Be confident. Hesitation and second thoughts are what cause accidents. – Dad
Don’t drive in heels. – Anne
Watch the people in the cars around you to give you a sense of what they are about to do next. – Brian
Invest in a nice pair of driving gloves. Steering wheels are freezing on cold winter mornings. – Mom
Drive like everyone else is crazy. – Dad
What’s your favorite driving advice?
On North Carolina drivers: They’re not that good at driving.
Highway driving in North Carolina is like being surrounded by Intro Dance students who are all wearing floppy clown shoes and standing waist-deep in water. There is something magical about their clumsy, dangerous ballet of tailgating, sudden stops and abrupt lane changes.
So far, though, I like driving here. Because I’m not a particularly good driver, either, so I fit in. I feel like have returned to the motherland of Bad Driving.
And yes, I know that Massachusetts also has a lot of bad drivers. They’re worse here.
I got my North Carolina Driver’s License today!!!
I am SO relieved. I had been dreading getting my license changed over since the day I moved here. I realize this shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is, but given my history with the DMV, it is an enormous milestone.
For normal people, a trip to the DMV is nothing more than an inconvenience—it takes a while, there’s lots of bureaucracy, and there are other things you’d rather be doing. But ever since I first got my learner’s permit, trips to the DMV have inevitably been fraught with misery and peril.
I had to attempt the road test four times before I got my first license.
That’s right, laugh it up. Just know that I’m still crying on the inside.
I took Road Test #1 in New York City. I ran a stop sign almost immediately. The instructor was disgusted. “Do you realize you just broke the law??” he thundered. “Turn around right now and take me back before you get us killed.” That was the end of that.
Road Test #2, the next summer, I decided to take in Cape Cod, where I was living with my grandmother. I sat for hours listening to the DMV’s hold music waiting to schedule the appointment. I was all set for this one. My local friends had assured me that the road test there was a cinch. You didn’t even have to parallel park! Just do a K-turn. I did K-turns in the driveway in Grandma’s Camry until the tires went bald. I memorized road signs until my eyes bled. The day of the test, I was told that because my parents hadn’t signed my application to take the road test, I couldn’t take it. I’d had naively had Grandma sign it.
“But my parents are in New York,” I said. “I’m staying with Grandma.” Another brilliant move.
“Is she your legal guardian?” The officer asked. “If you’d forged your parent’s signatures on the document and told me they’d signed it, you could take the test. But now that I know they’re not here and can’t sign, no deal.” So, if I’d been dishonest, I would have gotten what I wanted. Thanks, DMV.
“But she’s my Mom’s Mom!” I argued. “That should make her even more qualified than my parents!” Arguing was futile.
So, no road test. And I’d been so close, I could almost taste the licensey goodness! Scream! But the third time’s the charm, right?
Road Test #3 came the following fall. My father and I had scheduled it to take place in upstate New York, so that I wouldn’t have to drive in the city. We drove up to Utica the evening before the test and spent the night.
The instructor the next morning was gruff, and I was nervous. But I was on a roll. I aced the K-turn and parallel-parked like a dream. Success! All my preparation had paid off! As we returned to the testing site and I put the car in park, the instructor turned to me.
“You failed before we even pulled out of the parking lot,” he said, “and let me tell you why.”
We had begun the test in an empty parking lot. Before pulling out, I had checked both my mirrors, but I had failed to turn and look over my shoulder, to make sure no cars had materialized behind me in the empty parking lot.
Why he couldn’t have just told me this right after it happened, I don’t know. The thought that he let me take the entire road test when he knew from the very beginning that he was going to fail me, is troubling. Such is the way of the DMV, though. Mine is not to question why.
Road test #4 came a few months after that. Hope springs eternal. I was driving a Thunderbird I wasn’t accustomed to, weaving in and out of traffic snarls beneath an elevated expressway in the Bronx. At the end of the test the instructor turned to me. I was prepared for anything.
“Well, you’re borderline,” he said. “You just barely squeaked by. I probably shouldn’t give you a pass, but I will. Just don’t get into any accidents.”
Hallelujah! I became licensed! The skies opened! The roads opened! I could drive in a car by myself! The fourth time was the charm!
Knock on wood, in the nearly ten years since I passed that final road test, I have never been in even a minor fender bender. I’d like to think it’s because I’m an excellent driver, but deep down in my heart, I think it’s mostly because I’m afraid of the DMV. I don’t want to lose my license and have to take another damn road test.
I drove to a job interview today in Brian’s Tahoe. To call his truck ‘big’ is an understatement. It feels like driving a building—a lurching, mutinous building, that doesn’t particularly care for the directions you give it, so it obeys them on its own time. Brian’s last truck was a twenty-year-old Landcruiser, so I guess he likes them that way. When I first got in the passenger’s seat of that Landcruiser, I thought it was the largest truck I’d ever ridden in. Brian’s form in the driver’s seat to my left felt like it was four feet away. Now, in the Tahoe, we sit even further apart. I never would have thought it possible, but it is even bigger.
When I am driving it, which is only when I absolutely have to, I sometimes forget how I look to other cars on the road. Since I feel small and timid behind the wheel, I assume that other drivers can sense my meekness, and are going to try and crush me. Chances are, though, that all they actually see is a monstrous blue Tahoe. When I realize this, I suddenly feel like a tiny bunny sequestered in the head of a giant rampaging killer robot. I’m sure everyone has those days.
So, I have recently relocated to North Carolina. This is exciting and life-changing in a number of ways, some of them unexpected– others, extremely guilt-inducing. The road to self-discovery appears to be paved with shame. For example, in the past few days I have learned:
I kind of love to drive!
It began with my purchase, from my folks, of a dark blue 2003 Pontiac Vibe, and continued with a subsequent two-day, fifteen-hour road trip down to North Carolina through hurricane Hanna. I have never driven for that long at a time in my life, through such ridiculous weather conditions, but it somehow left me more excited than ever to be driving again.
I know, I know. With gas prices being the way they are, it’s not the best time to get your groove back through driving. But come on! I get great gas mileage! Don’t look at me like that. AND, for nearly all of my life– in NYC, Hawai’i and Boston, I have relied almost exclusively on public transportation to get everywhere. It’s nice to not have to work around someone else’s schedule for once (326 bus, I’m looking in your goddamn direction). There’s no more frantically looking up bus times online, like when I lived in Medford, and doing the dance of “I’ll need to leave an hour early for the movie, because the next bus after that will make me miss the previews. Heck, why don’t I just walk the 40 minutes, because that will get me there at the right time anyway.” I shit you not, I Heck just walked the 40 minutes more times than not. I do like to walk. But damn hell, now I get to drive!