I am a good
driver. I promise.
who have seen me speeding down University Drive, or who have hurled obscenities
at me for almost cutting you off on I-30—or laughed when I declared the
loading area of my handicapped parking space a sort of parking-margin-of-error
for my poor depth perception—I have proof. Really! I deserve a good-driver
at least compared to some I do. Take, for example, the woman piloting
the new red Mustang I saw the other day. I was horrified and amazed as
I watched her carefully polish her toenails while carrying on what appeared
to be a heated conversation on her visor phone, conceivably about the
article she had just read in the Glamour magazine I noticed was
open on the passenger seat. Most terrifying? The whole accident-causing
scenario took place at about 65 miles per hour.
I, mouth gaping, neck craned, slowed my 1991 Sable to a grandmotherly
pace in the center lane. First I tried to imagine what driving with my
feet would feel like. Then I gauged the flexibility and talent required
of an abled-bodied driver to prop her right foot up on the dash and navigate
her vehicle with one hand and the other foot. I concluded that such a
feat required one to be more limber and more stupid than the average driver.
As I gawked,
I heard a familiar voice ring in my ears. Some might call it the voice
of reason honed in childhood after years of wagging fingers and verbal
scolding. Others might simply call it the conscience. But this time I
recognized my voice—it was Jean Wood, my driving instructor/elementary
school cafeteria manager/friend. Her voice was clear: "Darlin', practice
makes a good driver but common sense makes the best ones."
woman just soft and round enough to make her hugs comfortable and assure
cautious students that the warm rolls from her cafeteria were the best
you'd ever taste, was also my personal driving hero. Her ingenuity saved
me from a driving test at my local DMV.
bright orange cones, mammoth potholes and Nazi-like guards, the parking
lot adjacent to the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles driver license
bureau in Atlanta is without question the closest I have ever been to
and I drove by our local shopping-center-turned-DMV-office almost every
day when I was growing up. I watched drivers, some in the Chevy Novas
they used for drug deals and others in shiny new 16-year-old birthday
presents, navigate the pseudocourse with ease. But tiny beads of sweat
formed on my brow each time I tried to imagine following suit.
When I visited
this gulag at age 15, and then lived to tell Jean about it, I swore I
would never return. I recounted how I stood in a line that moved at the
pace of water buffalo wading in mud just to be told by some mind-numbingly
inept, bubblegum-chewing clerk with gold fingernails that the four hours
I had just wasted would have been better served marking my place in the
line on the other side of the room. I spent from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. weaving
through a series of lines that day. Eventually the motor vehicle gods
smiled on me, and I was granted a conditional driving permit.
laughed at my story and promised that getting my license would not be
so hard. Three years later she saved me from the hassle and hazard of
returning to hell.
But the stressful
flashbacks of that first visit, and the visions I conjured up about navigating
that series of cones, steering around potholes and watching some intimidating
officer jot down copious notes that were surely deductions, got to me.
And while I knew I wanted a driver's license, I decided I could live without
one if it meant I could avoid the DMV.
heard I was going off to college without a license she called me at home.
After exchanging pleasantries, she got down to business. "You need a license.
So what we are going to do," she said in a sweet but authoritative tone,
"is drive to my hometown in north Georgia where my friend will do your
test so you won't get nervous." I tried to interject questions about whether
that setup would be considered cheating, but she continued.
drive all the way there. All two hours. If you do well, I'll know you're
ready to be out on your own. It will be your test before the test. Oh,
and I've already worked it out—no parallel parking."
I was overjoyed.
Especially about the no-parallel-parking option. I convinced myself that
people in wheelchairs never need to parallel park. No handicapped parking
spaces would require that skill. (I was later proved very wrong when my
father drove me throughout downtown Atlanta pointing out every such space
until we saw 100—after I passed the test that hadn't required it.)
On the Saturday
following our phone conversation, we set out for the tiny town of Hiawassee.
A place where DMV officials serve customers coffee and doughnuts and inquire
about your favorite subject in school. Needless to say, I passed the test.
I do feel a twinge of guilt for cutting corners on the driving test. But
today I'm just happy I didn't accidentally cut off my Fort Worth neighbor
in the red sports car with the still-wet red toenails.
I can't parallel
park, but I am not a bad driver. Thanks, Jean.
Walker '02, to whom you still might want to give a wide berth to on the
road, joined the ranks of the TCU Alumni Association following her spring
graduation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.