The clock is running out for the easy path to getting a driver's license. Coming from the US we have one year to convert our licenses to Israeli driver's licenses, which means we only have 5 months left. If we don't do it this way we will have to take 22 driving lessons before being allowed to get a license. If you have been reading this blog for any time you will of course know that switching our licenses is a multi-step process.
Step one, go to the optician and get an eye exam and have them fill out the green form. This was actually quite simple, after you find the one optician in the entire region who has permission from the state to carry the green forms. Since this is such a simple step I did it in July. Finding that green form in February was a touch more complicated.
Step two, take green form to family doctor who attests that you are in good enough health to be on the road. Ironically, visiting the doctor was much like the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, Medicine Branch. My apologies if I offend because I have heard that the NY DMV has improved in recent years, but I remember the good old days. In contrast to our pediatrician who is quite involved and interested, my family doctor was more like a bureaucrat. The set up is the opposite of the American system where patients wait in the room and the doctor enters. Here the doctor sits at the desk and after one patient leaves the next enters. I walked in and she said "Insurance card," then just asked me some questions, took my vital signs, walked me over to the exam table, did a quick exam, stamped my form and sent me on my merry way. She wasn't in any way rude or inappropriate just completely and totally matter of fact. I don't know what visits are like if you have an actual medical problem but the set-up remains the same. Michael tells me that his doc, a fellow by the name of Boris, is more engaged. He made fun of Michael's middle name, which is clearly very humorous, and admired the medication bottle from the U.S.
Step 3, take now-completed green form for extra stamping to an office in Rehovot (largest nearby city) and then call for a mandatory driving lesson after which we will take the driving test. I feel pretty confident about the driving test because I have already learned so many rules of the road in the short time I've been here. Most important is to remember that every driver out there is in more of a rush and has a more important destination than you do. Here are a few of the other important ones:
1. Anywhere a car can go can become a parking lot. This can be the middle of the road or a traffic circle. Pretty much at any time the driver feels like stopping their car to perhaps say hello to a friend they see on the sidewalk, or make a call, let a passenger out or whatever suits their fancy. It's really not their issue that you were planning on driving forward on that path because after all you can simply drive around them.
2. Leap frog while driving is a national sport. The more narrow and windy the road the more intensely this game is played and if you feel the person in front of you is driving too slowly, just pass them. I, for one, have no idea where these people are rushing to so earnestly, because trust me, wherever they're going they will have to wait.
3. Lanes are for amateurs. In spite of most cars here being small and compact and not jeep-like land rovers, people will drive over anything. But beware b/c they will also come in and out of your lane even if you are going in opposite directions (see number 2.)
4. In spite of a culture of cell phones being acceptable anywhere and everywhere (and I mean everywhere--like even the grocery store checkout clerk will stop to take a call) they are not allowed while driving and actually I think the majority of people follow this rule.
5. Honking is an efficient early-alert system designed to save precious seconds of driving time. Red lights are still stop and green lights are still go, but there is no yellow. Instead, the green flashes before turning red. If you are at a red light it will start flashing red and yellow together just before turning green. This gives the drivers behind you a head start on honking just in case you were thinking of waiting a nanosecond after the light turns green.
6. Don't leave home without Waze. This is an incredible application for the smartphone that works as a real time GPS to get you to your destination in the fastest way. It of course was invented by an Israeli. I love Waze. It's like bringing a friend along who knows exactly where you're going and the best way to get there every single time. And as the kids say "waze cares" because it always starts by reminding you to drive safely.
So friends, drive safely!