By Mike Austreng, Editor
We’ve heard it said that we are living a “new normal” with social distancing and the closing of certain businesses and services for a couple months. We’ve been out to eat and admit the spacing of the seating is a little strange – maybe nice because you have a lot more privacy – there are no salt and pepper shakers, those come in those little paper packets – the menus are disposable, so we used ours as placemats. Staff was wearing face masks – although a few had them around their necks where they had little chance of being effective. Wait times were longer than usual because only half as many people could be seated at the same time. Even so, it was nice to get out of the house to eat.
We are ending our career here at the Record sometime in the next year or so, but we know we can’t just stop working (for one thing we still have a mortgage so we have to earn enough money to subsidize our Social Security payment – AND we’d go completely crazy if we didn’t have some sort of commitment to a job – maybe not forever, but for a while).
We knew we’d spend a couple years working outside the job we’ve held for about 50 years (if you count when we first started working here at age 12) and after talking to several people we decided we’d enjoy delivering new buses to whoever bought them, for a company out of St. Augusta. We interviewed with them to find out 1) if they’d hire us, and 2) what we needed to do to accept the job.
We found out we needed a “class B” license. The license would have to include air brake, passenger and school bus endorsements. We studied for a while and took dozens of practice tests, then we waited and waited for the DVS to reopen so we could take our test. On three occasions we drove to St. Cloud to find the line so long there was no way we’d get through it before closing time.
Finally we decided we’d go in first thing in the morning, right at 8:00 a.m. when the DVS opened. We arrived a few minutes before 8:00 to find a line that circled two long hallways. We counted at least 110 people in front of us before the doors to the DVS opened. There were at least 30 behind us too. We figured we’d wait it out. The line moved, but not quickly. After nearly an hour we were close to the front door. As we got closer we noticed people doing something with their phones and then walking away. What we learned was we weren’t done waiting. We were given a number (ours was A- 629) and told it would be at least another hour, probably an hour and a half before we could enter for the written test.
One hour and forty-five minutes later we received a text “inviting us in” – that’s right, you couldn’t wait inside the building, you had to wait outside. Since it was about 90 degrees we waiting in our running vehicle so we could enjoy cooler air.
Once we got the invitation to enter we found out the waiting wasn’t over. There were six or seven chairs inside the office area and we were told to take the last seat and wait to be called to the counter. This didn’t go quickly, we’d guess another half hour before we went to the counter, received a paper towel with disinfectant sprayed on it and told to wait by a “go vote” sign until a computer was available – more waiting, maybe fifteen minutes. Finally, a computer opened. We wiped it down, put on the headphones and waited, and waited, and waited until the tests we were there for showed up on the screen. Four of them. A couple with 50 questions and a couple with 20 or so.
We don’t consider ourself stupid, nor are we a genius. We studied and took “practice tests” for weeks before going in for the real test. We felt confident because we passed every single “practice test” very easily.
What we learned was that we have a little more studying to do and that the questions on the practice tests are quite a bit different than the ones on the computer when it counts – We’ll have to go back again sometime soon. We’re really, really hoping the Paynesville office opens for testing soon so we don’t have to put up with spending a half a day waiting in line. This time we’ll print the manual and read every single word before we go back in.
Our luck, the services will be shut down again considering the uptick in COVID cases we’re hearing about – some right in our small towns.