Friday, March 23, 2012

The Green Light (Part 3)

The conclusion to Mom's story about how she learned to drive. Here, she writes of the road test and her first days as a driver. She also writes of what it really means to be a driver, after so many years depending on others to get around. This has to be one of my favorite stories from Mom.

The first photo is of Mom in the driver's seat in May 1973, shortly after she learned to drive. The second photo is of Mom and her dog Sally. She references Sally in this third and final part of her story. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

The Green Light (Part 3)

The highway patrolman got into my car for the road test. He hadn't said much. This made me uneasy, and I knew I needed to break this silence. Generally, talking and making jokes relaxes me. I started the car and said, "I hope you realize, I've only been driving this thing a week."

He laughed a little and I was "in." I explained the control briefly and proceeded to give him a ride he'll never forget. We drove downtown, then he told me to pull up beside this car and parallel park. I took a look at the space and asked "if I would fit." I parallel parked beautifully, then for the first time. The patrolman said, "I just wanted to see what you would say."

After that little feat, I felt so cocky that I proceeded to drive through a stop sign. I did slow down; I just didn't stop completely. When I realized it, it was too late. I asked him if I deserved a ticket for that? He said, "not this time."

As we drove back up to the Armory, he said it gave him as much pleasure to pass me, as it gave me to pass. I'm not sure about that as I was pretty high on Cloud #9. When I returned to work I wanted to run through the halls shouting, "I did it, I did it!"

That night I soloed. It is completely different when you are in the car alone. No one is telling you where to turn, where to stop, if you're in the right lane. I was quite "shook up" after that first ride. In fact, I didn't sleep very well that night.

I told myself I was driving to work the next morning. After parking the car in my dreams all night, actually doing it was a cinch. I had the strange feeling that everyone was looking at me and criticizing me in their mind. I know it was silly, as I'm sure no one even noticed. I felt I had to be perfect in every way, even as far as to check the lines on the parking area to make sure I was in my space.

Every night that week I went somewhere. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend. I wanted to take everyone for a ride, especially the people who gave me rides before. I attended a couple of social events. At one in particular, I was tired and wanted to leave. I remember thinking, "I wish someone would take me home." Then I started laughing. I drove, I could leave when I wanted.

The first weekend after I got my license, I drove to my sister's home. It is a 126 mile trip. I gained a lot of confidence on that trip. I followed the map on unfamiliar roads. My dog sat on the floor on the other side of the car. Every once in a while she would look up at me as though I was crazy. At one point, I passed a car. I honked the horn and my dog barked. I jumped and was lucky not to run into the ditch.

On the trip back, I missed a turn off. Before I knew it, I was driving down the middle of a large, unfamiliar town. I was on a one-way street, so I couldn't turn around. I must have driven around this town for 30 or 45 minutes. At one point, I pulled into a gas station to ask for directions, it was closed. I had a great feeling of accomplishment at finding my own way out of that situation.

The only problem which I have encountered in driving is using the turn signal in changing lanes. Since both hands are occupied at the time it is hard to put on the signal and discontinue it. I'm sure I can overcome this little problem. I did get a mirror on the right side of the car to aid me in viewing the right lane of traffic. This helps a great deal.

The next week I did some errands. Errands that usually I had to ask someone else to do. One night I bought groceries, one night I shopped at K-Mart, and one night I went to the laundromat. The best status symbol, however, is going to a drive-in bank. This is something I have never done.

Another big asset of driving is when you try to cash a check. Usually the clerk will ask for a driver's license for identification. It is difficult to say that you don't have one. Now it is fun to pull it out.

Driving a car means a lot to anyone. For someone like me, to whom transportation is the ultimate problem for job or pleasure, it means much more. Total Independence!

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