Not a Game This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 23, 2013
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A few years ago I was told that before I could take the test for my driver's license I had to attend driving school. I thought, What is there to learn? One pedal is go, one is stop, and the steering wheel is directions. I had played every racing game my local arcade offered, and I was really good at them. I had this driving thing in the bag. Even though I was confident in my ability to guide a vehicle through the crowded streets of the suburban world of my youth, I still worried about driving school. When I asked my mother why I had to go, she replied, “So you can learn to drive well.” Simple as that. I tossed and turned the night before my first class, worried and excited at the same time. I hoped it was going to be just like “Need For Speed.” Little did I know that driving wouldn't be that easy.

I arrived at the class, and they popped a DVD in. Suddenly, I was subjected to two hours of propaganda. Don't drink and drive! Don't text and drive! Don't get dressed, brush your teeth, or eat breakfast and drive! The road is a dangerous place, and every time you start your car, you should say a prayer to whatever God you believe in. Really, the road is just a giant death trap, hungering for the souls of drivers who aren't paying attention. Are you sure you want to drive? Because you'll probably never see your next birthday. Class dismissed. Please exit through the door on your left. If you're too shell-shocked to walk, feel free to sit here in the dark and contemplate your fear of the road.

My excitement for driving was dampened by the realization that I was tempting fate. At the next class, we started by identifying a car. I was pretty good at that. Next we approached the car. “Make sure you walk around the car first and inspect it before you get in.” Inspect it for what? Probably bombs – everyone knows it only takes one good car bomb to ruin your day. After we inspected the car and found a distinct lack of bombs, class was dismissed.

When my mother came to pick me up, I started inspecting the vehicle, explaining that I was checking for bombs. She was not amused.

My next class I actually got to drive the car. After inspecting it, I got in next to the instructor and he began to describe the route. I shifted into drive and was just about to floor it when the instructor stopped me. I hadn't adjusted the mirrors. Mirrors? What are they for? Looking behind me? Why would I want to do that? I'm driving forward not backwards. Evidently mirrors are used to stay aware of where your car is in relation to other cars on the road.

My first drive went smoothly enough. I didn't hit any curbs (not surprising since at the local arcade I was known for my ability to control cars), I didn't run any red lights (surprising since at the arcade I was known for running red lights), and I completed my three-point turn on the first try.

For the next couple of weeks I laboriously learned the ways of the vehicle. I could tell the speed of the car by the sound of my soda can vibrating in the cup holder. I could accurately park in even the tightest spots. I could even pull U-turns on busy roads. I learned to resist hitting pedestrians (apparently in real life you don't get extra points for that). I learned that shooting other vehicles in your way is not acceptable (every once in a while I am still tempted though). And most importantly, I learned that driving isn't a game.

When the final class arrived, I hopped into the car and began the best drive of my life. When I pulled back into the parking lot outside the driving school, my instructor gave me a thumbs up. Driving school may sound ridiculous to any headstrong, prideful teenager, but it really paid off, ensuring that I had plenty of experience and no misconceptions about driving. If I had gone for my license without it, I would have failed the test – and even if I had passed, I would not be the driver I am today.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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. said...
Mar. 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm
Nice Job. I was not going to read this until I saw  "Ride4Life"'s comment that it was really funny. Come to think of it, it was. I didn't do Driver's Ed, figuring it wasn't worth 500 dollars for Driver's Ed then another 100 dollars for more stuff. I learned by a permit and a parent that would tend to make a habit of ripping up a new piece of the upholstry whenever I turned the curb. Once I recall I had driven and miscalculated a certain right-of-way law and saw... (more »)
Ride4Life said...
Mar. 2, 2014 at 1:09 pm
I really enjoyed your story. A real-life, meaningful piece, threaded with humor. (: high five!
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