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Posts Tagged ‘driving tests’

I’ve been dealing with the IRS this morning. You might want to approach me with caution. OMG. The most frustrating people to deal with. This interaction is on behalf of my mother, actually, not for myself. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I don’t make enough income at this stage in my life to have them sniffing around trying to catch hold of my scent.

At any rate, about six years ago I took mother’s documents to a tax preparer who told me I really didn’t need to file. It had something to do with the estate and how it was set up. Okay, one thing to tick off my to-do list always feels like cause for celebration. It’s enough for me to try and figure out my financial situation, but having her accounts as well as mine can really be a bag of snakes at times. All went along smoothly until last year. Let’s face it in 2020, if it could go wrong, it seemed to go right ahead and do exactly that. An envelope arrived mid-year addressed to my mother at my address on official IRS stationery. Oh-oh. Somehow they had deduced she owed $12,000 for one year of unfiled forms, and God knows how much else for the other five. After consulting my current tax accountant, he said we would just file the missing years and this would iron out all the wrinkles. Good, I do enjoy a nice crisp, unmessy life on occasion, so sign me up for that. Not so fast, you say. Last week I got another letter from the IRS, (they must have an official letter writer over there with nothing much pending on their calendar). This one said I needed to verify my mother’s identity before they could process the tax returns. “Yup, she’s my mom”, I said out loud. Apparently that wasn’t sufficient. I was instructed to either go into her on-line account and verify her identity, or an 800 number was provided for those people who didn’t use, or have access to, a computer.

To do a little back story here, my mother has never owned a computer. Well, to be specific, she owned one but never learned how to use it. It was her husbands while he was alive, and when he was gone she kept it so visitors or family could use it when visiting. Once I tried to teach her how to use a PC, but after ten or so lessons each time reexplaining how to power it on and off, the difference between portrait and landscape configuration, and the basics of using the mouse, I realized there wasn’t enough vodka in the stores to cover that particular endeavor. I suggested she enroll in a beginning computer skills class at a local adult school. When that too was a total bust, we left it to the gods to sort out. After that, I became her go-to computer person. Truth is, I fill that void for several of my technology challenged friends as well. I don’t mind. Keeps me off the streets. That being said, my mother surely did not have an on-line account, so I began the process of creating one for her. They required a number of documents to complete this process. Seeing this was going to be an all morning affair, I thought since it was early in the day I might try the 800 number to speed things along. Not. I waded patiently through the myriad of road blocks designed to make you hang up early on in the call, and finally was dropped into a queue and told to wait there for a representative. About twenty minutes into listening to their music, a new message came on informing me they had a high volume of calls and they were disconnecting me. I was told to call back tomorrow, or possibly next year. Thanks so much. In the letter a time line was indicated to get this process done, so back to Plan A. I once again navigated my way through their website and began the process of setting up an account for my mom. When I got to the password and username section, it took me twenty minutes on that page alone just to somehow select a password and username that fit with the parameters they’d outlined. You know the type, “Password must be 18 letters long. Choose one letter from the Arabic dictionary, one Hieroglyphic symbol, and two latin verbs, every other letter in each word must be capitalized.” Once I was done and mission accomplished, I was about two hours into it. This all for something that is generally a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. My mom is an elderly woman with dementia who has paid religiously over the years and worked hard, and doesn’t owe them a nickel from all accounts. Sigh. Amazing to me they waste all this paper, sweat, and manpower on someone like her when there are billionaires out there raking in huge amounts of cash who don’t pay their fair share of anything. Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.

I set aside the entire day for catching up on paperwork and other chores I have uncharacteristically been putting off. As I’ve mentioned before one of the pearls of wisdom my grandmother passed on to me was to do the things you least like doing first, then tackle the ones you either enjoy doing or at the very least don’t mind. That plan has been a very successful one for me. If I leave something floating around out there I am really not looking forward to doing, it hangs over my head and bothers me. If I do it, and get it over with, the rest seems so much easier.

Another unpleasant chore I decided to cross of my list, is studying for my drivers license renewal which is looming on the horizon. Even though I have been behind the wheel of a car since I was sixteen years old, I still get intimidated by the DMV. When they hand me that scroll of a test, my mind immediately forgets everything I do every day as habit when driving, and the questions look suddenly like they’re written in a foreign language. This time I have gone on line and downloaded a huge batch of “practice tests”. Some of the questions appear to be written purposely to trip you up. For instance, one of the questions asked was what a driver should do when passing a bicyclist who is riding in the lane next to you. One of the answers was “honk your horn before passing”. This, as it turns out, is the correct answer. Now, is it just me? If I was riding along minding my own business in the bike lane and some car came up behind me and blew his horn I most probably would end up either jamming on the brakes and catapulting over the handlebars or swerving and ending up under his right front tire. That, however, is what you’re supposed to do. Write it down for future reference.

I think this general paranoia stems from my early interactions with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Unlike a lot of young people I see today, I could not wait for the day I became eligible for my learners permit. The calendar hanging on the wall in my room had x’s leading up to the day of the big event with a huge star highlighting the day I was to turn exactly 15 1/2. My mother took half a day off from work to drive me down to the DMV. I passed my written test, and was handed my temporary license. Had it been made of 14 carat gold, it couldn’t have been more precious to me. It was the first ticket on the journey into adulthood. What a heady experience. Looking back I have to wonder what the big hurry was to get here, but at the time being 18 or 21 seemed fraught with adventure and filled with mystique. Little did I know it was more fraught with dishes, and filled with dirty diapers and long days at the office.

Where passing my written test had turned out to be a walk in the park, the behind the wheel test was more like a leisurely stroll through a minefield. It took it three tries. The first time I nearly took out a young mother in a crosswalk pushing a baby carriage. The next time when I was parallel parking I backed into a trash bin and knocked the entire contents into the middle of the street. I somehow managed to scrape by with one point above failing on my third attempt, even though I technically went through an intersection after the light had turned red. I’m pretty certain I only passed because the harried DMV examiner (got the same guy all three times) tasked with grading my test must have figured three times was the charm, and tempting fate a fourth time would definitely have put him in fear for his life. Truly I am a good driver nowadays. Dale, my partner in crime, always comments on it. I shall leave my opinion of his driving skills for another time.

Just as I was finishing up reviewing my tests, PG&E arrived to tell me yet another part of my shade tree has to be removed as it’s interfering with the power lines. When I moved in I had a lovely shaded backyard. These days there are two sparse trees left, with one having the back half almost entirely missing. It looks like a bald man with a bad hair piece. Had to buy extra patio umbrellas so we don’t bake in our own juices on hot days.

So, I am off to the DMV on Friday. Wish me luck.

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My mother is in a total panic because she has to renew her driver’s license next month. I’m not downplaying the experience as my renewal is coming up later this year and I’m not happy about it. The last two times it has been mailed to me. The bonus with this is they keep the same picture so you don’t get tickets you never age at the DMV. In my last picture I didn’t look like either a serial killer or an inmate so I was pleased to have it roll over. Since (fingers crossed) I haven’t had any infractions I’m hoping DMV will continue this practice and mail me this one as well.

She and I have discussed the fact at some point she will have to relinquish her license and depend on other forms of transportation to get her where she needs to go. Each time I visit I keep my eye on how she’s doing behind the wheel. I don’t want to be responsible for anything either happening to her or because of her while on the road. There’s no way as we age our reflexes are going to remain as sharp as when we were younger. Her parking aren’t as fine tuned as they were but all in all her performance still seems good enough to warrant a license. How the DMV will view this I have not a clue.

The DMV and I did not get off to a cheery start. My driving career as a whole began badly I’m afraid. I passed the written test the first time. The behind the wheel exam was a whole other ball game. The first time I got a gentleman armed with an enormous clipboard. The man brought more paperwork on board than an IRS auditor at tax time. By the look of the permanent grimace on his face it appeared what he had accrued in office products he lacked in good humor. Seated in the passenger seat, hat in place, body stiff as a freshly starched shirt, he instructed me to start the engine and exit the parking lot. Each time he asked me to perform part of the test and I complied, his fingers began frantically writing on the sheets on his lap. Between the frenzied writing and the incessant clearing of his throat if my knees had symbols strapped to them I could have knocked out the national anthem. Instinct told me all this did not bode well for the final outcome of the exam.

Parking was my nemesis. Perhaps its hereditary? I’d practiced with my parents. I could park in a lot but was abysmal at executing parallel parking. After twenty minutes of maneuvering I managed to get th car between the pylons only managing to pin one beneath a back wheel. The fact there was no loss of life, I felt to be a plus. Getting out of his seat the examiner extricated the pylon, tossing it in the back seat. Marking on the paperwork accelerated at such an alarming pace the pen ripped through the paper.

At a stop sign I made up for not killing anyone while parking by nearly cutting short the life of a young mother pushing a baby carriage. With that, I was handed the marked up paperwork and instructed to come back, or for humanity’s sake not, when I’d garnered a little more experience. Fine. Practicing every chance I was allowed behind the wheel, my mother again took an afternoon off and I signed up for the second driving test. Odds being what they are in my life, the same grumpy gentleman hopped into the car carrying the same pile of paperwork. Writing ensued before I’d even turned the key to start the engine. Failure on this test I was told was due to the fact I hadn’t looked over my shoulder when executing a lane change. What? There wasn’t anybody sitting in the back seat I needed to advise before making such a maneuver. Why did the car manufacturer put in rear view mirrors if they weren’t to see what was behind you? Apparently there’s a blind spot. Oh. The pinched look on my mother’s face told me she was not going to pleased to have to take yet another afternoon off for me to humiliate myself any time in the near future.

My friends, promised a cruise around town if I passed, waited patiently for news of the results. Advised I was still unlicensed signaled the teasing to begin. Single handedly I was setting a record in my peer group for under achieiving at the DMV. I again began practice sessions. No longer with my mother, thankfully. Insisting on air braking when I approached an intersection or grabbing the hand rail and yelling “LOOK OUT” every five minutes she was making me a nervous wreck. Wreck being the optimum word here. In her place my stepfather stepped in for guidance. A high school principal with a love of distilled products he’d usually had a beer or two by the time we hit the road and didn’t much care what I did with the car as long as he didn’t have to drive it.

On my third try, Murphy stayed home and a young woman occupied the seat beside me. Patient and helpful I breezed through the test with her grading system and once I’d passed the eye exam was handed my temporary license. Mother took me to Orange Julius for a celebratory drink and I was handed the keys to fly solo for the first time. What a euphoric feeling it was that taste of real independence. I could feel the umbilical cord loosen slightly around my waist.

My exhilaration was to be short-lived, unfortunately. Picking up my friends in my mother’s Ford Falcon convertible I headed towards the downtown area. Giddy with success I failed to look over my shoulder when making a lane change. As the officer was writing out the ticket for causing him to veer off the road and take out an unsuspecting picket fence I could see the grumpy man at the DMV writing madly on his paper. Six months later my license was returned to me. I’ve done much better since getting it back, apparently a slow learner in my early years.

This chicken is just too good, and the carrots, yum. If you’re having more than two just double the recipe.

Oven Baked Blood Orange Curried Chicken and Vegetables

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 blood orange
1 cup of cooked carrots
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot paprika
Cooked rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray bottom of casserole dish with cooking spray. Slice orange in half. Slice one half in two slices. Squeeze other half of orange into small bowl. Add honey, melted butter, mustard, blood orange juice, and seasonings and whisk.

Place chicken in pan. Sprinkle carrots and green onions around meat. Pour honey mixture over top. Place one slice orange on each piece of chicken. Sprinkle with paprika.

IMG_7159

Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 mins. or until juices run clear basting every 10 minutes and turning once. Serve over rice.

Serves 2

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