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This is the DSA

This is the DSA

– a short story based on fact


“This is the Driving Standards Agency. How can I help you?”

It should have been easy. It was 2 September. Mark’s driving test was booked for 16 September at 9.30, but he wanted it postponed. Helen had not yet booked her test, and 16 September would suit her perfectly. I explained what I wanted.

“I’m sorry sir. We need 10 clear working days’ notice of a date swap. You’re a day late.”

“Yes, I know. I phoned you ten times yesterday, but your computer was down. I spoke to Bill, and he said he could do the date swap if I phoned today.”

“Just a minute, sir…”

“…yes, I have a note from Bill here. That will be all right, sir. The first available date is 8 October. Shall I book Helen for that one, and then swap?”

“Yes please.”

“The computer says her theory test pass certificate has expired.”

“It expires on 19 September. That’s why she needs an early date. Can’t you book her for 8 October and then swap her with Mark for 16 September?”

“Sorry sir, the computer won’t accept her for 8 October: it says her theory certificate… Just a minute, sir…”

“…We’ve just had a cancellation for 16 September at 8.40. Shall I book Helen for that slot?”

“That’s ideal, yes thanks. Book Helen for that one please, and then book Mark for 8 October.”

“What’s your Driving School Code sir?”


“The computer says there’s a Driving School Code conflict. You must have another pupil with a test at about the same time.”

“Yes, Mark’s test is at 9.30. But he won’t now be taking his test until 8 October.”

“But the computer won’t accept it.”

“Then move him to 8 October first, please”

“I wouldn’t do that, sir. Everybody’s phoning for cancellation slots at this time in the morning, and they vanish like hot cakes. By the time I’ve booked Mark for 8 October, both slots for 16 September could be gone.”

“Then forget the Driving School Code for Helen.”

“Ok, sir. The computer’s accepted it. 8.40 on 16 September. And you want to move Mark to 8 October?”

“Yes please.”

“The computer won’t accept it. You need to give 10 clear working days’ notice for a postponement.”

“But your computer was down all day yesterday, and Bill said…”

“Bill’s note says you wanted to do a swap, not a postponement.”

“Oh for crying out loud…”

“Just a minute, sir, I’ll find out for you…”

“…That will be all right, sir. That’s 2.45 on 8 October.”

“Thank you. Can you reinstate my Driving School Code now for Helen? A1576.”

“Certainly, sir. I mean no, the computer won’t accept two changes of Driving School Code for the one candidate on the same day.”

“I’ll phone tomorrow then. One more thing. The 8.40 am slot is a rather unsocial time for a test. Is the 9.30 slot on the same morning still available?”

“One moment, sir… yes, it’s still available.”

“Can I move Helen to that slot please?”

“I don’t know, sir, we need 10 clear working…”

“Oh forget it.”

“…but I’ll find out for you.”

“No, I said forget it.”