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. 

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know you failed your test the first did I. It's a curse between the "Jensen" women, we all failed it once. Ryan can't believe that I failed it and gloats in his superior achievement of passing it the first time. Also, I would love a blog post about our experiences in Roger. Definitely worthy of your blog!


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