then she stepped to the right and made me focus on three circles that went from up to down on the wall in a way that even the dimmest of patients could identify as a traffic light. She explained that she was going to check if I could distinguish colors. I said all right she had my permission. Then she commenced.
The first circle to light up was at the bottom. It appeared green, the way you would expect. I said, “verde.”
“Muy bien!” She responded with a thrill. “Now, this one.”
It was the top one, and the color that came on was consistent with the set up of your standard traffic light. “Rojo” I called out.
“Muy bien! There’s only one left. Here it goes.” I was tempted to yell out the color before it showed, but I didn’t want to spoil the fun her. When it did, I said, “yellow” in Spanish and was greeted with another cheer for my success.
We had completed the eye test.
I then moved to another desk where they took my blood pressure and mentioned that it was nice and low. That indicated that I would not go berserk on the highway.
So far, so good.
The woman led me back down the hall and into another final room where a machine awaited me to try my eye-hand coordination. I remembered this one from the first time I had to be subjected to this exam. It was tricky and I knew it. Would ten years of aging make it only trickier or would my recent sessions with Ninja Fruit prove I was fine tuned to take on the challenge?
The activity is called the “Bimanual Test” and it consists of holding onto two handles which can be turned from left to right to control the movement of a two balls that move on a screen. The balls are supposed to stay within the boundaries of two paths. The paths can curve inward and then outward. The combinations are endless. One path on the right can stay steady while the one on the left can begin to curve. Or vice-versa. Or both at the same time. Any time the ball touches the edge of the path is buzzes. Loudly. If any of you can recall the classic board game “Operation”, it is something along those lines. The only difference is that the future of your driving for the next ten years is on the line. So there is some added pressure.
They give you a little practice session to get a feel for the machine, which helps, but I can assure you it hardly measures up to the real thing. The paths slide here and there a little, but it’s all fairly reasonable. Once the official test begins, however, they start going all over the place. It was nuts. My muscles tensed up making matters worse. I was jerking the machine around. There was buzzing ringing out all over the place. I could sense failure looming.
On top of that, the nice old medical assistant wasn’t saying anything and I was getting discouraged. That is, of course, the problem with too much positive reinforcement. Before you know it, you can’t get enough, and I kept saying in my head, “Lady, tell me I’m doing a good job! Tell me I’m doing a good job! Where’s the old ‘muy bien!’?”
Well, it never came. But eventually the test came to an end. That was when she approached, looked over my shoulder and said, “Let’s see how you did.”
“Horribly,” I replied dejectedly.
The figure came up on the screen. It read “58 errors”.
“That is wonderful! You did a really good job!”
What, are you kidding me? I hit the side 58 times? I ran over the side of the road and killed dozens of pedestrians and she was saying I had done well?
“But it says 58 errors.”
“Oh, you can have up to 8,000, don’t worry.”
8,000?!!! Was that a true scientifically-based figure? You could have 8,000 errors and then be allowed to get behind the wheel and take it through a city? That would have been like driving those balls off the path for the entire time. Just what were they testing here? I didn’t want t know. If she said so, I wasn’t going to worry.
I said, “Thanks, mom.” Got my coat and walked back to the reception desk. She informed the other woman that I needed eyewear, but since I have been wearing glasses since I was twelve, I hardly found that as a critical discovery. Plus, I was wearing them throughout the test, so I can’t give her that much credit. But she was such a nice woman, such a very nice woman. I just wished she had painted a star on the top of my hand for me to show my family when I got home.
The rest of the procedure was pretty straight-forward. I paid.
Then they gave me a piece of paper that served as a temporary permit until the real license arrived. It could take up to two months, but probably a lot less. And in the meantime, I could drive.
I was off the hook for another ten years.