Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning to Drive - Memories of Me Monday

"Tell about how, when and where you learned to drive. Any memorable experiences?"

I took Driver's Ed in high school. In those days, the mid-1970's, it was part of the public school curriculum. We had classroom instruction, learned the basics of behind-the-wheel technique in simulators (which we called "stimulators") then, finally, piled into white sedans in groups of 3 or 4 plus an instructor to practice in the school parking lot and surrounding neighborhood.

We also got to watch really gory movies of car crashes. I guess those were to scare us into behaving once we got our licenses and were out on our own!

My mom and dad both let me practice in the family station wagon, while they sat nervously in the passenger seat. From the start I was a pretty crappy driver. I just didn't get the big picture. I understood the driving laws, from the classroom instruction, but the simulators had done nothing to prepare me for a real car, and my behind-the-wheel time at school was limited to about 15 minutes a couple of times a week for only a few weeks.

The simulators were in a small trailer parked on the school property. We sat in chairs with a steering wheel in front of us and gas and brake pedals at our feet. Projected onto a large screen at the front of the room was a movie of an empty road as seen through the windshield of a moving car. We all pretended we were steering our "cars" along the road, pressing the gas or brake pedals as instructed. I suppose the point of the exercise was just to get the feel of putting our hands and feet on the the wheel and pedals.

I passed the class and a few months before my 16th birthday my mom took me to the DMV to get my learner's permit.

During the driving test, I was so nervous I made a left turn in front of oncoming traffic.

Automatic fail; the test was aborted immediately.

More practice with mom and dad and, as soon as I could I went back at the DMV. I had some additional motivation this time because I had invited a boy to the Sadie Hawkins Dance and I wanted to be able to pick him up.

Nervous again, I was unable to properly execute the 3-point parallel parking maneuver.


My dad was incredulous. The next time he took me out driving he noticed that I wasn't looking ahead, but down at the ground in front of the car. He asked me what I was looking at and I told him the line in the middle of the road. I was following it! He told me to keep my eyes on the road ahead. That helped me stay more in the middle of my lane, but I still had trouble negotiating turns and parking. Finally, my dad realized I was having trouble judging distances. A trip to the eye doctor revealed I had very weak vision in my left eye leaving me with virtually no depth perception.

No wonder I'd totally bombed when I took tennis in P.E.! Not to mention the two failed driving tests.

I got glasses and I got my license.

FOR NEXT WEEK! "What tradition at Christmas is your very favorite?"

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