Friday Flashback: “Getting behind the wheel? A scary idea”

During my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to write a biweekly column entitled “Student Voices” for my hometown newspaper, the Rosemount Town Pages, an experience that deepened my awareness of my growing role in my community. There is no online record of this column, just a disorganized three-ring binder of newsprint clippings that I transport from apartment to apartment each time life takes me somewhere new. In the coming months, I will share a column each Friday as a way to preserve this period of my writing, and my self-discovery, on a digital platform.

The saga of my driver’s ed experience is well documented in my “Student Voices” columns, starting with the column below. Although I have been driving for eight years now (could it really be that many?), I’m no more confident in my driving abilities than I was on the day I got my driver’s license — and I have the driving record to prove it. I’m certainly happiest when I can be the passenger, which leaves my boyfriend Robbie to field the requisite “Driving Miss Norah” comments from our friends. Perhaps some day I’ll live in a city with a vibrant, reliable public transportation system so I can abandon driving altogether!

“Getting behind the wheel? A scary idea”

Date of Publication: October 1, 2004

After 15 years of being chauffeured everywhere by my parents, I am finally learning how to drive. Frankly, I’m scared.

About a week ago, I was given an assignment in my driver’s education class to be completed at home with a parent. I was supposed to learn how to use various controls and devices in my family’s car. When I put the key in the ignition and heard the car start, my stomach exploded with butterflies. Although I had been excited to drive, I had never thought about how strange it would feel to be in the driver’s seat.

Earlier that day, when I first got in the car, I couldn’t see any of the controls because I was in the dark garage. When I told my mom about my predicament, she said, “Just back the car into the driveway.” My dad responded with a quick, “No, not yet!” I have to wonder if my dad will always be so hesitant to allow me to drive, even when I do have my driver’s license. A short trip to pick up milk at the gas station could possibly turn into a family debate as to whether I should drive.

This trimester at school I am enrolled in safety education, a class which includes both driver’s ed and CPR in its curriculum. Because my birthday is in July, I am the last of my friends to take the class and will be the last to get my permit. As convenient as it will be for me to have my license, I am thankful to have the extra time to grow accustomed to the idea of driving, as are my parents.

After passing driver’s ed and getting my permit, I will enroll in behind-the-wheel driving with an instructor. I can’t help but feel sorry for whoever gets stuck with me the first time I attempt to drive. Not only will I be nervous, but I also worry my klutziness will have a negative impact on my driving ability. A suggestion to the instructor who accompanies me on my first driving experience: please be patient.

Although I am nervous about this new experience, the ability to drive will make life easier for me and my family. I will be blessed with the opportunity to drive my younger brother and sister to soccer practices and the honor of picking up last-minute groceries. One thing is for sure: I will finally have the chance to choose which radio station I listen to. As my mom says, “When you are the driver, you pick the station.”

This column originally appeared in the Rosemount Town Pages on October 1, 2004.

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