I am a dichotomy

rorcover I am 32 years old, and it wasn’t until August that I took my first driving lesson by a non-familymember/family friend.

I am 32, and for 15 years, I’ve not had a drivers license or permit.

I am 32, and at 18, I once failed the written drivers test.

So yeah, there’s one part of my life that’s always been a ‘failure’ in the sense that I never achieved the goals my family had for me, and that was in driving. I just don’t. I don’t like it, I don’t even like being in cars.

But here I am, 32, and it’s becoming a bit much to cage rides or take cabs and buses and so on.

So on Friday the 7th, without telling anyone, I went and took the written test, got a permit, and signed up for some lessons.

The lessons are because it’s been a long time since I’ve last driven. I vaguely recall driving, illegally, my step-uncle’s car the mile or so down a deserted country road. I clearly remember my family friend, Peg Lauer, giving me stick-shirt instructions (yes, I learned on a stick) while I drove us to the res to go swimming in the summer. I used to be able to start the car pointing uphill, back down the hill, take a left and head on out. So really, this is all stuff I’ve done before, but never officially.

The exam itself isn’t very complicated. Start a car, back up, turn about, park uphill, start uphill, park downhill, start downhill, obey the rules (per The Rules of the Road). But that’s stuff I’ve not done in so long that I felt it was most responsible of me to actually get a total stranger to teach me.

Sunday I hit the road.

I won’t deny that I was tense, really tense, like death-grip on the wheel. And an automatic is generally a bizarre feeling. I kept listening for the car to need to be shifted and right when I heard it, the automatic tranny flipped over. It took me about 30 minutes to stop trying to shift. It also took that long for me to relax and not be terrified “Oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die!” It’s a testament to my teacher, John, that he was able to calm me down and keep me relaxed. I stopped babbling and got better about checking my mirrors (looking up every 10-15 seconds was hard to remember).

But the biggest revelation of the day was I’ve finally been able to pinpoint why I hate driving. It’s clearly a case of my frontal lobe finally developing past the ‘I don’t like it’ point and into the ‘because’ additions. The real reason driving, and cars, have always been difficult for me to cope with is really quite simple.

I can’t HEAR.

Seriously! The make cars really soundproof these days, which is silly since we’re supposed to use horns and other audio cues, but it’s those lack of cues that make me nuts. Even with my headphones on, when I’m walking on the street or biking or rollerblading, I can hear traffic, I hear the engines, horns, brakes, etc. I listen to what’s going on. In a car, it’s more a visual thing. You have to be looking all around you constantly, and my brain just doesn’t like doing that so much.

Then again, now that I’ve been biking in the road, versus rollerblading on the Lake Shore, I’m more in tune and aware of the visual cues. Like the driver on their cell phone is something I see and react to as easily as the sound of a car with bad brakes (both get extra distance). I was able to, when I came to a complete stop at one point, glance into my rear-view mirror, see a woman flip me off when I was checking traffic all around me, and lazily mutter “Yes, ma’am, I apologize for being a student driver who comes to a complete and legal stop before proceeding. Your children have missed months of school.”

So lesson one is done, and I feel a lot better about this whole thing than I thought I was going to. Thursday is lesson two.

Stay off the sidewalks.

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