Learning to drive isn’t easy at any age. There is lots to get used to when you start out. Not everyone meets this right of passage at age 16-16 ½. Many of us delay our first license for many years. I, myself, started to get my license when I was in my early 20’s. My sister was getting married and I was going to assert my independence. Well, she didn’t get married and our whole focus became about her for the next few years. Then living and working in the city, I didn’t feel the urgency to get my license. My role as navigator seemed just fine until my sister’s alcoholism took its toll. Now, in my 40’s it’s time.
I aced the classes which is the easy part for me; I’m good with books and notes. But! I must admit I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in 15 years and most of my opportunities have been scattered and infrequent at best. On those few occasions I was told that I had a “lead foot” and that I couldn’t park to save my soul.
No one had the patience or the interest in teaching me to drive. In fact, my sister said her goal was just the opposite. She purposely sabotaged my efforts for fear I would get in the car and leave for good. Yes, there are abandonment issues there, but not having my license would not stop me from leaving if I chose to do so. No, I stay for other reasons, mostly family. My mom is in her 80’s now and has many health issues including being partially blind. She was there for me all my life, now it’s my turn to do for her.
My nieces are also a big consideration, as I like being a major source of support and zaniness for them. I think I am showing them that you are never too old or too scared to take on something new and grow.
So my 20 year old niece and I are learning to drive at the same time. She has family with a car to help her practice, while I do not. I have tapped a few kind friends to help and the rest is up to me and my driving instructor. As it turns out, I had no “pre-instructor” practice time, so my very first time behind the wheel in 15 years was with a total stranger—my instructor.
Thank gawd he was an older gentleman who has been teaching driving since 1964! I needed those years of experience as I hopped behind the wheel of the Toyota hybrid. I can truly say I was more than nervous. I was scared stiff. While he talked to me the entire time, he showed me no mercy. This was baptism by fire during rush hour traffic.
I left the school, turning into a very busy thoroughfare. Then made my first left turn to practice starting and stopping smoothly. I couldn’t get used to the awkward position of hands and feet. So we took our time here. Then he took me around a rotary and back to the thoroughfare to practice going around city buses, crossing two way traffic, stopping at stop signs, lights and for pedestrians. Crossing the bridge was easier than taking a left around an island to land on Saratoga street. We took two more rotaries; one of which I had to negotiate through heavy construction. Then up and down Meridian Street where I had to deal with indecisive pedestrians, before going home.
Did it go smoothly? Hell no! My nerves got the better of me on more than one occasion and I kept apologizing the entire trip. On top of that, the gods thought I wasn’t scared enough. So, they threw in a near accident in one of the trickiest turns in East Boston—Neptune road. I made the turn around the island, doing good, when this guy in an enormous escalade, driving too fast and not paying attention nearly creams me. We both screeched to a halt and the guy gives me the “oops” shrug.
“Gee thanks pal! That was just what I needed.”
That made the last half hour of my lesson much more tense. I think I was shaking when I left, even though the instructor said for a very first lesson with no other practice, I did pretty good.
I wasn’t as sure. Next lesson—tomorrow! I can’t let things cool down. What do they say? Ah yes, strike while the iron is hot. But just in case, avoid East Boston/Chelsea/Revere around noon. ~wink~ Don’t say I didn’t warn you.