Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Driving Myself Crazy
Yesterday, I reached a very important milestone.
Those who know me are aware that there are many things I can do--but driving is not one of them. I didn't get my license until I was 19, after failing the driving test once--and I'm convinced the second tester only gave it to me out of pity. However, my father tells me I should consider myself lucky: my grandmother failed the test four times, my father failed it three...so really, to continue the pattern, I should have had to fail it twice before passing. In any case, even after I obtained the coveted piece of plastic (with a shockingly decent picture!), my independence was still incomplete. Though I mastered driving in my tranquil suburban neighborhood, I was still utterly petrified of driving on the freeway. With my mother in the passenger's seat, I would occasionally take the wheel on short drives, for practice, but even those excursions were extremely nerve-wracking. The fact that I have no (and I mean literally ZERO) sense of direction doesn't help matters. Heck, I still have trouble telling the difference between left and right (seriously).
So now I've had my license for over a year, and though I've made a few solo freeway drives (requiring about 45 seconds of freeway each), I've never gone farther than that. My lack of transportation independence has aggravated my friends for years, since it means that if they ever want to see me they have to make the half hour drive to my house, and I rarely pay a return call (my parents are anti-kid schlepping).
So last night, when I told my mom that I wanted to go to the 'hood to see my friends, and she unexpectedly said, "Ok, take the car," my reaction was less than tranquil. I knew that this day would come, and I wanted it to, but that didn't make it any less terrifying. In contemplation of the drive before me, I nearly burst into tears. I envisioned myself getting into various accidents--even if miraculously I didn't end up in the hospital, at least I would damage the car and incur my father's wrath.
I wavered back and forth. Should I do it? Though my timid side urged me to give up the crazy scheme and succumb to passivity (as I do far too often), another part of me refused. "No!" it said. "There comes a time for a girl to act...and that time is now. You need to learn not to be afraid. Grow up, dude!" So, hoping that giving this side of me some exercise would help me be strong in other areas, I steeled myself for the task, grabbed the keys, and got in the car.
And I made it. All in once piece. And so did the car! True, it took me a while to figure out how to work the windshield wipers (did I mention that it was raining?), and yes, my freeway lane change was less than ideal, but I didn't get pulled over, and no one even made any obscene hand gestures (though, of course, this isn't NYC).
At my friend's house, her parents were even more excited than I was about my newfound skill. After all, it means that she no longer has to abscond with their cars to come see me all the time. Later that night, my brother was dropped off in the 'hood after an NCSY event, so I got to experience a new dimension of driving: the teenage boy as passenger. Though my brother is no driver (he's only 15), his presence and the knowledge that I had already done it once before made the drive home far easier than the drive there--despite the fact that it was nighttime, and despite the music blasting. (When I drove by myself I turned off the music, realizing that it was only a distraction...though that didn't really help much, because I just ended up singing to myself anyway.) With my brother egging me on, I hit 70 on the way home...and loved it.
When we arrived back home triumphantly, my parents awaited to hear about the disasters that had occurred on the drive--but there were none to report! Hoorah for me!
My next challenge: learn how to read a map.