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Getting the Hang of It This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     “Take a deep breath and relax. I’m ready when you are ... okay, sometime today, please.” It was the big day. After ten months of napping to the sounds of police officers lecturing about red lights and seatbelts, that feeling in your stomach you get when you barely stop in time, getting lost just driving around, and parallel parking in and out of the driveway, it was finally here.

After cruising down the road at an exhilarating speed of 35 m.p.h., a mere fraction my heart rate, I pulled into the parking lot of the registry.

“Good job,” he said. “Just hand this to the woman at the desk inside and you should be all set.” Not only was I amazed that I didn’t hit anything, or in an instant of panic step on the wrong pedal and go racing through a stop sign, but also that I actually passed, and on my first try, no less. I could have conquered the world. I became extremely giddy and restless on the ride home.

As the driving instructor pulled into my driveway, I spat out a quick “thankyoubye” and bolted inside.

“Mom, I failed,” I said, as sincerely as possible. After an awkward pause, I yelled, “Psych! Check out your newly licensed driver!” After a lightning-fast change of clothes and a few bites to eat, I was gone. Out the driveway, up the street and around the corner, it was an instant ecstasy of freedom. Even the simplest task, like driving up the street to buy milk, became an enthralling escapade (Will I be able to stop in time?) and adventure (Hey, that guy in front of me is pretty cute!).

That dark, rainy night of my testing triumph happened to be the engagement party of my uncle and future aunt, and although I was not going to drive in those conditions, I was excited to tell everyone about my accomplishment. With a large family, however, news travels fast. As soon as I walked in, the room filled with comments like “Congratulations,” “So what’s next, a job?” and the always popular “Well, I guess I’m going to have to stay off the road now.” Then there were all the stories: “My first car was a piece of junk. The radio didn’t work and half the floor had fallen out;” “I failed my first try because I had what you would call an accident” or “Back in my day, we didn’t have cars. We had to walk everywhere uphill both ways.”

The next day I was up at the crack of noon and ready to take off and show those stop signs what I was made of. The roads weren’t very friendly, though. Driving only one town over, I somehow ended up in the right turn-only lane and before I knew it, I was at the point of no return.

Oops! No problem, I thought. I’ll just turn around. Or can I? That’s okay, I’ll just pull into one of these residential roads and make one of those three-point turns that seemed to be thought oh-so-essential in those student-driving hours. If there weren’t so many cars going in the opposite direction, I could easily maneuver around, but the road is so narrow ... ooh, driveways! I’ll just pull into a driveway and pull out in the opposite direction. Simple. Except I think I just ran over some flowers.

An hour and a half later, I arrived. “Here I am! Look, I drove here all by myself, guys. Check out my new car. Can I borrow some money for gas?”

If I had only known incidents like that would keep occurring. It happened again when I accidentally got off at the wrong exit, and I am sure as green means go that it will happen many more times. That was just the beginning, though. The months that followed consisted of absent-mindedly locking my keys in the car (not a big deal), leaving the car running while we were at Papa Gino’s, or leaving the top down in the rain with my cell phone, camera and clothes inside. Nobody enjoys waking up on a Saturday morning to the words “I just shop-vacuumed a ton of water out of your car.”

It’s okay now, though. The electronics were not permanently damaged and Febreeze took the mildew smell away. My keys are rarely in the car when I’m not, and all the squirrels are still very much alive as they are creepy. I think I’m starting to get the hang of driving.

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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