We all go through those rites of passage as a kid…in order to become, you know, a grown up.
Why we’re so eager…only our child brains would know. It’s like all the anticipation and build up to shaving your legs…and then after the first time you’re all, SHIT. THIS SUCKS. And now you’re telling me I have to do it EVERY DAY? DAMMIT!
Our parents tried to warn us…tried to give the whole, “Stay in school as LONG AS YOU CAN” speech because becoming a grown up means you can’t get away with spitballs or screaming at the top of your lungs just because you feel like it or kicking someone who was mean in the shin. If you do partake in any of said activities, you just get the evil eye all, “GROW THE HELL UP.”
I could go on all damn day…but today is about a rite of passage…the BIG one…probably bigger than turning 21 and getting to drink.
Because without a LICENSE AND A CAR you can’t take yourself to pilfer the liquor store while the owner is eyeing your digging for bottles all, “The HELL? Who let HER IN? Where’s your ID, kid?”
Then you get to proudly whip out your license all, “I AM 21. SEE! Says right here.”
Liquor Store Man: It says UNDER AGE in a red bar right next to your picture.
Me: Well, that’s because I have to GET A NEW LICENSE. The red bar doesn’t just DISAPPEAR. Duh.
So, the lesson to be learned: though liquor may trump a new ID, make sure your trip is like…the day AFTER your birthday or after you get a new ID…or you take someone else who already got the ID-without-a-red-under-age-bar…cause the smart ass was all, “Is that so? Well, WHAT TIME WERE YOU BORN? I bet you’re one of those 11:59pm babies. So, technically…you’re still UNDER AGE and there’s no way you can checkout in a minute cause I close at midnight.”
Right then I wanted to kick him in the balls. Grown ups kick in the balls…not the shins.
Anyway, the driving…the license…that part came first. Well, even before the actual license I had to go to drivers ed.
The BANE of my existence as a freshman. Cause not EVERYONE had to go. It was optional. But my mom was all, “You’re going to drivers ed. Period.”
I had no choice. When she ends sentences with “period” you know it’s serious and there is no arguing…she’s made up your mind. Any little peep of resistance will be met with Darth Vader like terror…your room ends up being destroyed from her rage and then you’d be in trouble cause it is now a classified disaster area. And the whole, “but YOU DID IT!”…Bad, bad idea.
So, for a few months, every day after school I had to sit in a classroom and learn about driving. And even after all those hours, I only remember two things. One was the first day, because I was late. The first day of drivers ed also happened to be the first day of basketball tryouts…and basketball came before drivers ed. I had to get a pass from my coach all, “umm…I have to go to drivers ed? And I’m late?”
I walked into the drivers ed class, totally interrupting (knock? Who knocks?) and getting the “YOU BETTER HAVE A GOOD DAMN EXCUSE” look from the teacher. I gleefully whipped out my note all, “I have a paaassssss!” Score a point for me.
The only other part of the “classroom” portion I remember is a video we had to watch. It was a REALLY OLD video and a REALLY OLD TV…so it was all blurry and had that really annoying white line that kept going up the screen every few frames…anyway, there was one part where the perspective was shot so it looked like you were sitting in the driver’s seat. It was a bright, sunny day – the sun shining right in your front window and the voice in the background asked you what you saw. And then the teacher paused the tape all, “What did you see? Did you know the sun can really impair your driving??”
We all BARELY saw the upcoming stop sign…but at least we saw it, right? Then he starts it again and the sun disappears and what is there, right before the stop sign in the middle of the road, but a kid. Chasing a ball. NO ONE EVEN SAW HIM. I still think about that moment in the video whenever it’s sunny…and I pay extra attention.
So, after we went through FOREVER in the classroom, it was time for the fun. DRIVING. We had to clock a certain number of hours in the car with the teacher. Mr. Ellis was his name…I also had him for AP US History my senior year…always wore loafers with no socks…a frumpy, fairly heavy-set man whose dress shirt was inevitably un-tucked somewhere along his belt line.
Mr. Ellis told us we had to pair up and then we could split the hours any way we wanted. You could get it over with in one shot by driving to Florida and back…break it up into multiple sessions…anything you wanted as long as no one missed school.
So, my friend, Whitney (Hi Whitney!) and I decided to do a few after school sessions, driving around wherever Mr. Ellis told us to go. I drove first while Whitney sat in the back, doing homework or reading her book…I mean, she had a few hours to kill. We ended up driving to North Georgia to this dam…the point is, lots of windy, twisty roads.
Now, the special driver’s ed car is equipped with a brake pedal on the passenger side…for the instructor…incase he sees a need to like, help you stop. He told us in the beginning he had only used it a few times in his however many years of teaching…and that he was sure this class would all be perfect little drivers.
As we were getting up towards the dam, well, I was having fun. I was DRIVING. That’s all that kept going through my brain. I’m driving. I’M ACTUALLY DRIVING!
Mr. Ellis: Now, you’ll turn left up here. Remember to do a full stop.
Mr. Ellis: Good. Now, see where the road goes up over the dam?
Mr. Ellis: Go that way.
So I went, Whitney in the back, reading and not paying much attention to what’s going on.
I look over and notice small sweat beads forming on Mr. Ellis’ forehead. I’m trying to figure out why, cause it was like, freezing outside and the car wasn’t TOO warm…
Mr. Ellis: Keep your eyes ON THE ROAD. And you’ll want to take the next curve a little SLOWER.
I’ll want to? What? Is that a warning or instructions? Cause those are two totally different things…I took my foot off the gas to slow down…then we were like, crawling…so I put my foot on the gas again. Just in time for the next curve, I guess, because the next thing I know, his hand shoots up and grabs the OS (oh shit!) handle, entire body rears back in his seat and he slams his foot on his special brake.
And through all this, Whitney…always calm Whitney…is just hanging out in the backseat, giggling to herself with her book…no clue that I almost took us all on an up close and personal tour of the dam wall.
Mr. Ellis: What did I say about the NEXT CURVE?
Me: Go slower.
Mr. Ellis: Do you think you accomplished that?
Me: Umm…Yes. I do.
Mr. Ellis: The correct answer is no. No you didn’t. You took it FASTER.
Me: It didn’t FEEL faster.
Mr. Ellis: Just get us off this damn road. Anywhere but a road with a deep shoulder or a few hundred foot drop is preferable…almost saw my life pass before my eyes.
Me: Are those directions or a story? (He always told stories about his life…I guess to make things relevant)
Mr. Ellis: DIRECTIONS.
As I was about to go around another curve, Mr. Ellis was all, “Well, you get to be lumped into the category of my using the brake. Aren’t you lucky.”
Me: Really?! I’m one of the FEW?
Mr. Ellis: You do realize that’s not a GOOD thing?….DAMMIT! SLOWER ON THE CURVES! THE. HELL. Pull into that parking lot. You’re time is up.
Me: But I haven’t gone for 3 hours yet…it’s only been 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Mr. Ellis: No, it’s been three hours.
Mr. Ellis: JUST. PULL. THE. CAR. OVER.
So I do…and Whitney and I switch…then I hear him all, “You better be a VAST improvement…cause my heart cannot handle another one of HER.”
Yeah, so Whitney was like, All Star driver…whatever. I fell asleep in the backseat while she took her turn after getting nauseous from the praise by Mr. Ellis all, “WOW! That is EXACTLY HOW TO TAKE A CURVE, Whitney. PERFECT!”
To make things even more embarrassing, I had the unfortunate situation where my mom WORKED AT MY SCHOOL. So nothing ever went unnoticed. If I didn’t tell her, someone else did. And the next evening at dinner, my mom was all, “So, Mr. Ellis tells me you have a lead foot.”
Me: A what?
Mom: A lead foot. Says you almost took him careening over the dam.
Me: He’s totally exaggerating…and what’s a lead foot?
Mom: You’re about to get your license and you don’t know what it means to have a LEAD FOOT??
Me: Uhh…NO. Why would I ask if I knew? Wait, lemme guess, I’m supposed to get the dictionary.
(We always had to get a dictionary or an encyclopedia when we didn’t know something)
Mom: I don’t think that’s in the dictionary…a lead foot means you like to drive fast…you know…because lead is really heavy so a lead foot means it is heavy on the gas?…
Me: What? Nooo…Lead isn’t heavy. It comes in those tiny little sticks for mechanical pencils that don’t weigh anything. They should say like…a sand foot…cause those sandbags at the store are like SUPER HEAVY. You know, lead is a really bad example.
Mom: Wow. Maybe we should try a second round of drivers ed…
So, whatever. I didn’t know what a lead foot meant…and Mr. Ellis was like, WAY EXAGGERATING. I think the speed limit was around 25…I was probably going 45…
OK. FINE. So it’s fast enough to get your license suspended.
No, I’ve never had my license suspended.
Yes, I’ve been in accidents. But only one was “technically” my fault.
There wasn’t even any damage to the cars.
Stupid lady went nutso cause I barely touched the back of her car with the front of mine because SHE SLAMMED ON HER BRAKES ON A GREEN LIGHT. A GREEN ASS LIGHT!
Whatever, lady. I was good after that little episode…the episode that made me MISS MY BASKETBALL GAME, by the way…which really pissed me off.
The ticket doesn’t even exist on my record anymore. Erased. Gone.
Cause I was a good driver…and I didn’t hit anyone else for…well, since then.
And that was…TEN YEARS AGO.
Shit. Ten years.
I’m getting old.