If there's one thing I've missed woefully these past several months, it's having a car. I arrived a little late on the car ownership scene with my sweet little 1984 Toyota Tercel purchased in 1994, but I can assure you it was extremely cherry. I've since owned two fabulous Hondas, and all were my tickets to freedom. No more clutching grocery bags on my lap on the crowded bus for me. The convenience factor couldn't be beat, and the fact that I could just GO wherever I wanted, to another city, across that field, to the beach, to Target or the Statue of Liberty or to the Yukon or to check out that giant crucifix on the hill in Rio de Janeiro, just like that, was pretty awesome.
It seems that just about everyone here has a car, so much so that people are surprised that we don't have one. A bank teller looked dumbfounded recently when we said we didn't have a car. "But...how do you get around?" Bicycles. "Yes, but when it is raining?" We walk, with hooded jackets on. "And shopping bags?" We carry them. With our hands. I think she stopped herself before asking, "But why?", though I'm sure it was perched on the edge of her tongue.
And that's where I'm at: But why? Why don't we have a car? WHY???? Two reasons: Cost, and the insufferable tribulations involved with getting a Danish driver's license.
First, some math: I saw yesterday that gasoline here costs 9.75 kroner per liter. (They're all metricky here and stuff.) There are 3.8 liters in a gallon, so a 15-gallon gas tank is 57 liters, and to fill that gal up will cost you 556 kroner, or $103.50. My last Honda cost roughly $32 to fill up, bone-dry to tippy-top. This amount seems so mind-boggling to me that I wonder if there is an error in my calculations, but I don't think so. So, how do Danes afford this? I have no idea, especially when you think of doubling it for a two-car family. Sheer wackiness. Why haven't they figured out a smart way to get cheap oil? Sillies.
Other than the simple task of buying gas, there looms the daunting challenge of convincing the police that we are actually fit to drive. When we arrived here last September and Don took care of all of his temporary residency set-up stuff at city hall, he was assured that once he became a permanent resident (after one year), he had two weeks to come in and swap his U.S. license for a Danish one. Easy peasy, even trade, smiles all around. Until then, our U.S. driver's licenses would work a-okay, especially since we were conscientious enough to have gotten international driver's licenses through AAA before we left; not necessary, but certainly helpful. Gold stars and smiley faces next to our names for being so proactive!!
Fast forward to two weeks ago: Don goes back to city hall to inquire about the jolly license swap, and was told, "oh, no, the law has changed." As of January 1st of this year, American driver's licenses are now obsolete for permanent residents, about as effective as a broken rubber band. No trading. Sorry. Okay, so now what? "Well, you will need to first take a written test at the police station, in Danish, then a driving course consisting of about 8 consecutive lessons with a private teacher, then a driving test through the police (and you must rent the driving instructor's special car with the brakes on both sides), paying for translators chosen by the police and the driving instructor, and then there will be a licensing fee as well." The whole package will cost about $2500-3000. Each.
I think we will eventually get our licenses, but we'll have to do it one at a time. We've kind of stopped talking about it between ourselves, because our discussions usually end in one or both of us going mute, not being able to locate any words to express the lunacy of it all, so now we just talk about happier subjects like Paris Hilton being free and how pretty windmills are.