Monday, May 19, 2008

Department of Vehicular Awesomeness

Lemme tell you a story, chilluns.

I grew up in New Jersey. You can get your learner's permit at 16 1/2 there, (at least, you could in need to correct me if its changed.....16.5 is waay in my rearview mirror) and you could have your full driver's license, no Cinderella 12am curfew nonsense, at 17.

I took Driver's Ed in 10th grade just like everybody else. I learned to drive in a brand-new dual control Chevette with less than 200 miles on it. It still smelled new when April Fitch pulled into my driveway, picked me up with the instructor on the passenger side, then drove home to her house. My first twelve feet of driving independence was the Fitch driveway on Cherry Lane in Mickleton, New Jersey.

I passed Driver's Ed with flying colors. My teacher said I was one of the best parallel parkers she ever had. I got my little permit. Then, nothing.

Unfortunately, we had some vehicles when I was growing up that were somewhat creatively registered and insured. (Read: not exactly registered OR insured) So testing for my license in our black 1978 Ford LTD II wasn't happening on account of they checked that kind of stuff down there at the DMV. Soon, my summers were full of jobs (which I biked to) and college preparation, then college with a roommate who had a car, so it wasn't a huge priority, until I turned 21 and my best friend pestered me to go ahead and get the license already so we could at least go OUT when we were home from school. I met her halfway by getting an ID from the DMV that attested to my age but not my driving ability, that was fine until a bouncer at a bar implied smirkingly that my license must be suspended for some nefarious reason. Oh, no you didn't.

August, 1991. I got my permit renewed and confidently scheduled a driving test. I was, after all, a champion parallel parker. By now we were doing things differently and had a decent car actually REGISTERED and INSURED in New Jersey. So it was all good.

My driving examiner strode out of the building with a metal clipboard and a sour look on his face. He got in the car, slammed the door a little too hard, and jerked his head toward the cones behind us.


Um, okay. Good morning to you, too. I did all the little things they nail you for missing; I adjusted my mirrors, looked carefully behind me, and backed the car in a graceful arc away from the parking space we were in and positioned myself alongside the cones on the other side of the lot. I pulled forward, put on my signal, checked all my mirrors, and backed up.

I've always had a little trouble with right-left orientation in mirrors and judging distance. So it was maybe not such a good idea that I didn't practice this maneuver for five years and then tried to do it cold with Mr. Misery Boots in the car with me. After an eternity of increasingly desperate adjustments and a glimpse of my mother standing in the grass with her hands over her face, the instructor said, "Stop."

Actually, he didn't say "Stop." He said, "Stop, just...stop. Jesus." He got out of my car, walked around to the front, and reached down. He seemed to be wrestling with something. Something turned out to be an orange cone, which was in my wheel well. He yanked it out and it sat there accusingly askew, a black smudge spiraling up its length. I attempted humor. "So...I guess, you don't want me to do anything else?" He made a face, scribbled on his clipboard, and walked back to the building.

My humiliation hung heavy between us as my mother and I rode back home. I told her I didn't want to go to work. I worked at a moving company; every single person in the building except for the older lady who answered the phone and kept her sweater on her shoulders with a little gold chain had a CDL. THEY could drive giant tractor trailers all the way across the country and park them effortlessly in the alleys and byways of this great land. I couldn't put an Oldsmobile between cones without doing property damage. I was sure they would mock me. My mother simply said, "You have to go."

Surprisingly, they didn't make fun of me. My manager even sprang for Chinese food for everyone for lunch to cheer me up. As I passed his desk, he chucked a fortune cookie at me, and when I opened it, I kid you not, it said:

"Your place in the path of life is in the driver's seat."

Fast forward to May 1992. With a little practice, and a much nicer instructor, I got a perfect score on the test and got my license.

I tell you this story so you can comprehend the coolness of what happened yesterday. So, my history with cones, and backing up, and parking, and what have you, not so good. To date, I have a pretty solid driving history, two tickets, only a couple of accidents (one was weather related and the other one I was forced off the road), but I wouldn't say I've become a master of all I survey. I'll still drive around the block a couple of times for a spot I can pull into rather than doing the old parallel shuffle. I had a couple of white knuckle weeks when my company car turned out to be a minivan, because to that point it was the biggest thing I'd ever driven.

Yesterday, I took a driver's test all over again. In this.

Uh huh. I had to drive down a 200' alley and back up, SERPENTINE this beeyotch around cones BACKWARDS, back into a confined space, drive two offset alleys, and k-turn. TWICE. The entire course was made up of ORANGE CONES. Of which, in the practice run and the actual test run, I hit....


Did I mention I've never driven an ambulance before ever ever ever? Or that I had no practice driving whatsoever before the test? No? Well, I haven't and I didn't. Yes, I know that makes me very lucky and in need of more practice. Still, I feel like I redeemed myself from the cone-raping driving of my youth. And maybe, I'm a little further down that path of life I was promised with my General Tso's.

Proceed to Humor Blogs, making sure you check your mirrors.


Jocelyn said...

You are serious hot shit, punkin.

In Montana, where I grew up, you can get a permit at 14 and a license at 15 (gotta be able to drive your kids around, right?). I completely pissed off my examiner during the parallel parking portion, but I passed. Watch out, baby!

But parking an ambulance? You are THE WOMAN.

Alice said...

Very nice! You can come pick up my asthmatic kid any day in that puppy!

Beware: Social Worker on the edge said...

Way to stick it!

Jonny's Mommy said...

Seriously awesome, girlfrin!

You can pick up the person in my town I'm gonna run over for being snotty to, on your way to a transfer or something.

How is it possible that a story about getting a license can make me laugh so hard? Probably because it was written by you. Better go comment on Homer's blog or he'll be all whiney and weepy.

Tricia said...

Great story! Congrats on passing your ambulance driving test! LOL

Here in NY (at least 22 years ago) you could get a permit at age 16. I had mine for a full year and finally my mother let me take my driving test before I had to pay for another permit! :)

I have been driving every since! 21 years to be exact!

Kathy said...

Way to freaking go! I'm in total awe of you, since if I was ever behind the wheel of that thing, people I run over would be thankful they'd have such a convenient means to get to a hospital. Cones, people. I'd mow them all down.

Jenny said...

Well, girl, you rule.

All there is to it.

I'd rather chew radioactive glass shards than parallel park.