(This is for you, Amy, as you reminded me that I never finished the story I started…almost a year ago!)
Every teenager can not wait until that moment they can proudly hold in their hands a small plastic card with an ugly mug shot that proves they somehow are now qualified to drive several thousands pounds of steel out on the road. It’s a day you cherish, you will always remember.
But not so much for me.
I remember it more of because what I went through to GET it.
Now, I considered myself at the ripe old age of 16 to be very mature for my age, possessing above average intelligence, so the thought of getting my drivers license didn’t really freak me out. Plus, my parents had let me borrow the car a couple of times (prior to being licensed) to drive around Bountiful and I had always been extremely cautious and careful. I had no doubt in my mind that getting my license was going to be as easy as getting a hickey in high school (not that I would know anything about that…).
My mom took me out to Farmington to the DMV where I needed to take my written test and my driving test. Because I enrolled in a private driving school (instead of having to waste an entire semester on Drivers Ed), I was required to do all of that fun stuff with friendly government workers at the DMV.
I was issued my test, went to a small cubicle, and quickly shot through it. Handed back my answer sheet, they ran it through the “answer machine” and beep-boop-beep-beep-boop, ta da! I passed and was on to the driving test portion.
The lady behind the desk told me that my assigned “certification officer” would be out shortly and would call my name and take me out on the road. I sat there, anxious and with a few butterflies, but still totally confident that within the hour my face would be adorning an “Under 21” license.
“ANGELA BREWSTER! IS THERE AN ANGELA BREWSTER OUT HERE?” bellowed a man.
Startled, I looked up and saw this overly large black man, bushy mustache, glasses in one hand, a clipboard in the other, staring around the room with a gaze that said, ‘Don’t mess with me; I work at the DMV and can make your life a living hell’.
I kind of raised my hand, looked at my mom apprehensivly, heard her whisper, “Good luck!”, and headed over to this man who I now feared more than anything.
“Unh huh,” he said, looking over his clipboard at me and putting his glasses on. “Are YOU Miss Brewster?”
“Um, yes,..yes I am,” I squeaked.
“Right. Let’s get get on with this. Where’s your car at?”
“It’s the Mazda, just right outside.” I felt completely weak at the knees as I led him out the door and to my parent’s blue Mazda Tracer. (I told my mom I was absolutely NOT going to take my driving test in our family’s Plymouth Voyager minivan)
I was so worried about doing everything right, fearing he was going to bite my head off at any moment, that I started to wonder if maybe postponing the test until a later date might be a better idea…
I started to reach for the door handle before I realized that I needed to do the quick check around the car before taking off. I walked around it very deliberately, making sure nothing was around the car…and trying to calm my nerves.
Mr. Cheerful peered over his glasses and clipboard at me, made a couple of notes, and just said, “Ummhmmm.”
We got in the car, I turned the radio down first thing, put my seatbelt on, started the car, released the emergency brake, and began to slowly take the car in reverse. During this whole sequence of events, he kept writing notes–CONSTANT notes!–and it was starting to unnerve me. ‘What in the world is he writing already? Did I back out too quickly? Did I not look long enough before reversing?’
We headed up the street and I was going EXACTLY the speed limit, even a mile or two under, and counting when I came to stop signs (‘one one-thousand, two one-thousand…).
I looked ahead and saw two streets, one an intersection and one a side street, and asked, “Do you mean at…”
“Just GO LEFT.”
I turned at the first street and he barked, “NO! At the intersection! This is a dead end. Turn around and go back.” He kept muttering and made more scratchy notes on his clipboard.
My every last 16 year old nerve was shot with every moment after that. I would get ready to turn and he would brace his arm against the window as if the imagined centrifugal force of my 5 mph turn was going to send him tumbling out on the street. Every time I stopped at a stop sign, it was either too long or too short. His exasperated sighs and stares made me an absolute wreck–and I started to shake ever so slightly.
“Haven’t you ever driven a car before?” he demanded after a botched parallel parking attempt (which consisted of me never getting close enough to the curb for him…or too close).
“Yes,” I squeaked, my hands gripping the steering wheel with such force my knuckles looked like they were going to pop through my skin any moment. “I’m doing the best I can…” my voice faltered and I knew I didn’t remotely sound like I was capable of driving anything but a Big Wheel on the sidewalk.
He sighed excessively, pushed his glasses up his nose, and said, “Let’s go back; we’re done.” I groaned inwardly because the tone he had on the word “done” did not seem to imply that I had done well at all. “You DO know the way back to the DMV, don’t you?”
I nodded and at least pretended like I did (because I really didn’t…had no idea…but I was determined to prove to him that I was NOT incompetent…besides his very obvious distaste for absolutely everything I did). By pure dumb luck, I headed right back to the DMV, and my confidence in at least getting this portion right buoyed me up a little.
I turned into the parking lot, headed towards an open spot, and Mr. Joyful commanded me to “go down closer by the door; I’m not walking across the parking lot”. I was exhausted emotionally and mentally at this point, saw an open spot by a big van, and made too wide of a turn…INTO THE VAN.
Yes, to cap off a horrible experience of feeling belittled and practically bullied during an almost hour long driving test ( it was ridiculously long thanks to him insisting I do required tests over and over again to his ever growing dissatisfaction), I hit a car—ON MY DRIVING TEST.
Now, in my defense, I barely hit this van on the corner by the bumper. But the way he jumped out of his seat, you would’ve thought I plowed headlong into its side going 40 mph. I was maybe, MAYBE, going 3 or 4 mph. He yelled, “STOP THE CAR!” and I thought, ‘oh my gosh, he’s going to take me to jail or something…I am so dead, I am soooo dead…’
We get out of the car, he parks it as I stand there pathetically looking on, and proceeds to walk back into a very crowded DMV and announce to the entire place, “WHO HERE OWNS A CHRYSLER VAN OUTSIDE? THIS GIRL (accusatory pointing at me) JUST HIT YOUR CAR.”
My mom looked at me with wide eyes and I can say that I honestly wished I had the ability to melt into ground at that moment. Forty pairs of eyes were fixed on me and this lady jumps up and says, “That’s MY van! What did she DO???” In my head I kept thinking, ‘please, just let me die right now…this is soooo embarrassing’
When Jerk Face took the Van Lady out to view her “damaged” vehicle, she walked around it twice and asked, “Um, where did she hit it? I don’t anything at all!” Mr. JF got down his pudgy knees and peered closely at the corner of her bumper and said, “See, it’s right HERE. This is where she hit IT.”
Van Lady could clearly see I was distress and bless her heart, she said, “Oh, it’s not that big a deal. I thought my van was going to be smashed in–and here I can barely even see what happened!” Still, we did trade information and unfortunately, Van Lady’s greedy husband decided there was enough to warrant fixing and my parents ended up paying them something around $400.
Going home and telling your dad that you failed your driving test because you hit a car isn’t exactly a thrilling moment. It was the second time in that fateful day that I was wishing, ‘oh please, just let me die…I am going to be dead, dead, DEAD’.
My dad cheerfully asked me, “Well? So where’s your license Miss Driver?” My mom shot him a long look and commented, “She hit a car.” At first my dad’s face went all red, and I was just waiting for the explosion to come–I was going to be grounded, sentenced to the kitchen for a month, or worse–stuck with babysitting for the rest of my natural life. Then all of the sudden, he started to laugh. Just laugh and laugh until my mom joined in too. I stood there in shock. Did he not just hear that I ran into a car?? That I didn’t get my license?? Amazingly, I didn’t get punished at all. Instead I got a hug and promise to take me back out there in 14 days when I could try again.
Fourteen days later EXACTLY I went back to take the driving test. I was sweating bullets that I would get the Grim Reaper of Teenage Licensing again. Instead, I got this extremely friendly and affable lady who popped into my parent’s minivan with me (alas, I couldn’t have the smaller Tracer this time around), and within 15 minutes, she told me I was done and I could go back. What was my score this time?
A lovely 96%. NINETY-SIX.
BOOYAH! Take THAT, Mr. Grouchy Face! I wanted to go shove that paper up into the face of Mr. “Don’t you know how to drive?” just so I could prove to him that when somebody isn’t yelling at you during a driving test they will succeed. Whoohoo!! I couldn’t stop smiling after she handed me my paper. I passed! Thank the heavens above!
I was beaming walking into the DMV and showing the paper to my mom (who was greatly relieved I hadn’t hit any more cars). Next thing I knew, I was standing in line to get my first license (after I cheated on my eye test though…but that’s another story) and didn’t even need to be prompted to smile. I was grinning ear to ear.
I was legal! And so, this 16 year old went forth and had many more driving adventures…some that her parents wished she did not have to embark upon. But ah well.