Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Today I drove Willow to the new Lafayette Pool, wherein she dunked the pacifier she pulled from the bottom of the diaper bag (the pacifier that was bought right after she was born and that she never used) in and out of the heavily-chlorinated water.  I believe I'll be tossing that pacifier now, assuming it hasn't been completely corroded.

But that's not the exciting part.  Did you clock the bit where I drove us?  All by our own selves?  Yep, I got my license.  Just a couple of days before we left for Hawaii, in fact.  And so now I'm brave enough to drive all of five minutes through a part of Jersey City I'm extremely familiar with.  That's progress.

The entire process of practicing, freaking out before the test, then taking the test, was deeply unpleasant.  Dave and I come from two very different schools of driving, and I can tell that despite my official right to be behind the wheel, he still grips the edge of his seat.  (Just try and deny it, Davey.  Anyway I do the same thing when you're driving, so there).  I would come to a corner where there was no stop sign, and I would slow down to check to make sure nobody was coming--perfectly normal behavior if you come from a land where the norm is to drive five miles below the speed limit.  But Dave would start yelling at me that I was going to get rear-ended.

The thing, of course, is that he's probably right, since we're not in Hawaii, and people emphatically do not drive five miles below the speed limit, or even five miles above the speed limit, but I will never drive as aggressively as he wants me to, and every outing became an exercise in "you're yelling at me, stop it, it's freaking me out," and "well, I just don't want us to die, okay?"

Miraculously, we survived the three months before my driving test, but we didn't get enough parallel parking practice in, which was the one thing I, uh, somehow managed to get away with not learning when I took driver's ed back in the day.  So two days before my driving test, I made Dave take me out to drive round and round our neighborhood while I cried because I was nervous I was going to fail the test (a habit left over from, oh, since I started taking tests) and Dave yelled at me to stop crying because it was Father's Day and not exactly how he wanted to spend his evening, and it was all generally ugly.  And not exactly confidence-inspiring.

And then came the day of the test.  I managed to not cry, but I was still nervous, and Dave told me to loosen up, be chatty and personable.

I tried.  I said hello to the not very nice man, who did not say hello back.  I asked him if it was a busy day today (there were people ahead of us, I don't know) and he gave me blank stare.  I shut up.  I was told to parallel park between two cones which are totally different from cars and by the way you can't see them so how can you park between them???  I backed in, I pulled forward, I tried to back in more but I had forgotten to shift into reverse so I pulled forward which was embarrassing and I apologized which probably made things worse and then I pulled back and forth a few more times because I couldn't see at all and had no idea what I was doing until I just gave up.

Not very nice man asked me if I was done.  I nodded, he opened his door, looked at the curb, closed his door, and told me to drive on.  I was positive I had hit one of the cones, or at the very least parked about a yard from the curb.

But, obviously, I passed.  I have no idea how.  And now I just have to get up the nerve to actually drive places.


HoleyFiber said...

Oh, my, this post just brought up so many memories!!! Do all husbands have the same teaching style when it comes to driving? When we came practicing parallel parking before the test, we actually had a big fight, because I was supposed to just know what to do. After another round of my not getting his (totally cryptic) instructions, DH stormed out of the car, leaving me to "figure it out by myself". Luckily, some other guy took pity on me (after observing my feeble attempts to get the car b/w two cones with eyes semi-blinded by tears), walked to me, EXPLAINED what I should do in, like, three sentences. And that was it. And let me add - I am much better in parallel parking, even DH admits that. And I am still so grateful to this kind stranger! I hope good things happened to him :)

Laura said...

This reminds me of when I tried to teach Jay how to drive stick. It got kind of ugly. But he eventually got it. And many clutches later, he's pretty good at it. ;)

But seriously, I think women make better drivers, and not because we're more cautious. We're natural multi-taskers. We're more aware of things going on around us. Men are good at focusing on one thing, but driving requires the ability to keep track of so many things. And, done skillfully, it's like a ballet. You're dancing out there. Men tend to be more clunky. When they want to slow down, they hit the brakes, whereas women tend to ease their foot off the gas. One is much safer and better for gas mileage. We're generally more considerate to our passengers, attempting to smooth out the drive. Less jerky. Men think that aggressive driving is good driving. That's BS. Confident, skilled driving is the goal. That doesn't mean being showy, or in the lead, or intimidating a driver ahead of you. It means being respectful, leaving space, and driving in a manner that benefits all drivers on the road. That's what helps with congestion and helps prevent accidents. And that's what makes a good driver.*

Tell David to chillax. Everyone else will just have to get the hell out of your way until you gain confidence. They've been driving longer. They can handle it. The worst thing he can do is push. If he needs to take a valium, tell him to take a damn valium. This is coming from me. You tell him I said to back the eff off.

(*Note- This does not mean I don't enjoy a nice, fast drive. I just save that for desert highways at 2am)

You hang in there, kiddo. I'm proud of you!

Anonymous said...

Nikki my dear, we are the exact opposites! Uncle Harold is always telling me how to drive, only he's yelling at me to slow down and says I'm going to rear end some one one of these days. I'm clearly a city driver, an aggressive driver from Honolulu who has not learned to be a country driver.

Auntie Annie

kate said...

you and Pat can form a "driving with Dunton" support group. I do most of our driving.