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Archive for September, 2010

Now that we’ve been here a few weeks, I’m going to just come out and say it.

Americans are mean.

And then, just when I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of being honked at for no good reason, yelled at for no good reason, and cussed at for no good reason, I go to my local Whole Foods, Starbucks or any other consumer-driven market place and experience the best customer service I’ve ever known…ever.

So my only conclusion is that Americans are using up all their friendly mojo at work and saving their haggard snobbishness for their day’s off.

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Mmmmm…. America

After securing both a new car, and a new home, we decided to enjoy some fun in the sun on the Labor Day long weekend.

We grabbed our swimsuits and drove to the coastal town of Santa Cruz, home to a famous beach boardwalk that includes a vibrant and grimy amusement park.

I noticed a food stand offering nothing less than deep fried Twinkies. For real. As if the Twinkie isn’t bad enough on it’s own, you go and coat it in batter and then deep fry it in oil. It’s estimated to contain a whopping 425 calories of creamy, fluffy goodness.

And with that, I’m well on my way to fitting in with the “50% overweight” part of America (and busting out of my jeans).

Good grief… my enrolment with the Apple fitness centre can’t come soon enough!

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Operation Drivers License has been one gong show after another.

It started with my written exam. After standing in line (out the door) to get my number, I proceeded to wait…and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Four hours later, my number was called.

I’m not even being facetious. I’m serious.  Thank you California budget cuts.

Look on the bright side, while waiting four hours in line, I got to study the Driver's Handbook for valuable information like this.

And to top it off, I was definitely on the wrong side of the tracks in San Jose. I mean, every time Tim drove up in the minivan, he was half-expecting to get shot and I actually caught one (of the many) tattooed thugs taking a video of me with his camera phone. Like I was that much of an oddity?

Yes, yes I was.

At one point, I realized that I was the only white woman in a room of 200 people. Again, I am not exaggerating to make a point. I counted.

If dude can take a video of me, I can post photos of him on my blog.

When my number was finally called, I continued to wait another 20 minutes while the nice gentleman entered my info into the DMV system not once, not twice, but three times. Then he asked me to proceed to window 17 to get my picture taken, at which point, I waited for another hour, this time standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the other suckers in line.

Have I mentioned how much I love the California DMV?

After getting my (horrid) mugshot taken, I was then directed to window 27. Oh, right…because I haven’t even taken my written exam yet. And of course, another line.

By this point, it was 4pm, and I had lost five hours of my life that I would never see again. I overheard a staff member saying that you could come back the next morning and take the written before the line-ups get going so I booked it outta there feeling like I didn’t really accomplish all that much. Well, other than having some 19-year-old black kid with a big cursive script tattoo up his arm saying “Self-Made” try to hit on me. If you can really call that an accomplishment.

The next morning, we pulled up at 8:00 am, ready to hit window 27 before the already-growing line-up of people would be processed and want to write their tests, too.  Sure enough, the line-up was down the street…but the doors were closed.   I had to laugh when I walked up and saw the chicken-scratch writing on the posted Office Hours where someone had changed Wednesday’s opening time from 8 to 9 am. Yes, it was Wednesday.

Of course it was Wednesday.

And back we went to exploring the sketchy streets of East San Jose…trying not to make eye contact.

The good news is, I returned and was able to take the test quickly.  All four people testing ahead of me were here for their second or third re-test which gave me some last-minute jitters but thankfully, I passed with 29/30 and I was outta there with a learner’s permit.

Finally.

I came busting out of the office, line-ups still down the street and found Tim and the twins hanging out at the minivan out front.

I couldn’t resist.

Waving my learner’s permit in the air, I shouted, “Daddy, can I drive now?!” in a high-pitched squeeling voice with a hint of 17-year-old-girl. Tim didn’t laugh but I did.

Sadly, as I got in and inspected my new paperwork, I read that I was only permitted to drive with a California-licensed driver. Crap. Oh well, no practicing for me. It’s only been a year since I drove a vehicle…no big deal, right?

Somewhere in there we also realized that we couldn’t use the rental car for the road test so I called all the driving schools and finally found one that had an instructor available to take me to my road test the following day.  And now I know why they had someone available. For starters, he couldn’t answer any of my questions and kept responding with, “hmmm…well, that’s a good question…”. Secondly, we had just left my street when he pulled into a Taco Bell to stop and get a taco.

And he gets paid by the hour.

But really, by this point in the game, I’m not going to lose it over the guy’s poor business ethics. Just get me to my road test! This time, I made the appointment with the Los Gatos DMV…for you Victoria folks, think Oak Bay, and then some.  Needless to say, there was no gang activity or security patrols. I was in and out in five minutes and queued up for my road test. Everything was going great.

And then the examiner came out to review my paperwork and suddenly stopped to ask if I had my Social Security Number.

Uh, no.

She then proceeded to inform me that unless I have a SSN or have otherwise been in the country for 60-90 days (so my Visa info can get caught up in the system), I’m not passable.

I think I almost started to cry.

I calmly explained to her that I have two kids to drive around and although I’m all for public transit, the San Jose system isn’t really feasible for us. I need a license!  She kindly reassured me that it was no problem, I could just use my out-of-country license.

Well, I could…but it’s expired. That’s why I’m in this mess.

So she whipped out her clipboard, scribbled some notes and dissapeared into the office. A few seconds later she returned and handed me a 90-day temporary license.

Uh? Seriously?

My eighty-dollar-taxi-driver, otherwise known as my “instructor”, came over and was a bit baffled to hear I was done and we could go.

I mean, he hadn’t even finished his taco yet.

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We spent (another) whole day in the car, navigating freeways and expressways and U-turns and traffic. It doesn’t stress me out at all, though. There are far more cars on the road than in Basel region, but I expected this.

Yet despite my expectations, I am still in shock and awe of the expansiveness of the highway and road systems here.

And today, in the blazing heat, we hit the DMV and then headed out to explore North San Jose.

Big mistake.

It’s basically ground zero for tech companies, such as Cisco, Symantec, Creative, Lockheed Martin and others, but there is no residential neighbourhoods. Big waste of time (although I was bubbling with excitement to see the names of various companies).

So the gruelling day continued with a few test drives of cars. The dealers were friendly and not pushy, but it was too hot out.

And after a cruise through downtown Mountain View (home of Google), we finally arrived “home” and I found this picture in my email inbox from a longtime friend and soon-to-be colleague (again), and it made all of the crappiness disappear.

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