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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Learning to Drive


In response to the latest edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, Miriam at AnceStories 2: Stories of Me for My Descendants has asked bloggers to look back at one of her older journaling prompts: Learning to Drive.

This post for me, a non-driver, should either be real short or real funny - perhaps both.

How old were you when you learned to drive? What year was this? I never learned to drive but I did take driver's education in high school. In New York, you were allowed to get a driver's permit at age 16 which would have been 1880. I took my test using a covered wagon. No - wait it was 1980. I took my test using the family's Ford Maverick.

How did you learn? Was in it driver's ed (school or private) or with family or friends? Who taught you? If you took a class, what do you remember about the teacher, your classmates, and the course? Do you remember how much it cost? Did you use simulators? I took driver's ed in high school and it was always taught by either one of the phys ed teachers or the creepy wood shop teacher. We used a car that had a second set of brakes for the teacher. When it was my turn to drive, the rest of the students, as well as the teacher, were nervous - rosary beads came out, people made the sign of the cross, some even held on to the Hail Mary bar.

What kind of car or cars did you use in your training, either in class or with your family or friends? Do you remember the year, make and model? Stick shift or automatic? I believe the car used in driver's ed was donated by one of the local dealerships and was a Dodge - I can't remember the model but I know it was mid-range in size. I used my mother's tan Ford Maverick on each of the three times I attempted to pass the driver's test.

Where did you practice? Was there a certain road or a certain place that everyone in your community would go to learn to drive? It was common to use the high school parking lot on a weekend night to practice driving. Also, since I lived in a community with steep hills, you had to do some hill driving.

What were the requirements at that time to earn a license? How old did you have to be to get a permit and to get a license? How much did it cost? In New York state you had to be at least 16 to get a permit and take a written test. If you passed, you were allowed to drive with a licensed driver in the passenger seat and only during the day, and only for a certain number of hours. You could not drive out of state.

Tell about your experience getting your license: the written exam and the driving test. Did you past the first time? Do you remember how well you did? Were there skills you struggled with or had to re-do? How old were you when you got your license? For the full driver's license you took another written test, an eye test, and then the driving portion with a DMV staff member. I never passed each of the three times I tried. The first time, the DMV person was a confirmed sadist - he had me parallel park while in a right turn lane on a steep hill. The last time I almost backed over a small child while trying to perform a "K turn" or "three point turn." Perhaps I should have tried the "$20 in the passenger visor trick" they use here in Chicago. When you take your test, you place $20 either in the glove compartment or in the visor for the DMV person to "accidentally" find.

To the relief of insurance companies and small children everywhere, I never got my license.

What was your worst driver's license photo? What was your best? I have suffered the indignity of getting a state-issued ID card which looks just as appealing as a driver's license. I swear they have a special filter and special lighting to get you to look like you've been on a six-week bender.

Did you have your own car, or did you drive a family member's? What was the year, make and model? Did you love it, or were you embarrassed by it? What was your dream car (or truck)? Well I never really had a car, well not my own. My ex and I both owned a beautiful BMW 350 - it was the first model year, I believe 1977 and here is how we got it: through a friend, we found an older gentleman who lived up at Lake Tahoe and had this BMW that he used only in San Francisco. In 1995, we bought the car and it had less than 10,000 miles on it - an 18 year old BMW! And it was gorgeous - mint condition, original manuals, records, etc. We would take it to the mechanic and he would literally swoon. Other workers would come over and stand there open mouthed while the hood was opened. When we parked, BMW afficianados would stop us and ask about the car. It was that good.

Write about the different vehicles you've owned over the years: the years, makes and models; the color; what you liked or didn't like about them; how you came to purchase them and how much they cost at that time; why you got rid of them. What were your favorites and the ones you liked least, and why? Besides the BMW above, right now I am part owner and mostly occupant of a metallic celery green four door Honda Civic. Although I'd really like to buy an American car, I hate to say that the Japanese really have been able to provide economical, fuel efficient models that retain their resale value.

How many years have you been driving? Have you ever gotten a parking ticket or a moving violation? Have you been in any collisions or other accidents? What is your driving record like? Write about those experiences. Never really drove. But my "driver" has received (or earned) parking tickets, many of which I was not told about, only to find out when it came time to re-register the car - ugh! Speeding tickets are another matter - our most famous was driving back from Reno and not knowing about a famous speed trap on Rt. 80. Needless to say, Driver had to attend traffic school so that the points would not show up on the driving record.

Photo: Another witness to my attempts at driving - seen before reaching for a drink, the phone or both.

1 comments:

Laura said...

Sounds familiar to me, Thomas. My first try at driving was in 1983, at age 20 (almost 21). We didn't have Drivers Ed in high school (didn't even know what that was! it was Manhattan). My driving teacher was a very mean old man, like your wood shop teacher. He took me to scary places to practice like Long Island City, and I think he probably yelled a bit when he wasn't silently disapproving.

And on from there. Don't like driving too much, or even being in the car. I do feel guilty on long trips, but otherwise it is cool!

In Ontario you have to take a highway test, i passed the first road test but for the second you have to go on the 401 (8 lanes) and I said, oh no thanks! No can do!

I am glad to have some non-driving company.