Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning to Drive

Posted to OGR on 08/29/2010

Do you remember the car in which you learned to drive? For most of us, this was before school based driver’s ed and we learned to drive in the family car. If you are like me, you have a fondness for the car that started it all. For me it was a black and white 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air with a stick shift. By the time I had passed the written test and obtained a student driver’s license, it had a few years and miles on it. It had developed a quirk of honking the horn as you shifted between first and second if you didn’t do it just right. It felt really strange being in the driver’s seat; my normal place in the car was in the right back seat behind Mom. It was not lost on me, that if I wrecked the car, my family would not have transportation.

Like most parents, Dad started me off in the church parking lot with plenty of room between us and the nearest obstacle. I thought I would never master the intricacies of letting off the brake, stepping on the gas and letting out the clutch with only two feet. If you have never driven a stick shift, you just don’t have an appreciation for how difficult it can be to learn how to do that smoothly. Fortunately, there were few hills in my home town and by time I had to start on a hill, I had plenty of experience. Eventually, after many hours and watching my father consume many “Tums”, I mastered the mechanics of it all and Dad started letting me drive in the neighborhood. Next came driving my family all over town. Finally I was ready for the driver’s exam and getting my “real” driver’s license.

The day dawned hot and clear. My heart was in my throat as I drove down to the DMV office to take my driver’s test. Over my life I have taken many tests, including several for different types of pilot’s licenses, but never was I more nervous than for this first driver’s test. The examiner slid into the seat beside me with a menacing sneer behind his dark sunglasses and without so much as a hello, got the exam underway. “Turn right here!” Turn left here!” As we drove back into the parking lot at the DMV came the dreaded words; “Now, Parallel Park between those two cones at the edge of the pavement!” Somehow I got through the exam without making a fool of myself. I was just beginning to breathe a sigh of relief when he told me that I had made an improper left turn by cutting the corner too tight and putting my left wheel in the oncoming lane. He pulled his pad out to show me what I had done by tracing my route just across the corner of the oncoming lane on the back of his pad. I could tell that he had traced that route many times as the groove his pencil made had almost gone completely through the cardboard. I didn’t get my license that day. But I did two weeks later. This time, with a different examiner, I didn’t cut the corner too close. I will never forget the second examiner, he had a relaxed manner and silver backed sunglasses, the first I had ever seen, and his name was “Officer Christmas”, I swear!!!

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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