This is an archived post from 2010.
Last week was truly a monumental one for me. At last, I assembled my bits of courage collected over the last four years and got my driver’s license. Yes, it took me half way through college before achieving this “rite of passage” and, to be frank, I am still in denial.
As a twenty-year-old student active in her community, I somehow bore the humiliation of being a “ride mooch” who couldn’t drive anywhere, but always had to be somewhere. In four years, I have become a master ride-bummer… not necessarily a good thing.
So why did I wait so long?
When I was sixteen, I was really excited to drive, but also harbored some paranoia thanks to the morbidity of the news. After being told, “If so-and-so can do it, you can!” many a time, I pushed my fear aside and practiced until it was test time.
Regrettably, the only vehicle we had back then was a very large space-shuttle-like van. Now, I’m only 5 feet tall and barely pushing 100 pounds. Practicing in it was difficult; I could barely see over the dash! There was itty bitty me, high up off the ground in a monstrous and clunking beast, trudging down the main road taking up all available space in my lane. I had no leeway. The van stretched back for miles it seemed, and I was unaware of where it ended and began. I felt like I needed a “caution: wide turn” signal.
The dreaded test time came. It was my first shot. I wore my most comfortable shoes and sported a “driving outfit” worn for comfort and flexibility. I hopped into the big van with my dad in the passenger’s seat, and we drove off for the examination station in the early hours of the morning.
This is where the seed of my fear was planted. Not too far from our house, I decided to go back. My nerves were getting to me, and I decided my shoes would hinder my driving. Overthinking things, I wanted to head home to change them. Dad told me to pull the clunker into a driveway and turn around to head home, but as I was backing out I went too far and the enormous van crushed the mailbox across the street tearing it clear out of the ground.
There was a loud crash, we dipped into a small ditch, and the van’s rear bumper was stuck to the mangled pole. It wouldn’t budge. Dad was at a boiling point, and fear and adrenaline took over. I handed over the wheel, and he cleverly maneuvered us away. I was stressed and nervous beyond belief.
‘Do you still want to take the test?” dad asks.
And in disbelief I respond, “Um, I don’t really think I should be on the road… do you?”
He drove us home, and I stormed into the house furious at myself. I don’t know if my dad ever contacted the owners of the mailbox, but that incident was enough to keep me off the road for four years. I was terrified, and the intense fear was punishment enough.
Just last week, I scheduled my first driver’s exam since. Thanks to my boyfriend’s car and a new vehicle purchase by my dad, I was able to practice in cars much more fitting to my size, which made ALL the difference. I got an adequate amount of practice in, scheduled my exam for the afternoon, and I was ready.
I drove to the exam station with my boyfriend, the nerves making their existence known within my stomach. I walked in, they processed me, and then it was show time. It was a humid and rainy day, but as soon as I walked to the car with the examiner, my emotions turned off and I was on autopilot.
Where I live, we’re required to take a maneuverability test similar to parallel parking. I did this first with ease save for a few bumps of the markers. Then it was time for the road test. We rode into a neighborhood, and I followed his instructions exactly. He marked me off for a few mistakes, but once we rolled back into the exam station parking lot, it was silent.
Four years of tension and guilt flowed out of me, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I did it.
My newfound independence has been a godsend. Now my passion for volunteering can blossom in ways that were deemed impossible in the past. I’m already dreaming of the near future where I can pick up my “Little” and be the “Big Sister” I’ve always wanted to be. I no longer have an excuse to have “lazy days” every weekend, and I like it.
So instead of taking this common ability to drive for granted, I’m going to take this privilege of mine and share it with those who can benefit from it. Oh, and I won’t pass up the occasional shopping spree either.