Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Here in My Car, I'm Safest of All?

I learned to drive in Arizona, a few months before I was set to leave it for Minnesota. As part of the driver's ed course, you had to learn highway driving. This was a bit of a challenge where I lived. There were no real highways.

The one there was led directly to Mexico.

So, picture if you will, a 15-year-old Stephanie, slightly rageful at the injustice of having to move away my junior year, even more rageful about moving back to the town where I grew up. A town I did not have fond memories of. Rage Stephanie is yawning and rolling her eyes and waiting for her turn at driving.

The turn finally comes and I try not to get distracted by the demonstration of the instructor on how he can make me brake any ole time he felt like it. The car jerks as he shows me and I sigh heavily. Finally, he lets me go on my own.

I do okay, I'm gripping the wheel tight at 10 and 2 and following directions. And then all of a sudden I see THE SIGN.

Border Crossing Ahead.

I start trying to swerve wildly, only my instructor has caught on to my terror and is controlling the wheel.

As I am hyperventilating, he is repeating over and over "we are not going to cross the border, we are not going to cross the border" and he's giving me instructions on where the turn-off is to not cross the border, only all I am hearing is white noise as I imagine my little 15-year-old self trying to slow through the checkpoint.

I will hit a guard. I will be put in Mexican prison. I will surely die in Mexican prison, and the worst part is, since I know Spanish, I'll hear all about their death plot long before it's carried out.

I don't know how we got to the turnoff, but I insisted on getting out of the car and wouldn't drive the rest of the lesson.

This experience and parallel parking were all I could think of when I went to take my driver's test.

I had practiced this more, of course. I had been allowed to drive my mother's van approximately three times: each time she apparently thought she had the driver's ed car and frantically stomped her feet on the floor to make me brake. When she wasn't doing this, she was gripping the door handle as if planning a quick roll-out escape should I try to take her across the border.

I was wired, remembering everything I had to check off to satisfy the license people. I took the written test first. You had to pass the written before they even allowed you behind the wheel. I just about bit through my lip in anticipation.

And then the man handed me my test back, I had passed!! I tried not to jump up and down, fearing points off for excessive celebration.

And then it got better.

He handed me my license paperwork! I had been approved! For a license! Without taking the behind the wheel test!!! I must have looked a little surprised because he said the name of my driving school and I nodded and he said "happy birthday" and went on to his next person.

I kept it together until I got outside and then squealed like a schoolgirl. My mom smirked in confusion, and handed me a gift. It was my first set of keys, my very own. Complete with pepper spray (I suspect this was my dad's doing).

Awhile later I found out that the driver's ed school I took was certified about a week before my birthday to give the behind the wheel as part of the class. While the class I took was not qualified, they just saw the qualification stamp on the name of the school and asked no further questions.

To this day I have never had to take a behind the wheel exam. But I am a kick-ass parallel parker. I dare you to let me prove it!

What was your first driving experience? Did you pass your first time? What was on your first keychain?

14 comments:

Sparkling said...

I did have to take both written and driving and passed both the first time. This was after a bunch of my friends did not pass the driving test SEVERAL times, so I was worried. I had to parallel park and change lanes. He did comment something about my changing lanes habit but I passed anyway!

Erica@PLRH said...

I learned to drive in northern NJ where driver's ed is a requirement for high school graduation. My first day of behind-the-wheel training was my first day behind the wheel of a car EVER! (I blame my parents for that) While I was still learning how to manage a 2-ton death mobile, the instructor told me to take the on-ramp. To the highway. DURING RUSH HOUR! My classmates clung to each other for dear life in the backseat.

I passed both written and driving tests with flying colors. Oh, and I also kick ass at parallel parking. Thank you very much!

Bonnie@TheFragileXFiles said...

I passed the behind-the-wheel test easily somehow but still, I-won't-say-how-many-years-later, can't parallel park. So, kudos to you!

Mads said...

NICE! I am also a badass parallel parker. It's a blessing and a curse...well...mostly a blessing.
My first driving experience was in my dad's Suburban in an icy parking lot in MN. He had me doing donuts so I could learn how to control a vehicle on ice.
Probably not the safest first lesson, but it was a blast!

Rach (DonutsMama) said...

I was holding my breath reading this! So glad you didn't end up in Mexico. Oh how I hated driver's ed. I was so stressed out behind the wheel! I felt like I was driving a semi or something!

Hungrigyrl said...

I luckily passed the first time. The only scary thing that happened with my behind the wheel instructor was when I was parking and I meant to step on the break and I hit the gas instead. LOL

Kat said...

It took me three tries to pass my actual test. I was a horror show with backing and parallel parking.

I went to a certified driving school, but for one of my behind the wheels, my instructor drove us to her house and I sat in the car while she took a smoke break. SO classy.

Mama Spaghetti said...

Haha! Nice job.

You're probably a better driver than I am, and I passed a behind-the-wheel test. Although...I did have to take it twice to pass. Talk about a crushing 16th birthday when you fail your driving test.

Supposedly I sped in a school zone, but it was a total trick because they made me turn onto the street in the middle of the school zone (i.e. I never actually would have seen the school zone sign) and just expected me to *know* I was in a school zone...

Ameena said...

The very first time I drove a car I had an accident. Yes, really. But it wasn't my fault! The driving school's car brakes failed and there was nothing I could do. Things have been better since!! Although I still can't parallel park. Maybe you can give me some lessons??

Amanda @ It's Blogworthy said...

We had to do the following: right turn, right turn, parallel park, 3 point turn, park in the lot. License. Terrifying. All these 16 yr olds were set loose on the road with no experience turning left.

comfortablydomestic.com said...

My Mom acted exactly like your Mom while I was driving. She let me drive her car exactly twice before my first attempt at passing the road test. By not passing, I finally convinced her that I needed more behind the wheel time and she gave up her keys.

Kristin said...

My first driving test was a disaster. I took it in MN and the driving course was not true to size. Mini streets, mini signs - not the real deal. I was thrown off and failed. I went prepared the next time and got everything right EXCEPT parallel parking. The instructor said he'd pass me if I'd learn to park. He taught me that day and I still remember it - he was great.

Missy said...

I did not pass the first time. I failed maneuverability. I thought it was. The. End. Of. The. World.

I lived - and passed the next week. :)

John said...

I agree that the simulators should not count towards their on the road training but can you imagine either how many more driving instructors schools would need or how much longer driver's ed would last?
ny defensive driving