In many cultures, the passage of childhood through adulthood is defined byÂ various types of initiationÂ cermonies or “rites of passage”. In Vanuatu they exchange pigs, mats, kava, and other goods between a child’s father’s and mother’s families. In indigenous Australian and AfricanÂ tribes, they perform faceÂ painting rituals and circumcisions. Similarly, throughout Melanesia and Polynesia, tattoos are used to symbolise the same transition.
Here in Spain, that same journey is marked byÂ the ability of an adolescentÂ to endure the official vehicle licensing beauracracy. In a word, it can only be described as exasperating. Now I actually relish challenges, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into…
â€œThere are few things in life as difficult or intimidating as getting a Spanish driverâ€™s license,â€ says American expat Sal DeTraglia of Sal DeTragliaâ€™s Virtual Tapas Bar. â€œIt is a process akin to trying to solve Fermatâ€™s last theorem while sitting on death row in a Texas prison. If you donâ€™t believe me, just ask anyone who has been through it.â€
The Spanish learner driving scheme is considered by many to beÂ one of the most difficult of all European countries; whileÂ Tenerife is said to be the most difficult of all provinces! Hence it comes as no suprise that one local legend associated with this rite of passage has fostered. She is known to those all over the island who have ever attempted the spanish driving exam… behold, because what you are about to read is no myth: this female apparition is the mostÂ detested, most despised, most viled of all that walks mother Earth.
Colloquially known as “El Thacher”, local legend has it that no one, I repeat,Â no one, is known to have ever passed one of her exams on the first attempt. I suppose it’s not difficult to see where the name came from – the nickname beingÂ a reference to Margaret Thatcher, the ex-priminster of England, a hard-line woman if ever there was one. Just ask anyone who has attempted the driving exam in the last 10 or twenty years if you don’t believe me. Suspensions are frequent, rapid and without warning.Â
No I’m not joking, I witnessed her with my own two eyes. Some only know her by name, but yesterday I happened to witness the infamous “El Thatcher” as I was about to start my own examination (all four of us in the car). Pen in hand, ready and waiting for the traffic to dispell. Wry little smile, secretly enjoying every moment I suspect. I even asked my instructor if it was true. He just murmered in the affirmative.
Now as a proud and triumphent ex-student (yes I finally bloody passed), my vote is cast:Â Spain, and in particular the province of Tenerife located in the Canary Islands,Â wins hands down when it comes to the world’s most difficult driving test. Hell, local residents even smuggle in comprehensive cheat sheets to help them pass driving theory test, which is set in a large examination hall just like a university exam!
This transition to adulthood is exceedingly difficult in Western societies because there are no systems of adulthood rites to systematically guide and direct the young person through this important stage in his or her life cycle.Â In Western culture adulthood is seen as a status achieved at the age of 18 or 21, or simply when the person graduates from high school.Â Unfortunately, in most cases there is no fundamental guidance or transformation from a child to an adult that is required or expected.Â This â€œleave it for chanceâ€ approach to adulthood development is the root of most teenage and youth â€œadultâ€ confusion, chaos, and uncertainty.Â When the youth reach a certain age, somehow they are expected to magically transformed into an â€œadult,â€ eventhough they often receive very little guidance.On the other hand, African societies systematically initiate boys and girls.Â They often take the young initiates out of the community, and away from the concerns of everyday life, to teach them all the ways of adulthood: including the rules and taboos of the society; moral instruction and social responsibility; and further clarification of his/her mission or calling in life.