Sunday, October 9, 2016

The windy road to Alice's driver's license

Today's post is about the adventures that I had in learning to drive a car. Although I love traveling on foot, I realize that, at times, that method of transportation is too slow to be practical. Also, in the winter, I am sometimes risking hypothermia just to get in a good walk. A few years ago, I decided that it was time to learn how to drive a car.

For the most part, I found driving to be a great deal of fun. I drove in a big circle around Grand Island. Winter came and my friend/driving instructor and I went to the empty parking lot at Beaver Island State Park where I did donuts. That was fun. Maybe too much fun. I drove in tight circles and said "whee!" It was OK because it was an empty parking lot. I stopped when my friend began turning green. (Making your driving teacher carsick may not be the best plan.)

 But then, the scary part began. I had to drive over the Grand Island bridges. They are high and big and very intimidating. I told a friend at church that I was too scared to walk over the Grand Island bridges and that I wasn't sure that I could drive over them, either.

"Don't think of them as bridges," my friend advised. "Just think of them as big hills."

Hills. Big hills. OK. Well, I've walked over some really big hills. They aren't scary. Maybe a little annoying because of the effort that it takes to climb. I decided that I would approach the bridges as if they were hills. Never mind the churning water beneath the "hill." The Niagara River. My friend, who was my first driving teacher, was calm enough to let me drive onto the expressway and over the bridges. We went into Niagara Falls some days and, other days, we went into Buffalo.

Finally, it was time for me to take my road test. I drove with some trepidation to the test site. I say trepidation because I didn't think that I was quite ready. I had not really mastered the art of Parallel Parking. My parallel parking was hit or miss. Unfortunately, it was mostly miss. I spent the days before the road test watching YouTube videos about how to parallel park. Every video showed a different technique. My head started spinning so I gave up on Learning Parking Via YouTube. It also did not help that my friend had had a few accidents and the car looked like a crushed tin can.
Needless to say, I did not pass my first road test. I had a talk with my friend and we agreed that, while she was able to teach me many driving skills, she could not figure out how to teach parallel parking. Nevertheless, I felt somewhat discouraged and stopped driving for a while. That was also about the time that I noticed that I could barely see out of my eyeglasses. It was time to see the eye doctor. Drivers should be able to see. You never know what sort of things you have to look out for when you're driving... a deer, a squirrel, broken stuff falling out of trucks, a human...

After getting new eyeglasses, I was ready to go. I had a valid learner's permit and I could drive a car! I called a driving school and began taking Professional Lessons. My driving instructor, Keith, was very calm. Exceptionally calm. Almost unnaturally calm. Sometimes, I wondered if he was actually awake. Who could be that calm while teaching a beginning driver? He had me drive over the bridge, under the bridge, into Buffalo, and into Niagara Falls. I drove on city streets, suburban streets, and expressways. After a while, driving over the bridge no longer felt like an out-of-control roller coaster ride.

I was ready for my second road test. I told everyone that I was going to take it. It seemed like a good idea to advertise it on Facebook.

Or maybe not. Road test disaster number two. No driver's license. I did not write a follow-up post for Facebook. Eventually, people stopped asking. I began to see curbs as my enemies. Those poor curbs. What did they do to me? After all, I was the one who attacked them... with a car. They should have seen me as the nemesis.

Last month, I was ready for... road test number three!!! I did not advertise it at all... anywhere. When I left the house, I told my mom that I was taking an "early morning driving lesson." That's it... just "driving lesson." I drove the car over the bridge. After a practice test, I was ready for the real thing. I had to wait for a young man in a van to take his test. It was my turn. The examiner got into the car and the road test began. When it was time for me to parallel park, I felt confident. I had practiced it for a few months. The road test examiner said, "Good job." He had me do a three-point turn and then said, "Good job." At the end, he explained my driving mistakes to me and said that I did well enough to pass my road test.

That was it? I had a driver's license??? I avoided screaming with glee because I didn't want to scare the road test examiner, who was very nice and helpful.

Keith asked me if I wanted to drive home, and I was more than happy to do so. I waved good by to the examiner, who was waiting for his next customer. 

A few days later, I was at the supermarket, where I was chatting with the checkout clerk about finally getting my driver's license. She said that, she, too, had to take a road test, even though she had been driving for sixteen years.

"It was hard," she said. "I had developed a lot of bad habits in those sixteen years."

The checkout clerk in the next lane said, "I was going to have a fun summer and then... I FAILED MY ROAD TEST!!!"

"You can do it," I said. "Don't give up."

She said that she was planning on trying again. We high-fived, and I left.

Later, I read about a woman who had to take her road test eight times. Her family had given her a car. All she had to do was to PASS HER ROAD TEST. At first, her family asked her how it went. Each time, she tearfully told her family that she failed her road test. But, after a while, they stopped asking her why she was coming home, crying, with such frequency. I think that she finally stopped crying and started driving her car.

Last Monday, my brand new driver's license arrived in the mail. Unfortunately, it was expired. I had kept the learner's permit for four years, and the license expired on the same date as the learner's permit. At first, I just gaped at the expired license, and then, I started laughing. It was sort of like getting a cool new toy in the mail with A DEAD BATTERY!

On Wednesday, I went to get my driver's license renewed. The new license will arrive in the mail in about two weeks. It is good for eight years.

Watch out, world. Alice has a driver's license.





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