Drive, Don't Deter

July 16, 2009
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My heart is throbbing with endorphins as I slide into the driver’s seat of the unattractive, decade-old vehicle. Another student inconspicuously crawls into the back, while the drivers’ education instructor calls shotgun. The instructor poises his caramel coffee cup, cleverly informing me to attach my seatbelt. This is the first time I have ever driven any car, but how hard could it be? Famous last words.

I begin on the wrong track, as in I am now driving off the side of the road, for reasons neither my instructor nor I can fathom. We cruise to the suburbs and I am requested to execute a right turn. However, I peer at my speed gauge and realize I am flooring it at 30 miles an hour! Oops, I guess I will skip that turn. Out of the blue, my teacher lunges for the wheel and pulls over.

“Let’s allow all these cars to pass us; now you’re going too slowly,” he sighs. “See that blue car? He has been tailgating us since Rochester Road! See that car? He’s laughing at you!” I heave my own sigh as I bear witness to five, count them, five, finicky, fussy drivers abandoning me to consume their dust.

I return to the main roads and subconsciously weave in and out of every lane. The instructor fumbles with his falling double cheeseburger and curly fries—Supersized, of course—as he braces himself. I realign the mobile, and am told to produce a left turn at the next light. I don’t know which lane he is implying that I should get into. As the light swirls into emerald, I comply and accidentally find myself in the oncoming lane. Vehicles are charging viciously; they halt as they take in the overbearing sign atop our car: “Caution—Student Driver! Please be patient!” An entire horizontal stampede in this lane is delayed; one crimson convertible has strayed into the adjacent lane while attempting to avoid me.

“What the—” The driving mentor appears as if he could regurgitate his Burger King meal at any moment. “You steer like you’ve had a few beers! You definitely need to improve!”
He parks the mobile for me, proclaiming himself Captain Obvious as he reiterates my flamboyant, flighty flaws. I feel he should spend more time working out at Lifetime Fitness than gorging himself and criticizing others, for he has a six-pack—of flab. Why do I need to learn this? I plan to live in Manhattan. I will not have use for a car. Only taxis are utilized. They are much more sophisticated, anyway, and less expensive than these preposterous gasoline prices.
A few days later, my mother is allowing—nay, forcing—me to operate her Toyota in a deserted parking lot, which I detest. I am not meant to drive. However, as I practice, I am not so fearful of the road. Pedestrians and other cars are no more threatening than those light poles, if I keep far away from them. I begin to practice every other day for seven days. The following week, I find myself perched in another transportation device of the 80’s, with a different professor of the road. Surprisingly, I am not regressing! I am not endangering the vehicle occupants or anyone outside of it!
“Just calm down,” the new mentor offers. “Driving should be fun.” I concur as I steer with caution. “Compare this to multitasking. Check your blind spot, your oncoming and cross traffic, and always keep your speed at the limit,” he refreshes my mind. I exhale deeply and perform a left turn to the best of my ability. Perfect. No crossing over the yellow line, flying off the path, or zooming up a lawn.
“I feel you have been the most improved student in the class,” my instructor reflects as I finish the route. In more ways than one, he is correct. I flashback to that as I grandly receive my Level One permit from the robust, rotting Secretary of State office. I would never have survived a trashy environment such as this a month ago. I also would have condemned myself to a life of conniving taxi drivers a month ago. I hold up my permit as if I am making a toast, and concede that this is history in the making. History in the making: famous last wo—I mean, famous words. Devoid of the last.





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