Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Look Out, Here I Come

Third time's the charm, as the saying goes.  I sure hope so.  I am beginning my third attempt at getting a driver's license.  Previously, I gave up before scheduling the road test.  This time, it's do or die.  Or do and die, possibly.

The first time I took driving lessons, I was 18.  I wasn't motivated personally, but my parents thought it was time.  They sent me to Young Drivers of Canada, supposedly the best program available.  I aced the in-class segments, but I was not a natural behind the wheel.  The difficulty of the weekly lessons progressed far too quickly for me.  I got overwhelmed and flustered, and consequently made disastrous decisions, such as turning left with barely enough time to clear oncoming traffic.  During the freeway driving lessons, in heavy, fast-moving traffic, my instructor told me to change lanes.  I forgot to check my blind spot.  He wrenched the wheel from my hands just as I was about to drive straight into a two-storey-high, bright yellow street sweeping truck that I had not noticed looming up directly outside my window.  I would return from my driving lessons drenched in sweat, needing a full change of clothes and a lie-down to recuperate from the stress.

The second time I took driving lessons, I was 26.  I had been hired to do a sales job.  My territory was the entire province of Ontario.  For five months I toured the Golden Horseshoe area on a dozen different public transit systems.  I carried a packet of maps and bus schedules in my briefcase.  My office was a little suitcase on wheels.  It was not ideal.  This time I had a reason to get my license.

At the time I was married, but my first husband did not drive.  I relied on a variety of relatives (mom, dad, aunt) to take me for practice drives.  I made my mom and my aunt very nervous.  Used to the view from the passenger seat, I always drove too close to the right-hand side of the road.  They would soothingly murmur "You're a little close to the parked cars" as I came within a hair's breadth of smashing a row of rear view mirrors.  I would correct more to the centre of the road, and then slowly but surely drift back to the right.

My father is not easily made nervous, but I do believe that I manage to rattle him the time he was teaching me to parallel park.  I had the car maneuvered into the space, and centred perfectly.  Triumphantly, I stomped on the brake.  Except I had confused the brake with the gas pedal.  I rammed that car into the car ahead, with a crash that got the neighbours out on their front porches to see what had happened.  Was it you or me who said "That's what bumpers are for!" as we fled the scene?

I quit the sales job before I got around to taking the road test.  I figured I would be doing society a favour by staying off the roads.  I don't mind walking or taking public transit, plus being a pedestrian saves me from having to buy a gym membership.

However, this summer my perspective changed.  I realized that if Ken got sick, I would not be able to drive him to doctors' appointments.  Ditto for my parents.  It's not just about me anymore.  I have responsibilities to other people.  So, at 39, I am making my third attempt at learning to drive.

This time is different.  First of all, I have Ken, an excellent driver, to give me lessons.  Secondly, I'm more motivated than I have been at any time in the past.  It will be a labour of love.  And lastly, but certainly not leastly, I am on anti-anxiety medication this time around, just enough, hopefully, to keep me calm under pressure.

So far all I have done is study the Ontario Drivers' Guide in order to prepare for the test to get my learner's permit.  It's chock full of essential driving facts, like This is a Stop Sign.  When you see it, stop.  I'll get around to writing that test soon, and then we'll have some in-car fun.


Jenski said...

Good luck! My parents 'made' us drive from the second we got our permit so we would have lots of practice with them. But we didn't drive in town for a bit. Maybe your practicing should start on day trips out of the city to less populated and less busy roads? :-)

DarcKnyt said...

Hey, I love that explanation for the drift to the right! When I was in driving school, my instructor noted on my records that I had one of those. I don't know why, but that explanation you have there is as solid as any I've ever heard.

Others directed at me include "What the--can't you drive?!", "HOLY CRAP! PULL LEFT! PULL LEFT!!, and the ever popular "WE'RE GONNA DIE!"

Or wait -- those are EXCLAMATIONS, not EXPLANATIONS. Silly me.

But yours? Yeah, that one seems to make sense. Used to the view from the passenger's seat. Love it.

Good luck Spark. We all believe in you and know you can do anything you set your mind to. This is just another item on that list. :)

Lynn said...

Well now you know to check your blind spot! I didn't learn until I was 20 - unusual for my neck of the woods. I went to Sears Driving School and learned in one week. Good luck - you can do it! You'll do great.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Good Luck... I jumped on driving at the age of 16. The freedom to leave whenever and go wherever was my motivation. Study and get you temps and then just wander in the quietest section of town or odd times where nobody is around to pressure you. Practice practice practice...

LL Cool Joe said...

I learned to drive later on in life too. I rode a motorbike for years, and then before we adopted our first child I just knew I needed to drive a car. It's amazing what a bit of motivation can do!

Good luck!!!

G said...

Speaking as someone who got his license on the thrid try AND had to suffer an entire family vacation road trip by being forced to study the driver's manual, I can fully sympathize with your trials and tribulations in learning how to drive.

Good Luck and I just know you'll pass it on the first try.

Granny Annie said...

One week before scheduled to take my driver's test I was in a car accident. We we hit by a semi-truck and thankfully no one was critically injured. I did not want to go for my license after that but my dad made me go. If he had not I don't believe I would have ever gotten my license. I have never lived any place where public transportation was readily available.

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: Yup, that's my plan. Start with an empty parking lot, move up to quiet streets, and work up from there.

DarcKnyt: Thanks! I am stubborn, so I'm counting on that to see me through.

Lynn: Sears has a driving school? Man, they have everything.

Ron: It's hard to find a quiet part of Toronto, but I'll sure try.

LL Cool Joe: I have been trying to practice by being an alert passenger, but it's so hard to keep my attention from wandering to all the interesting scenery off the road. I hope I can do better behind the wheel.

G: Thanks for your faith in me!

Granny Annie: Holy cow, that's both terrible and amazing! I'm impressed that you went through with the test, and passed.

Tracy Makara said...

Good luck Spark! I'll be rooting for you :)

DarcsFalcon said...

You can do it Spark! I have total faith in your ability to learn how to drive. I think you'll see it's not as scary as it seems, and that you'll also like the anxiety-reducing state of being the one in control. Not having to rely on others is very freeing, too. :) I can't wait to hear how your testing goes! :)