Okay, folks…it’s OVER! I got up early this morning and made it down to the driver’s license bureau and arrived at a quarter to eight: 15 minutes early. One lesson the United States, and I suppose a lot of other countries around the world, could learn from Panama is how to treat their senior citizens. After the doors were opened, and a guard ran a wand over everyone and checked their handbags and backpacks the dozen or so people ahead of me started to jockey for position in the line. Another gentleman, who turned out to be a retired Methodist minister who had lived for 20 years in Omaha, Nebraska, and I were singled out as “Jubilados” and given head-of-the-line privileges. Actually in Panama it’s the LAW that Jubilados go to the head of the line at all government offices (except at Immigration from my experience) and businesses such as the electric, and water companies and banks.

I had all my paperwork in order. My driving school diploma, photo copy of my passport (though I had to show the very attractive young lady who was processing me the real thing) and the letter I’d gotten from my HMO doctor as required by law for those of us 70 years old and up saying that I was in decent enough physical condition to be let loose upon the thoroughfares of the Republic with a motor vehicle.

With my paperwork logged into the system I was passed down the line to a cubicle where my mug shot was taken and I had to use one of those foolish electronic pens to sign my name. I was later called back to have my photo retaken. I assume that’s because the first one made me actually look like a human being and was far too good to be placed on an official document.

Next I went to another cubicle where I was given an eye exam which I apparently passed with flying colors. Then I went to an actual room that had three computer screens. First I took the hearing test which consisted of identifying which ear you heard a tone of varying intensities broadcast. Then, at the same computer, came one of the two biggies of the day…the “written” test. Another attractive young lady (I think that’s one of the requirements for them to be hired) patiently explained, in Spanish, that the test was composed of 10 questions. That’s right, only TEN QUESTIONS. And they’re in SPANISH, too. You are allowed one minute in which to read the question and mark the correct multiple-guess answer. I assume you’re automatically marked as incorrect if you don’t do it fast enough. It took me about four minutes to go through the test. I don’t know how many I actually got correct but I know it was enough to pass me on to the inspector who was going to do the “practical” part, or the “road test.”

The driving school had one of their employees bring the motor scooter to the site for my test. There was also another student taking his test this morning, too. I had to wait in line for four people testing for driving a car. They are required to park between a set of cones face in, back in and then parallel park. Three of them had a horrible time with the parallel parking test, but they all passed. Then it was my turn. You can see, in the “Wait That’s It!” link below the route I had to take. The only difference between that guy’s test and mine was that I was told to weave through three cones. As I approached the cones the inspector had his back to me talking to the next applicant in a car. He turned toward me just as I was finishing the weave, gave me a “thumbs up” and I was done.

I went back inside the office where I received another surprise when I went to pay. Because I’m over 70 I got a 50% discount on the fee and only had to pay $20! A few minutes after making my payment I was called up to a small window where I received this:


Down there, next to my picture is the code for vehicles I’m permitted to drive. “A” is for bicycle (don’t ask, I don’t know and didn’t ask myself why that’s there.) “C” is for automobiles and was on my original license. The “B” means I can now drive a motorcycle.

Another thing the States could take a lesson from the Panamanians is how to run a driver’s license office. From start to finish this morning it took me just under two hours to complete everything. One time at the DMV in Plantation, Florida, it took me TWO DAYS to get my license renewed!!!

So, it’s over and done with. I took the Panama challenge of having to do the whole thing in Spanish and I PASSED!

Below are links to the stories I’ve posted leading up to today’s adventure for anyone interested in the timeline.


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7 responses to “Done!

  1. Congratulations, my friend.

    Not bad, huh? One thing you missed out on in the first posting of this story was how efficient the whole process was. From beginning to end, today, it was just under two hours. Once at the DMV in Plantation, Fl., it took me TWO DAYS just to renew my license. And people have the nerve to call this place a third world country!

  2. I hear you, brother. Whenever I hear people tell horror stories about foreign bureaucracies, I know they’ve never had to deal with the Metro Nashville building codes department.

    The last few years I was working in the States I was the office manager for a friend’s construction company. One of my duties was as the “Permit Runner” dealing with the building departments in FOUR different counties in south Florida, and each municipality in each of the counties had their own building departments, each with their own arcane set of rules on top of the state building code! Not a lot of fun.

  3. Andres Espino Dennison

    Congratulations! Now you owe yourself a nice shot of Caribbean Rum and one of those favorite local hand rolled cigars!

    Don’t know about the Caribbean rum. Panama makes some fine rum on their own…Abuelo and Carta Vieja to name two and each of those companies offers various types. And the local cigars aren’t bad, either.

  4. Wonderful! It was far more efficient for you than it would be here – although the last time I renewed my driver’s license I was able to do it via the internet rather than the long slog through the system down at the bureau.

    Now, get out there and have some adventures!

    You’re right. Now that I’m legal there are a lot of back roads I want to travel, camera at the ready.

    The big thing for me wasn’t simply getting the endorsement, but doing it all in Spanish! That was the real challenge. It’s not like in the States where someone who doesn’t speak English can get their test in a myriad of languages. Here the language is Spanish and that’s it.

  5. Congratulations! We’ll look forward to hearing about where you go on your bike.

    Thanks, Kris. Of course now that the rainy season is at hand my exploration will have to be done in the mornings to avoid the afternoon downpours.

  6. Dee

    Robin and Daddy Al would probably worry about you, but Dee says “you’re now living on the wild side. In ’84 when we first moved to Georgia, renewal had to be done in person at the county court house. People would start lining up at 5AM for the doors to open at 8:30.

    I’m going to start a gang: Hell’s Geriatrics.” One thing I’ve done down here, since I don’t have a car, is to just get on a bus and see where it goes. When it gets to the end of the line I pay the fee and ride back. If you just look out the windows on one side then you get to see the whole route. But riding my regular route into David or out to Bugaba I see roads leading off in both directions and I wonder what’s down them. I want to go take a look. And with gas at $4.18 a gallon (today) it would be pretty expensive to do that in a car. With a motorcycle that gets 50+ mpg it’s a little better.

    The big thing for me wasn’t simply getting the endorsement, but doing it all in Spanish! That was the real challenge. It’s not like in the States where someone who doesn’t speak English can get their test in a myriad of languages. Here the language is Spanish and that’s it.

  7. Hi Richard:

    Been following your ordeal of your motorcycle project in Panama. Now you’re ready to have some fun. Congrats!

    Take Care,


    Thanks, Omar. It’s said that “Pride goeth before a fall” but I’m proud of my achievement because I had to do the whole thing in Spanish! Now, I just hope I don’t fall off the motorcycle.