Feb 24, 2010

Renewing My Very Expired Driver's License, Part 1: The Drug Test, the Medical Exam, and the Fixer

I went to the Land Transportation Office today to renew my 7-year expired driver's license.

So how was it? Well, the drug test and physical exam was much quicker than I expected.

And I met a fixer. Which I now realize is an inevitable event if you go to the LTO.

The place is simply reeking with them. There's one or two or three of them everywhere you turn!

When I alighted from the jeep, I asked somebody where the LTO was. The man I asked was very helpful. He not only told me where the LTO was, he also advised me that if I was renewing my driver's license, I needed to have a health certificate and drug test results.

He then proceeded to point to me where I can get a drug test and health certificate.

"Well," I thought to myself, "he's right." I had done my research, so I knew I did need those things and had been wondering where I could get them. It was nice to have somebody so helpfully pointing them out -- without even waiting for me to ask.

Then, he offered to guide me to the place. It was broad daylight, so my trust level was high. I followed him to a two-story building with an airy, sunlit staircase that led to a rather crowded clinic. This must be the place.

He endorsed me to the secretary, who let me fill up a form and took 300 pesos for my drug test. I thanked Mr. Helpful Man, who grinned broadly, excused himself, and went out.

It went by very quickly. In three minutes, I was given a bottle for my urine sample and was instructed to fill it up. I was instantly sorry I had not drunk more water before I left home. The bottle could hold about 3 ounces of liquid, and I didn't think I had that much.

True enough, I was only able to fill half of it. Well the technician accepted it, so it must have been okay. She told me to wait at the side.

A couple of minutes later, I was called to another part of the clinic where they measured my height, weight, and blood pressure. "One hundred pesos, please." This time, it was for the physical examination.

So that's P300 for the drug test and P100 for the physical exam and health certificate.

Then, another couple of minutes more, I had my picture taken by what looked like a web cam; then, digital finger printing. This was for the drug test results.

While I was waiting for the remaining tests, Mr. Helpful Man was back and made small talk: "How long has your license been expired? Why did you wait so long to have it renewed?"

Of course, by this time, I was pretty sure Mr. Helpful Man was a fixer looking to "help" the lost-looking female who, one could smell from a kilometer away, didn't really know a thing about driving.

I told him cordially that I stopped driving because I had gotten married. (Yes, that is a perfectly valid reason from where I look at it.)

Then I told him straight out, "Kuya, salamat sa tulong mo ha. Baka naman sisingilin mo ako, sabihin mo sa akin ng maaga dahil limited ang budget ko. (Big brother, thank you for your help. If you're going to be charging me, let me know now because my budget is limited.)"

He laughed, then told me, "Aba, kung bibigyan nyo po ako ng panigarilyo eh okay na yun! (Oh, if you give me cigarette money, that would be all right already!)"

I told him, "Thank you, kuya. Okay lang naman po ako. Nag-review po ako para dun sa test. Limitado po talaga budget eh. (Thank you, big brother. I'm all right. I reviewed for the exam. My budget is really limited.)" Then I showed him my P500 A1 Driving book, which I got from one of those A1 registration booths and had been studying for two days.

Our conversation was interrupted when I got called for the rest of my physical exam: I was asked to sit on a chair, pull my pant hems up to my knees, and flex my feet and knees; and read letters from a chart to check my vision, and identify reddish numeral shapes in green backgrounds to check for color blindness.

By the time I finished identifying the numerals, I was handed the results of my medical exam and drug test. I had been in the place for less than 30 minutes total. "Kuya" was no longer where I left him. But I was sure I would meet him on the way out.

And I did. There he was in front of a small sidewalk store, just five steps away from the clinic's door. I stopped in front of him and thanked him for his help. Then I handed him P20: "Panigarilyo (for cigarettes)," and went off to the LTO.


Part II: What happens if you fail the practical test
Part III: The written test, the practical test, and the fees

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