Friday, January 14, 2011

My First Driver's License

The year was 1962.  I was 16.  Mother had driven me to a neighboring town to take a driver's test so I could get my first driver's license. 

Things were so different back in the 60's.  There were no Driver's Ed classes.  Instead, I learned how to maneuver a car up in the oats field, where my brother showed me how to execute turns around the shocks of oats that stood randomly out in the field.  I was supposed to pretend they were cars.  Before we could obtain a driver's license, we had to pass a written test plus prove to a law enforcement officer that we knew and understood the rules of the road.

Well, my official driving test was about to begin, and I wasn't in an oats field.  I was in a town with all kinds of signs and streets and an officer who had just made himself comfortable in the passenger seat of daddy's yellow and black 1956 Chevy.  He closed the passenger door and looked at me.  It was just the two of us.  My muscles were on severe alert, and surely the officer sensed my almost debilitating panic.  Varieties of fear were racing through me...fear of getting all rattled and doing the wrong thing, fear of not understanding his orders, fear of simply being in the same vehicle as a breathing officer of the law, fear of smashing into another vehicle, plus I felt a huge obligation to my mother.  This was an opportune time for me to show her how incredibly intelligent I was and make her proud to have me for her only daughter.   There was definitely a lot at stake for me.

My mother had given me solid instructions on how to parallel park.  She told me to look in the store windows for a reflection of where the back bumper was situated so as not to hit the car in back of me.  So, I soldiered my way through the parking part of the test.  Successfully.  He was impressed, I think.

To make a grueling story short, I passed both the written test and the hands-on test and was granted my driver's license on my first try.  My heart pounded with indescribable joy, and I saw my mother wearing that certain smile of pride that mother's wear when their children actually accomplish something worthwhile.  My greatest reward was when mother handed me the car keys and asked if I'd like to drive us back home.

The excitement was almost too much.  I got behind the wheel, cautiously wiggled our '56 Chevy out of the courthouse parking lot in case the officer was still watching me, and followed the streets that would take us out of town.  Naturally, my mind was all over the place as I basted my ego with slathers of self-confidence.  Then came the scream.  I slammed on the brakes as mother yelled at me,   "You just ran a stop sign, for god sake.  Get out and let me drive."

Well, my happy bubble didn't last long as I sadly and tearfully relinquished the driver's seat, but I held onto a tiny bit of gratitude that it was my mother in the car with me and not the police officer when I committed my first violation.  At least I still had my license in my billfold, and, believe me, that one careless mistake taught me more than all the driving manuals ever printed.     

Knock on wood, but in all the 49 years since that highly overwrought day, I have never been stopped by an officer, nor have I received a traffic citation.  And, I still hold the coveted title for being the most skillful parallel parker in the Midwest.  Or so I like to think.