Friday, April 29, 2011

Cultural Unawareness: The Wheels of Bureaucracy Turn Slowly

Taoyuan City MVO
I still haven’t taken the driver's license test, not because I don’t think I can pass it, I’m sure I can. I have learned to think like a Taiwanese bureaucrat. They can no longer fool me by making up words like toer. I know what that word means now. Well, actually, it still isn’t an English word that I can find in any dictionary, but I know what they mean when they use this word. Or I guess to be completely accurate I should call it a four-letter symbolic representation of an English word…or something like that, anyway.
I haven’t taken the test because, being a bureaucracy, they had a few hoops for me to jump through before actually allowing me to take the written test. When dealing with government, I have found that it is the nature of government to impede progress. It’s not that bureaucracy is bad or that bureaucrats have a desire to delay us from achieving our goals, they just have a tendency to be excessively careful. They want to protect the rest of the driving public or they want to protect themselves from potential exposure to their backsides. Either way, they see a need for slow, cautious deliberate progress, covering all bases and their (potentially exposed) butts. In this case, where my wants and desires are concerned I see no need for them to protect the driving public by keeping me from getting behind the wheel. I, of course am a superb driver with thirty-five years experience. However, as a part of the motoring public, having seen how some others perform behind the wheel I appreciate the care and concern with which the bureaucracy moves to insure the protection of my family and, of course their backsides.

Scooter Driving Test Track
Anyway, enough pondering of the goals and ideals of the government system, here’s the problem: I am a disabled person. It is required that everyone take a kind of physical before they can get their license. First, they check depth perception, vision and peripheral vision. Then they ask you to do a deep knee bend, just one, they want to see if your legs have enough strength to press down on the brake. Finally, they want you to squeeze a hand strength measurement device. I can see well enough, I passed that part with flying colors. But I can’t do a deep knee bend, not even one. Well actually, I can do the deep knee bend, but then I get stuck there. I can go down but I can’t come back up. I am also unable to register any movement on the dial of the hand squeeze instrument.

Car Driving Test Track
This creates a problem for the Motor Vehicle Office (MVO). I don’t pass the minimum qualification for a driver’s license. So after careful consideration the supervisor would let me take the tests if, I attached a steering ball to the steering wheel of my car, and got the car certified as having the ball.

The steering ball is an interesting mechanism. In California they are referred to as the “Suicide ball” and they are illegal as an accessory for your car. The reason they’re called that is it’s really easy to flip your car if you turn to fast or suddenly at high sped. So that’s the current hang-up. I’m waiting to get my car certified with its “suicide ball.” After that it’s on to the written test.

Screenshot of Opening Page of Practice Tests
In Taiwan, the written test is on the computer. It consists of forty questions on all facets of driving. There are true-false questions, and multiple-choice questions. There are pictures of signs that you need to know, there are questions related to how your car works, there are driving questions and questions about the law. In order to pass you must get an 85%. I will share the test in detail, in the next episode in this continuing saga. There is one fly in this particular ointment, and that is that you can take the written test in a number of languages including Psuedo-English but all of the books to study are in Chinese. But don't despair because they have prepared a number of mock tests that if you practice them you can learn the right answers to the questions and eventually take and pass your driver's license test. The practice tests you can take on-line can be found at

The driving test is taken on a test track at the MVO office. You drive in an area inside the fence. They don’t really want you on the streets until you actually have the license in your possession. Motorcycles and scooters are tested the same way. I’ll go into detail on the test tracks later.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Cultural Unawareness:  Ticked Off in Taiwan
Cultural Unawareness:  You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours
Taiwan Travelogue:  The Cross-Island Highway
Random Asianess:  The Rest Stop

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