I was enjoying my 2016 Thanks Giving break so far. My older sister who was almost 25 years old took me to do a Target run with her, told me she would get her two kids 5 and 1 year old, and me some chicken nuggets from Wendy’s after. She pulled her automatic 2015, dark gray Nissan Sentra, with tinted windows, into the empty parking lot behind Wendy’s down by Sierra and Valley here in Fontana, around 12pm and told me to “get out of the car” as she unbuckled her seatbelt. Me the nervous 15 year old, knew where it was leading and responded with “…what?”
“Get out, you’re going to drive”
“…o-okay” I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out of the car, to get to the driver’s seat. I was really thrilled, I really wanted to learn. I was so tired of walking home under the hot California sun and through the strong Fontana winds, when I did not have a ride home because I lived like a mile away from school. I was very nervous too because it was a MOVING MACINE that I had total control of! One wrong move and someone could end up in the hospital! But it was no problem because the Kaiser Permanente emergency room was literally just around the corner… in case I really did mess up. The only time that I ever drove a ‘car’ was was the Autopia ride at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, in Anaheim. The only difference between that ride and my sister’s car was that, Autopia had a rail that does not give you freedom to drive in the direction you desire, they have no brakes just a gas pedal, and they have front and rear safety bumpers. My sister’s car however, I had the freedom to move any direction I desired, it had a prindle (PRNDL), and no safety bumpers.
The car was already on, so all that I had to do was start moving it. “You know which one is which right? The big one on the left is the brake, and the smaller one on the right is the gas pedal”
“Okay” I said as I was examining them to make sure I did not get confused. I proceeded to put the car into drive and it only moved itself, because I was too scared to touch the gas pedal with my foot. All I was thinking was “What if I accidentally ran over someone in this completely empty parking lot?” “What are you doing? You need to push the gas pedal” my sister said to me. I slightly pushed it with my foot and suddenly I was filled with excitement again, even though I was only going about 10 miles per hour. More cars started to pass through the parking lot and I got scared again so I gripped the steering wheel tighter, and the brake pedal was my best friend because my foot was always hovering over it. “Drive faster! You’re going like 4 miles per hour!” About 20 minutes passed and my sister kept criticizing me as if that was not my first time driving a real car. “Your turns are too wide! If there was a car there you could’ve hit it!” “Use the turn signals!” “You’re breaking way too hard” Then she started bragging, “I taught myself to drive at fifteen years old!” “I had already drove on the freeway at your age!” but actually my dad made her get on the freeway, I remember because I was there. We were driving from Fontana towards Orange County, and she did not even make it half way. We stopped on the 15 freeway by Jurupa meaning she only drove for about 10 minutes total from our house. A few more minutes passed by and we switched seats, and we finally got the chicken nuggets she had promised.
Fast forward to December, my sister made me drive from our house to Smart & Final, then from there to Victoria Gardens, in the most dangerous weather in California! Okay maybe I am exaggerating, it was slightly sprinkling but it was raining cats and dogs before that. The roads were still very slippery enough for an accident. My heart was hammering against my chest because I was so scared. That was my first time driving among multiple other cars, and traffic lights.
In March of 2017 I really messed up. I was not any better than in December, but I did have a little more confidence driving. I went to Mexico with my parents to visit family, my mom had rented a car. My parents only let me drive from my grandma’s house to relative’s houses, which were practically around the corner. One day we went to town with my dad’s sister who was probably in her mid 40s, and my fragile grandfather. When we were done shopping, we went back to parking lot to get our car. My parents were busy looking for change to pay the parking lot guy with my aunt, and my grandpa was standing a few feet, in front of the right side of the car. I grabbed the keys from my dad, and I started to move the car because I thought I was cool or whatever. I also wanted to be nice and pull up the car for my grandfather to get in, so that by the time my parents were done we could just leave. But of course, things did not go as I planned in my head. I felt the car quickly accelerate! I accidentally confused the brake with the gas pedal. I quickly slammed the brakes so hard, that the wheels screeched. I nearly ran over my grandfather with the front right wheel. I was left very shocked that I was trembling worse than a chihuahua. My dad was furious and yelling at me the entire way home. He did not need to do that because I too, was extremely, if not more, furious with myself. I cried the entire way home from distress, and the flashbacks kept playing in my head like a video that I could not take off of replay. To this day I still have the look of fear on my grandfather’s face, forever engraved in my brain. It still haunts me when I look back at it, just the thought of me unintentionally almost harming, or even worse, possibly killing him, still makes my heart break. That day made me very traumatized to even look at the driver’s seat, but then I got a car three months later.
My mom bought me a brand new four-door automatic 2017, silver Honda Civic. I took way happened a few months ago in Mexico to be an idiotic lesson that should never have happened, and that I should be more responsible when driving a car. I got back to driving, but I was only driving to my grandma’s house, or my mom’s sister’s house, which were only 2-4 minute drives. A few weeks after I got my car, my dad made me drive to Chino so that meant he was going to make me get on the freeway, because he would not let me take the streets all the way there. The entire drive was slow because there is always traffic on Interstate 15 where the 10 merges with it, but there was also heavy traffic on the CA 60 freeway, because it is always like that in the afternoons. Even though I was stuck in heavy traffic for most of the drive, I still gripped the steering wheel very tight that my hands started hurting.
In the summer of 2017 I finally got my driving permit, after what felt like a century going through drivers ed! By September of 2018 I took the driving test, it only took me this long because appointments take forever to arrive, and every day is super packed and already scheduled. My first appointment had to be rescheduled on short notice, so I had to wait a very long time once again. But I finally did it! I passed my driving test and I felt so accomplished, mostly because I was the first in my family to get a driver’s license before the age of 18.
Today, I am super comfortable with driving, that I drive like I can afford a ticket. I now drive longer distances like to Tijuana and back, because my parents make me, although I would rather be on my phone. I improved so much confidence-wise in driving. I went from a timid kid who was afraid of the gas pedal, to someone who is dangerously comfortable in the driver’s seat and loves the gas pedal. The main thing that I learned from this experience apart from the responsibility one must obtain when driving is, you can not let past mistakes hold you back from continuing what you were doing. If you want to get better at it, you must practice in order to get better at it, and not hold your self back from improving. This is just like math, when we learn something new, we are not experts during the first lesson. It takes time and many hours of practice to get good enough at it, to the point that it is easy. Though, we always have to carefully examine our work to not make mistakes, the same thing goes for driving. You always have to be cautious and know what you are doing to keep you and and others around you safe. No one is perfect at doing things right on the first or third try, but with good practice, one does get better at that thing they are trying to accomplish.