Sunday, May 15, 2005

A license to drive...and maybe to kill...

Finally got my CA drivers license on Thursday, after one unsuccessful attempt (and not to forget a twisted knee) notwithstanding. It was good that K and I had our tests on the same day, and we could guide each other. K's parents were also around (much like the Indian scenario) for moral support!

We booked our tests at the San Clemente DMV (or RTO as Achan says), which is just off the Pacific Coast Highway, around 20 miles south of Irvine. Jezz's wife Maria had said it was the easiest DMV in OC and we jumped at the idea.

The system here is a far cry from the Indian scenario, where a few notes to the "examiner"/maama can settle the matter. Out here you actually have a proper exam wherein the examiner keeps marking your errors on a standard sheet (while you drive on a predetermined course). K's examiner was this stud who refused to smile, while I had this smiley Mexican lady (who was built like a tough cop). I was reminded of the circus I went through at the KK Nagar RTO in the summer of 2004! Indian RTOs are the lousiest places on earth, manned by weirdos (ok, on second thoughts there's something called BIHAR also in India/earth).

After the two of us cleared our driving test, we decided to head to San Diego (about an hour's drive from San Clemente) on a whim, to show K's folks Torrey Pines. Torrey Pines is one of the most amazing beaches IMHO (Do check out the link - it's got some amazing snaps). K's folks were sure impressed by Torrey Pines! We had a tough time dragging them to downtown San Diego, our next stop.

Downtown San Diego is one place where I could spend hours just walking around (the same applies to Market St. in SFO). The star attraction for me is the Gaslamp Quarter (4th and Broadway) with its quaint British-style gaslamps for streetlights. The shops on either side of the road are worth exploring, and I shall do that soon with Ed and RajivE when they're here. It's also on the agenda for Ammama and Ammayi when they're here for my graduation.

Returning to Irvine from San Diego was an adventure for sure. There's a checkpoint somewhere near San Juan Capistrano, where the Immigration officials check cars for illegal immigrants and drugs (Note: San Diego is 12 miles from the international border with Mexico). There's this point about 400m from the checkpoint where the lane branches off with something called a PAL lane on the extreme left, the shoulder in between and then the ordinary lanes on the right. We unfortunately mistook the leftmost lane for a carpool lane and entered it, only to find one of those red barriers straight ahead. Rather than hit the cones, we decided to swerve (mind u at 70mph) to avoid the barriers. That sent the car into a slight spin - left, right and then two 360-degree ones.

It sure was weird. Seeing traffic all around us, wondering when we were going to hit the concrete barriers on the left! Needless to say K's folks were a little shaken. Fortunately we didnt hit the concrete barriers and by sheer luck there werent any cars coming into our lane. To use a much cracked joke..."O*** oru inch miss aachu!"

The cops at the immigration checkpost saw us spin and immediately called us aside when we passed through the checkpoint and asked us for papers and checked the car for drugs. Needless to say everything was ok, though they were not amused about the spin!

It sure was scary! The fact that it shook K up for a good 15mins was proof enough! V was totally kicked when he heard about the incident - another incident added to the 215 road trip files! One spin on the 5N, one incident which found a Dodge Neon on the sidewalk of the Strip in Vegas, and one dude who was pulled over for showing the bird to an undercover cop on the 5S.

So that's that.......

What's buzzin...
Roger Waters - In the Flesh
Neil Diamond - Greatest Hits...

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