“Do you want to drive home from here?” my sister asked as we just dropped off my friend who lived about two blocks away from my house. Best believe my response was, “Hell yeah!” Based on my only experience being behind the wheel was those arcade racing games it’s no surprise it was a mess. “Don’t slam on the breaks!”, “Stop swerving!”, and “Oh my god, don’t press the gas like that!” is what I was being yelled at during a minute long drive. But what matters is that we made it home fine! However, I thought it was for the best that I only drive if my dad is in the car.
Seeing how my sister learned to drive, I thought it might not be that bad. If she was able to do it then so could I! I asked my dad if he can start teaching me how to drive around the time I was 15 years old almost turning 16. My dad told me the first thing I had to do before that can happen was that I had to get my permit and that’s exactly what I did. I took the Drivers Ed classes online which required about 30 to 40 hours of completing. After hours of straining my eyes from reading off of the computer so much it paid off as I passed the written test on my first try. Once I had my permit on me I was ready to begin the journey of learning how to drive and getting my provisional license.
I didn’t feel any excitement when I realized what car I was going to drive. It was a 2001 Camry and the reason I wasn’t excited was due to some minor complaints my sister said. Usually it was along the lines of, “Dad! The brakes suck on that car!” or “The car feels like it pulls back when you try to speed up.” She wasn’t wrong about the brakes as it doesn’t work as quick and smooth as other ones and the pedal feels as if it sinks down sometimes. However, I dealt with it as it was going to be the car I would drive. I wouldn’t say I’m the worst driver now but ooh boy was I horrible my first time behind the wheel. Even to the point where my dad literally had to take the wheel.
My dad being like the stereotypical Mexican dad would get up early (at least I consider it super early) at around 6 in the morning. He’d come into my room to wake me up and ask, “Hey want to go drive?” To which I responded, “… sure.” even though what I really wanted to do was sleep. My dad would take me driving straight to the streets which made me nervous as I knew there would be other cars. He told me we were gonna just go around the neighborhood. Now my father is the type to lose his patience quickly leading to being sort of scolded when I did something wrong such as swerving into lanes rather than switching into one properly. I didn’t blame him however it was stressful. One time I was going to make a turn and I didn’t check properly which led to me almost hitting another car and my dad got the wheel to swerve out of the way. After he yelled, “Pull over! I’ll drive home from here.” I honestly wanted to cry and give up. But with the dedication I had of wanting to be able to drive, especially so I didn’t have to take the school bus, I improved and it was much calmer in the car.
Once I got the basics down and I was kind of decent, I began my lessons with a driving instructor. The instructor was a lady who seemed to be in her 30’s. For each lesson she would come pick me up and then I would take over the driving from there. I had to drive a Prius and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the only time. I remember always having to adjust the driver’s seat to reach the pedals and then adjust the rear view mirror as my instructor was taller than me. Either I sucked at adjusting the mirror or the decals on the car were just too big but I couldn’t see too well. It felt awkward to drive for two hours per session with the instructor. The sessions mainly consisted of making sure I checked all my mirrors and blind spots, putting on my signal and parallel parking. Thankfully the instructor was nice but whenever it was quiet I would think to myself, “Should I make small talk? Or should I just stay quiet?” Being an introvert I decided on the latter and focused on driving. At least it allowed me to learn the streets rather than just knowing landmarks. When I finished my last session my instructor told me, “I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t pass your driving test.” It gave me assurance. Even my parents told me I drove well enough to pass and I truly believed it as well.
Come the day of my test and I’m excited but obviously nervous. My dad giving me tips on how to stay calm and what to do while I’m taking the test. We checked in, pulled up to where other people were lined up for the driving test and waited until it was my turn. Instead of anxiety kicking in I felt confident. Next thing I knew it was finally time to take the test. It started with checking my brakes, the horn, signals, etc. Then began the real part. The test proctor was an older man who was definitely past 50 years old and came off as somewhat strict. We drove mainly around a neighborhood and I did everything I remembered what I was supposed to do. Or so I thought. I parked in a parking spot at the DMV waiting to hear feedback from the test proctor. “So you’re a safe driver and there weren’t any problems with your driving,” and at this point I was getting excited… that is until he finished his sentence with, “except you didn’t merge into the bike lane so you failed.” I get out of the car discouraged and saw my dad’s face who looked like he was expecting good news until my eyes teared up. I felt upset and it made me not want to bother with driving.
However, I set an appointment for my next test. Not feeling motivated as I did for the first time. I almost got the same test proctor and literally was going to leave or beg for someone different if I did. Seeing people get out of the cars he would get out of and seeing them discouraged and upset had me going into a panic. My hands got sweaty, my legs felt shaky and I started feeling sick. The only thing going through my mind was (excuse my language), “Oh fuck no. I will flip my shit if I get this guy again!” But luck was on my side and got someone much younger and laidback compared to the other proctor. I did the same process as the first time and it felt like I did a bit worse if I’m being honest. But surprise, I passed and got my license!
Without the help of my dad (whose patience I most definitely tested) and even my driving instructor I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to school, work and just places in general like LA, which I go to constantly now. I also don’t have to ask my parents for rides to go out with friends since I can drive myself.
I’m truly grateful for those who taught me. Being able to drive feels freeing in the sense that you don’t have to rely so much on having others take you to places, especially when it comes to work and school. It’s definitely worth learning how to drive.