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Friday, June 29, 2012

Aliens, or will Caleb be licensed to fly before he can legally drive??

Confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb 11:13) . . .

Coming back to America can be alienating.  No one is intrinsically alien, even a Martian would be normal on Mars. To be a stranger requires relativity, a judgement of other-ness by someone else.  As soon as we land, we are usually pretty successful in blending in.  We borrow my mom's car, my sister's clothes, my son's cell phone.  Caleb and I successfully conquered activating a new debit card, and extracting money from a drive-through ATM.  Pumping gas.  Driving 75 miles per hour (that was the actual speed limit I might add) on six or eight-lane highways with merge lanes and exit ramps.  Enjoying air conditioning.  Paying an arm and a leg for a real theatre movie (the Avengers).  Swiping credit cards, buying jeans.  We engaged many relatives in conversations about their lives, I hope without reminding them too much of how bizarre our life is.  We were on a roll.

Then we hit the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.  Having learned the painful way through Luke's experiences that it is VERY DIFFICULT to get a driver's license, we read the fine print and made sure Caleb had the requisite 40-hour driver's ed course through RVA.  With a certificate to prove it.  From the moment we landed to the moment of truth, he drove everywhere, ten hours to WV and back, and on every errand.  He worked on his complete stops, three-point turns, and signal lights for lane changes.  We made sure he knew all the ins and outs of operating my mom's car.  

And so on my 50th birthday, my license expired and had to be renewed, and we planned to get Caleb his license too.  He's 17 1/3.  He needs a lot more experience, but this was the only day in the foreseeable future he might be able to go to the Virginia DMV and try.  We were hopeful that he wouldn't fail his driving test on some minor issue as a matter of principle for first-time teen boys.  

However, he never even got to take the test.  The DMV employee called the supervisor.  They pored over Caleb's RVA certificate of completion of driver's ed.  They asked about the school, and why he was there.  But in the end the supervisor ruled.  Only driver's ed classes TAKEN IN VIRGINIA can count for a VA driver's license.  He has to take a 40-hour course (at who knows what expense) over in Virginia, or wait until he's 19 like Luke did.  It doesn't matter that this was an American-curriculum course taught be American teachers in an American-accredited school.  It was in Africa.  No good.  Of course for all I know they may refuse documents from West Virginia or Maryland too.  But I wonder.

These are the moments when we feel our alienation acutely.  Part of me wanted to stand on their counter and say:  BOTH THE VIRGINIA SENATOR AND THE CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE NOMINATED THIS YOUNG MAN FOR THE US AIR FORCE ACADEMY.  I AM GIVING THIS BOY TO AMERICA.  ISN'T THAT ENOUGH??

But when Virginia rejected us for in-state tuition( because we had a gap of filing state income taxes for some of our early years in Uganda, because we never made enough money to pay those taxes, we didn't always file in the past, and now in spite of seven years of filing and our permanent address, voter's registration, driver's licenses, etc. we are considered non-residents) and when the Virginia DMV rejected Caleb's driver's ed and refused to let him get a driver's license . . well, we feel alienated all over again.

So Caleb will remain with a learner's permit only, perhaps being licensed to fly before he can legally drive.


Jill Donnelly said...

argh. face palm. I'm so sorry. I'm praying for Caleb!

Amy said...

So I never took Driver's ED and I got a VA driver's license!?!? We moved from FL and I missed the course at my old school and couldn't fit into my new school.....I was older than 17 though...maybe the law changes at 18 (I waited a while to get my license because where we lived I didn't need it).

Blueprints said...

hey jennifer! I'm so glad that you posted that verse from hebrews b/c that's the truth and what's real and not the dmv and all their rules and regs - even if they seem to hold the power now! It just doesn't make sense does it? I feel angry at the ridiculousness of it all so can only imagine how you guys feel! I will keep reading! (maybe you should drop a line to the senator and let him know the predicament!) with love jenn

Anonymous said...

Ooh. So sorry to hear of these frustrations. I can only imagine how difficult this transition can be. Praying.