Friday, 14 August 2015
Testing my Patience
Yesterday, I sat my driving theory test. Obviously it was, like any test, somewhat nerve-wracking, however I had prepared thoroughly and knew what to expect. From the test itself that is. The process I had to go through prior to being permitted into the test room itself however surprised, annoyed, and to some extent offended me.
I entered the building, past a bored-looking receptionist/security guard type who gave me not a second look (actually, he might not have given me a first look). Following the signs, I went through a door, down a long, narrow and rather ominous corridor towards a door saying ‘Candidates Only: No Other Admittance’. Passing through this portal, I found myself in a waiting room/reception area.
Here, a friendly receptionist gave a laminated sheet of Thou Shalt Nots that I had to sit and read through. The standard exam stuff: no talking; no mobile phones/pagers/tablets: no taking in (or making) notes; no bags; everything to be stowed in a locker etc. All fair enough. I also had to remove my watch, which I found odd.
The surprise/annoyance/offence started when I went to the receptionist to return the laminated sheet and collect a locker key. She asked if I’d turned off my phone, which I had. Bearing in mind that my phone would be in the locker, in the waiting room, this seemed like an unnecessary precaution, but since it might disturb other people while they were waiting, didn’t seem totally unreasonable. She then asked me to show her that it was turned off. Apparently my word wasn’t good enough.
Having done so (after fishing it back out of my bag) I was permitted to go through another doorway, where a second lady explained the format of the test (which my preparation had already made me aware of). She then made me show her my hands and wrists, and turn out my pockets. I still had my keys and change in my pocket, so I had to go back out and put them in the locker. I then had to turn out my pockets (side and back) to show that they were empty. At this point, if she had produced an elbow-length rubber glove and forced me to undergo a full cavity search, x-ray and polygraph test, I wouldn’t have been wholly surprised.
Having quelled her suspicions, I was allowed into the exam room, where several signs informed me that I was being monitored by CCTV. I sat at my allotted screen and took my test, finished, left, was permitted to collect my effects, was given my results and allowed to leave by a different door to the one I entered by.
Now obviously they need to make sure that people don’t cheat on these tests. I fully appreciate that. They’re important, and they’re there for a reason. Telling people that they can’t have phones etc. makes perfect sense, and even having the CCTV there to help spot attempted cheaters doesn’t seem unreasonable. Stopping cheaters is completely necessary. The part that annoyed me was when I was asked to show in advance that I wasn’t trying to cheat.
I still have these quaint and archaic ideas about a person being innocent until proven guilty; the idea that it should be assumed that I am not trying to cheat until I am caught cheating, or there is reason to assume that I am trying to. This is the opposite of what happened. I was treated as guilty until I proved myself innocent. Apparently the fact that I was taking the test was sufficient reason to assume that I was trying to cheat. It was assumed that I had not turned my phone off until I had shown that I had. It was assumed that I was wearing my watch (beneath which, presumably, information could have been concealed) and had written on my hands, until I proved otherwise. It was assumed that I had notes or other devices in my pockets until I turned them out. Why I wasn’t allowed keys or change in there, I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps I might have a James Bond-esque microradio disguised as a pound coin?
I would like to emphasise that both the ladies involved were never less than courteous, and presumably didn’t write the policies which it is their lot to enforce. At least, I shall assume so until I see evidence to the contrary. I might also assume that these draconian and offensive policies have been put in place because many people have tried to cheat, which would be deeply saddening, but I’m not sure whether this is the case, or just the DVSA trying to prevent any such occurrence.
It saddens and angers me that we are all being treated like the lowest common denominator, that it is assumed that we have no sense of personal honour, that, in short, we are not to be trusted. I meant to say something to the receptionist on the way out, but forgot to.
You might say that we must prove ourselves trustworthy before we are trusted, but that is not the world I wish to live in. This may be another case of my hopeless and naïve idealism, but I would far rather live in a world in which we must prove ourselves untrustworthy, prove ourselves unworthy of respect, prove ourselves dishonourable and dishonest, or else be assumed to be trustworthy, respectable, honourable and honest.
I can’t force the DVSA to see things my way (although I’ve half a mind to write to them, for all the good it would do), but I can determine to treat others in the way I would wish to be treated. Everyone is born innocent, and until I see evidence to the contrary, I shall assume that that is still the way they are.
(Oh, and if you're interested, I passed my test. Hurrah!)