Thursday, November 18, 2010


            As the oldest child in my family, and the first grandchild on my mother’s side, I enjoyed a plethora of attention in my early childhood. The undivided love and affection of the entire family didn’t last for long though, after two and half years the spot light was ripped from my chubby little fingers the day my little brother was born. Despite my attempts to return the little towhead to the hospital, give him to my neighbors and hide him under the couch; my parents decided to keep him and my life was never the same. My pool of playmates significantly dwindled, Mom was always feeding the baby, grandma took up sewing blankets for him, my aunts carried him around cooing and my dad was in residency and thus never home. I took matters into my own hands and did what every attention starved child does; I made a best friend. 
My best friend was Mousey, and I quite literally mean I "made" him. Mousey was imaginary.

            Mousey and I were instantly inseparable. Everywhere I went, Mousey went; everything I did, Mousey did and everything I felt, Mousey felt. Every morning my mom would return from the graveyard shift at the hospital with two cardboard cartons of chocolate milk; One for me, and one for mousey. He was the perfect best friend.  The fact that only I could see him definitely had it's advantages, but there were downsides as well. 

Advantage: Mousey always wanted to play what I wanted to play.

Disadvantage: I had to constantly keep people from sitting on him.

Advantage: Mousey rarely wanted his share of dessert, so he gave it to me.

Disadvantage: Mousey never got in trouble.

Advantage: I could blame things on him anyway

Disadvantage: I still got in trouble.

Advantage: I always had someone to play with

Disadvantage: Nobody else wanted to play with us. 

Advantage: Mousey had special dietary needs, which I naturally adopted. 

Disadvantage: Mousey never got in trouble. 

       If for no other reason, his role as a scape goat kept Mousey around for almost 3 years. 
       When I was about five or six I started to go to school. I was so excited, I had as many school supplies as I could find around the house jammed into my little purple backpack and made sure I had duplicates of the essentials, so Mousey didn't have to borrow mine. 

        Unfortunately children are blatantly blunt, comments about my "special friend" came dangerously close to branding me as the weirdy for my elementary career.  Apparently the other kids weren't as accepting of my creative nature as my parents had been. Instead of making new friends for Mousey and I to play with I was taunted by the other children for bringing him to school. The next few days Mousey stayed home, waiting for me to get back from school so we could commence our mischievous activities yet again.

        Soon the time came when I brought my school friends home to play instead, and Mousey didn't get to join in. As my social skills increased, Mousey gradually disappeared. Real friends replaced Mousey, I started to take responsibility for all my own misconduct and he eventually evolved into nothing more than the true story of my childhood creativity; the story you have just read. 

Disclaimer: All of the above depictions and descriptions are of real life events from my own personal memoirs. Any likeness to people real or imagined is entirely intended. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mobility Quest.

            The day I turned sixteen was a weekday, which meant I had to go to school. Any other birthday I would have loved the attention; six different periods meant six birthday songs and countless b-day wishes, not to mention all the shenanigans you can get away with because “it’s your birthday.” This year was different though, as much as I craved the spot light I wanted to drive so much more. After a few weeks of pleading, three impressive progress reports and an extra burst of birthday luck my mother finally agreed to let me skip school in order to take my driving test. I had never been more excited.
        Six months earlier, when I earned my learners permit, my father had made the executive decision that if he had to teach me to drive, I would learn to drive in a stick shift. There were two manual cars at my parent’s house: the Saab, which was turbo charged, had seat heaters, ignition located between the seats and wipers on the headlights; and then there was Roger.

         I got to learn in Roger.

Roger is a 1981 convertible Rabbit with a personal vendetta against me, a vendetta which no doubt came about because of the trauma I inflicted upon him while learning to drive.

As you can infer, the first few lessons did not go well.

Especially when they involved hills.

Eventually I “mastered” Roger’s gears. I slimmed the number of stalls per drive down to two or three instead of twenty four and rarely forgot to push in the clutch. I’d even figured out how to adjust the radio with one hand, shift with the other and steer with my knees. In my mind I was ready for the Indie 500, only three weeks on the road and I was already a hot rod racing machine. From then on I was to be referred to as Whitney: driver extraordinaire.

Anyway, back to the real story.
           I officially turned 16 May 15th, 2006 at 6:15, and I was awake thirty minutes later. By 8 A.M. I was mentally preparing myself in the drivers seat of my mother’s Toyota Land Cruiser, scrupulously fondling the steering wheel. I memorized the mechanisms, adjusted the seat settings and bonded with the dashboard. Today was my free pass away from Roger since everyone knows only idiots take the driving test in a stick shift.
The morning drug on and I stayed in the drivers seat; connecting with that precious means of transportation and freedom, practicing my smile for the upcoming photo that would go on my very own license. I waited patiently as my mother readied the rest of my siblings for school and scooted them off to the bus stop. At 10:30 we were finally ready to go. I was in peak pilot condition, completely one with my vehicle.
            The DMV, a place most people despise, dread and avoid at all costs, has never looked as glorious as it did that day. Each brick was shimmering in the sunlight, the glass doors were calling my name; even the characteristically grumpy employees were my new best friends as they helped me on my quest for wheels. After waiting in the happiest line of my life I was assigned a proctor and asked to lead him to my car.    
            I made it a point to dramatize my exit, pointing out it was the last door I’d ever go through without explicit permission from the state of Utah to drive. This observation was loudly announced to the entire DMV lobby as I set out to conquer the driving test. Everyone now knew where I was going, and they all expected a jubilant return.

             I climbed back into the land cruiser and silently congratulated myself for remembering to put on my seatbelt. So far so good. I put on some soothing music, a little soft rock from the family friendly Q92.9. My tester’s mood did not mirror mine. He turned off the music and made a note on his secret note pad.


The rest of the test went something like this:

I experienced a minor setback. I reminded myself I was allowed 20 demerits, the near death experience couldn't have cost me more than a few. My proctors demeanor was noticeably less cheerful.

No blinker, maybe another five demerits, but I was still under the delusion that I was passing this test. We moved on to the ultimate analysis of driving ability. Parallel Parking.

At this point I should have realized there was no way I passed the driving test.

I did not pass my driving test.

No I could not come back tomorrow. In fact I could not come back that week. I was told to practice and return no sooner than fourteen days later.

The triumphant drive back to the DMV I had envisioned didn't pan out as expected.

        Needless to say, I ended the test on a high note.

         My plans to drive myself to school, park in the student section of the parking lot and gleefully show off my own set of keys as the all-conquering birthday girl were suddenly shattered. Instead, my mom drove me to school and dropped me off at the back entrance where no one could see me. I didn’t even tell my teachers it my birthday.

I did eventually get my license, but it took seventeen days, sixty more demerits and two additional returns to the division of motor vehicles.

I’ve been wreaking havoc on Cache Valley’s roads ever since. 
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