This has been the most byzantine process we have experienced yet. And we've seen a fair bit of stuff in the past year....
Here are the steps. There are, of course, sub-steps involving the saying of bad words, but we'll just go with the main things one needs to do in order to convert one's license, which is a legal necessity as one can only drive on a US license for one year and, hey, time's up....
1) around Passover, husband reminds you that you both should get working on this. You think he is being overly-cautious, but, in the interest of marital harmony, get started by going for the required eye exam at the local eyeglass chain store that is the only place that does them.
2) find out that the particular location you chose only does exams for those under age 40. Shlep to the *other* location for those of us in the geriatric set. Wait in line.....Wait in line some more.....
3) pass eye exam. Yay! Take tofes yarok form from eyeglass store and hope you don't lose it
4) make required doctor's appointment (seriously. I tried to just drop off my form and was told that wasn't allowed and an appointment had to be booked. And paid for out of pocket, credit card not accepted!)
5) go to doctor's appointment with tofes yarok. Spend *20* minutes going over medical section of form with doctor. Spend five more minutes scrambling around purse and husband's wallet because you forgot that credit card was not accepted. Thankfully, together you scrounge up the required amount.
6) doctor writes that you use asthma medication. You will later learn that you should have begged doctor to not write anything in the space provided.....
7) 35 minutes bus ride to take tofes yarok to driver's license bureau.
8) clerk at bureau takes one look at form, sees that the space for "medications taken" has something written on it and instantly tells you that you must go to the main office in Jerusalem. Get so frustrated that you give up all hope of speaking in Hebrew and say, "Seriously? You can't drive in this country if you have asthma?!?!". Clerk has no idea what you are saying and very clearly could care less (perhaps a cross-cultural attitude of those working at the registry of motor vehicles no matter the country?)
9) another day, go to Jerusalem to the main branch. Wait in line to get in. Wait in line to go through security. Wait in what you really, really, really hope is the correct line for the correct window to process tofes yarok
10) finally get to clerk. She speaks English fairly well. The day is getting better. She looks at the medication taken, asks what it is, and says, "asthma medication? That doesn't affect driving. No problem" and stamps tofes yarok. Feels less cranky towards RMV clerks the world over
11) call driving teacher recommended by neighbors. Try to schedule required driving lesson and driver's test.
12) play phone tag with driving teacher over several days
13) driving teacher in June tells you that, due to the three-month strike of RMV driving testers in the spring, that they are very backed up and it will "be a few weeks". Spend the next 6 weeks, until leaving for the US, calling driving instructor once week. Each time, he tells you to "call back next week". Each time, you tell him that, once you return from the US, you will have only ONE WEEK to convert your driver's license.
14) listen to daughter be witty about how they call it "converting" license because you get turned away repeatedly, similar to when a non-Jew wants to convert.....Thank Chana for putting new spin on situation.
15) driving instructor picks up tofes yarok and does some sort of processing thing to it. You are feeling hopeful. He returns tofes yarok and tells you to bring it to the post office to pay a processing fee. Let's just say that going to the tiny local post office (which was clearly made for the size this city was when it was built up 17 years ago) is never top on your list of "fun things to do"
16) go to post office, stand in long line (thankfully, the "deli number" thingie is working), pay fee, and get tofes yarok stamped
17) pester driving instructor again
18) repeat step 17 again and again
19) go to the US for 3.5 weeks. Call driving instructor one week before you return. He says there are no testing dates for when you return
20) once back in Israel, keep calling
21) read local Facebook group post from someone who has been driving for 30 years and yet failed the Israeli driving test. Read 25 response posts from other local olim who also failed test. Read thoughts on whether failing the test is just a scam to get people to pay for more driving lessons. And/or whether each day has a quota of people who may be passed and that taking the test in the afternoon leads to a high rate of failure. Start to worry about passing the test....
22) Hooray! There is a date for your test! Too bad it's in the afternoon, but, hey, hopefully you'll pass.
23) Actual text of conversation with driver that day:
you: "Where do I meet you for my 2:00 test?"
you: "Do I need to show up earlier than 2:00?"
instructor: "1:30" (call me crazy, but I assumed I should show up at 2:00)
you: "Anything else I need to know?"
instructor: "papers" (I kid you not--that's all he said!)
when asked to explain WHAT papers he expects, he writes: "copy of license and money"
you: "how much? Does it have to be cash?"
Feel like you could go on all afternoon with this conversation full of unanticipated things.....
24) take bus 40 minutes to testing location. 37 minutes into bus ride, text instructor as to where exactly in the parking lot to meet him. He calls and asks what your name is (!). He evidently mixed up your name with someone who's name is, well, also American, but, really, not all that close (we'll give this guy a break here since he's Israeli and maybe the names sound more similar if you're Israeli). Offer to hang around the parking lot all afternoon in case someone cancels. No dice. "There's no way I can fit you in today". 5 days until license expires.
25) pester instructor repeatedly and remind him of how sorry he was to make scheduling mistake.
26) consider changing instructors, but hear that everyone is backed up since the strike and, anyway, this guy has your tofes yarok. And he feels guilty about messing up the other test date, so hopefully he will get you in before your license expires.
27) rent car the day your license expires. Clerk at rental agency says, "What's going on with you converting your license?" Consider just keeping car because it is unclear if/when you will be able to rent again....
28) lesson/test finally scheduled for the day *after* your license expires. In a moment of recklessness, drive rental car to test on the way to return it. Hope tester does not ask how you are driving a car without an Israeli license.
29) lesson is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 8:00. Great. Assume test will be at 8:00 and you will be done by 8:15.
30) learn you are wrong when driving instructor drops you off in parking lot at 8:00 and says, "meet me back here at 9:30 for your test". He drives off to give lessons to two more people. It is Friday morning and you had not counted on spending the entire morning dealing with this....Luckily the RMV shares a parking lot with a supermarket.
31) finish Shabbos shopping while waiting for test. Hope that car rental agency does not charge for you bringing the car back 26.5 hours after renting it, rather than the allowed 25 hours.
32) FINALLY! Take driving test! Test is done with two strangers also in the car. You are the last one to drive. All goes well, baruch Hashem.
33) return rental car and apologize for lateness. They are kind and do not charge extra.
34) that afternoon (!), driving instructor calls to say you PASSED! Hooray! They evidently stuck this extra step in because too many people argued with the tester if they didn't pass. Understandable (both the arguing and the fact that they changed the system)
35) wait several day for actual license to be dropped off by instructor
36) Yay--you have the license you are done!
37) or not.....
38) license is an oversized piece of paper that says it expires in February
39) text driving instructor who insists license is good for ten years
40) send instructor photo of license with expiration date in 7 months.
41) find out that you must go AGAIN to the post office to wait in interminable line to pay yet another fee and only THEN will you get your plastic driver's license that is good for ten years.
42) give up and write blog post. It has been 6 months since genius husband suggested getting working on converting driver's license. He is still waiting to take his test.....