Friday, August 22, 2014

Driving Lessons





LUCY BURDETTE: Since my birthday is in January, I first started practicing my driving in winter. The New Jersey roads were icy, my mother was a nervous wreck, and I was not a natural. We had two German shepherds at the time, who would ride in the back seat of the station wagon.

My stops were judged in dogs. A no-dog stop was a thing of beauty--a gentle glide to the stoplight with only the lightest tap on the brake pedal. A one-dog stop meant the old dog with less traction had been knocked to the floor. The two-dogger--well you can picture the rest.

As might have been predicted, I flunked my first try at the driver’s test--knocking the cones dead while parallel parking was the death knell. In a way, it’s a wonder anyone learns to pilot a four thousand pound hunk of metal...how did your driving lessons go?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I am howling. Lucy, dear, we are sisters. I took drivers ed in high school. The teacher, Mr. Grosskopf. was a former underwater demolition guy, a frog-man, and I do think he was actually more frightened with me behind the wheel than he was searching in scuba gear for underwater bombs.

He once told my mother: "I only let her drive because it's not my car, the school has insurance, and I have separate controls."

My favorite memory:

MR GROSSKOPF: "Watch out for that guy!"

HANK: "What guy?"


I think it was a vision thing. As in: I have no depth perception. Not then, not now. Which may have been exacerbated back then because I was always losing one contact, and since they were expensive then, I would put off telling my parents and just wear one.


I failed my first drivers test, too. The guy said I didn't stop at the stop sign. But DID, I swear. He didn't care. He was probably failing me to protect other drivers.

My mom and I still went out for eggrolls afterward.


RHYS BOWEN: In England you couldn't drive until you were eighteen and it wasn't a given, as it is here. Most people in those days didn't have cars. I got driving lessons for my eighteenth birthday and the instructor came to pick me up outside school. This was a huge status thing, to have the other girls see me drive away in a car--unless I stalled, which I did quite often, as the car had a temperamental clutch. But I passed first time. Not much use as my father wouldn't let me touch his car and I didn't get one of my own until I was working for the BBC. After five years with no practice my skills were rusty, to say the least.

We have now taught four children to drive. They all still quote John's exclamations and instructions. They all seemed to take to it really easily but it was nerve-racking the first time they went out alone.

HALLIE EPHRON: I had a lovely older boyfriend who taught me to drive. I learned on his Porsche (what can I tell you, it was Beverly Hills) Stick shift. Drive a little. Park. Enjoy the view. Neck a little. Drive a little more. It was very civilized.

I taught both of our daughters to drive. One I took to our local supermarket parking lot on Sunday morning (remember when supermarkets weren't all 24-hour?) and she ran into the Stop 'n' Shop. "Brake! Brake!" I shouted. I'd spent so much time explaining the stick shift but neglected to inform her about how to press the brake. Dented the front bumper. The other daughter broke off the windshield wiper control in the middle of a lesson (she thought it was the turn signal.)


SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Like Hallie, a lovely (and patient) older boyfriend taught me to drive. Unlike Hallie, it was not a Porche but his parents' Toyota Corolla. And not in Beverly Hills, but Buffalo. It was a stick shift car, and I remember distinctly him making a drawing of what the gears looked like and trying to explain it. Didn't matter — I just wanted to drive — RVOOM! We went to a deserted cemetery and it took me hours (or so I remember) to even get out of first gear.

Still, I have to say that knowing how to drive a stick-shift car has served me well over the years. Living in New York, we don't own a car, but if I ever had to buy one, I'd definitely get a stick shift. More control, better on snow — and plus your European friends don't mock you for driving a "grandma car" (which is what they call an automatic transmission).


LUCY: Oh, Hallie and Susan, learning to drive a stick shift could be a whole different blog. I had a boyfriend in college who taught me that too--in his orange VW. I will be always be grateful. And I helped teach my stepdaughter, who drove my car part way into a marsh. But all was well in the end!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hank, I am howling just thinking about your poor instructor. Remind me never to get in a car with you driving! And Lucy, I love the GSD driving test. We still do that with the dogs in the back seat of the Accord.
I learned to drive in my father's big cushy Kleenex box of a Lincoln Continental (that was before he got the Mercedes bug...) Can I just say that parallel parking was a--well, you can imagine. But I did it on the test, first time. My first car was a used '65 T-bird. What was my dad thinking??? But I survived that, and then, when I was nineteen, my dad took me to a used car lot and bought me a used Datsun 240 Z. Burnt orange. When we took it for a test drive--on US 75 no less--was the first time I'd ever driven a stick shift. What was he thinking, my sweet, crazy dad? But I learned, and I LOVED that car! I drove it until I moved to Scotland seven years later.

I still prefer a standard transmission, and would have one if we didn't live in a city where you can get stuck in rush hour traffic for hours...

When my daughter was learning to drive, I had a '97 fire engine red Honda Prelude. Oh, dream car, that was! And not one that you want your fifteen-going-on-sixteen-year-old daughter to drive under any circumstances. Practice sessions were a nightmare, and I could NOT teach her to shift. Then my big brother, who in his young, wild days drove in sports car rallies, came to visit and took her out in the Prelude. One lesson, and from then on she drove like a champ. Great for her--how humiliating for me! I don't think parents should ever try to teach their children to drive.



Reds, how did your driving lessons go?

41 comments:

Joan Emerson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan Emerson said...

Ah, driving. My best friend's mother-in-law taught both of us to drive. We all worked together at the seaside cafeteria and we'd go driving after we closed for the night.
When John and I got married, he taught me to drive a standard transmission . . . that was rough for a bit, but he was so patient and I finally got pretty good at the whole shifting thing, but I always hated having to stop on a hill.
These days, I drive a fair amount since work is about thirty-two miles from home; cruise control keeps me sane . . .

Can I just say that, despite the convenience of having a car, I absolutely hate to drive?

Mark Baker said...

I learned to drive in a stick, and I can still remember the parking lot where I first started learning and how my brother (seven years younger) would mock me for "Hippity hopping around the parking lot," something he picked up from our parents.

Of course, if they'd told me you didn't have to release the clutch the same time you take your foot off the brake, I might have been better at it.

Still, I did learn, and I'm grateful. Every so often, I have to drive a stick, and it comes back fairly easily. I drive an automatic now, but it is a good skill to have.

I did pass my test the first time around, but just barely.

Edith Maxwell said...

Best story? Hallie's. "Drive a little, neck a little." Love it!

My dear patient father taught us all how to drive in a VW bug, in the Santa Anita race track (Arcadia, CA) in off season. He also taught high school driver training - a free class back then - on Saturday mornings, and sometimes wore an orange fright wig to wake up his sleepy students.

Me teaching my sons in my standard-transmission Volvo wagon was um... interesting. Their NOT-patient father was a fail at it, so the job fell to me. The over-cautious one was always nearly scraping me off on the mailboxes because he was afraid of the center line. The over-confident one almost killed us all trying to cross a road that didn't have a stop sign (ours did). But now they are both excellent, appropriately cautious drivers, and they know how to drive a stick.

Susan D said...

Remember how when we first learned to drive on standard transmaission, the car would always buck, because we couldn't get the right balance of gas and clutch? And then once we got it right, we could never reproduce that bucking reaction (as if we'd want to)?

Grandma car, eh? I bought my latest car just this year (it's a 2004 Civic) and it's the first automatic I've every owned. The major attraction is the FOUR DOORS, since my friends were complaining about climbing into the back seat in my old car, and it was hell trying to get the grandkids' seats in and out.

But I really have to stop trying to shift gears at stoplights.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

susan D, what were you driving, a sports car with only 2 seats??

Edith, it's not easy to find the center of the road is it? And even harder sitting in the passenger seat when a teen has your life in his hands!

I still drive a standard--someday I'll give it up...

Anonymous said...

I didn't have any boyfriends at Hollywood High to teach me to drive or not. But since Hallie mentioned the Porsche, I can't help remembering when, in junior high school, I sometimes babysat for a divorcee, who lived on lower Laurel Canyon Blvd. In the daytime, the distance from my house to hers was quite walkable, but at night her boyfriend always drove me home in his Ferrari. At the time, I had no idea back then that the Ferrari was an expensive car; I was just always scared the way he sped and meandered through the hills. After they married, they moved to another part of Hollywood. So I have not been in a Ferrari since then.

Mary Sutton said...

Both parents taught me to drive. I remember endless loops in a parking lot thinking that I just wanted to get on the road! I took my road test in an '86 Chevy Caprice station wagon, in December, and passed. I had to parallel park between two eight-foot snowdrifts (Buffalo). Didn't really get the hang of parallel parking until I moved to Pittsburgh.

I have never driven a standard. My husband was going to teach me on his F150 pickup, but he sold it before he had a chance.

Gigi Norwood said...

I learned to drive on a push-button automatic, but later decided to learn stick because I needed to buy a car and manuals were cheaper. My soon-to-be husband taught me on his huge, underpowered pickup truck, and couldn't resist showing off all the cool things he could do with the transmission that just killed it when I tried. Finally I got the theory down and put him out at the end of the driveway. "This is between me and the truck," I told him. "I'm taking it out on the country roads, and I'm not coming back until I've got the victory." That truck and I bucked and stalled our way around a ten mile loop of mostly deserted backwoods, but I brought it home in one piece, and any car I tried after that was a piece of cake.

Karen in Ohio said...

Omigosh, these are funny stories. I also like Hallie's "drive a little, neck a little".

My grandfather was the sexton of the Catholic cemetery in our little town, and all the grandkids were first introduced to driving on the twisty roads therein. My cousin took me in hand, making me drive his dad's big boat backwards through the gravestones. Which was nerve-wracking, because Grandpa would have had kittens if I'd hit one.

Our family didn't have a car, though, so I didn't drive again, or even get my license, until I was married and a mom. My first husband, who was a cop by then, taught me, and he was an ass about it. His dad, who I adored, took me for my test, and he gave me the best-ever advice, which I've given all three of my daughters: stay in your lane, keep your car away from the other guys', and signal your turns. He also taught me a foolproof way to parallel park, and I passed my test.

Then in 1975, a couple years after my divorce, I decided to buy a darling little Honda CVCC five-speed. So I called up my then-boyfriend and asked him to go with me to pick up the car, and to teach me to drive it. He drove to a big empty parking lot with some hills, and I practiced for about half an hour and was good to go.

Except. The next morning on my way to work, when I got stuck at a light on a hill. Through three changes of the light. I could see my destination from where I was stuck, and when I finally got there, it turned out that the poor guy behind me was going the same place. I apologized and told him it was a brand-new car. He said, "I think you got a lemon." I replied, "The drive is the lemon!"

But after that snafu I almost never got stuck again, even parking in tight spots on Cincinnati's extremely hilly streets.

We taught all three girls to drive a stick, which I think kept them out of trouble. It's almost impossible not to pay attention when you have to shift gears. Since 2009 I've been driving an automatic, and every now and again I grab for the gearshift.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, That's so true--when yo have a stick shift, you have to think about driving. And it's scary at first--but truly, kind of fun!

Except I'm with you Joan, I really hate to drive.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Gigi, that's the best line ever: this is between me and the truck!

And love the story of learning to drive through the gravestones.

And the Ferrari--I'm not really a car person so I would have had the exact same reaction:)

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

I don't love to drive, but if you don't drive, you truly limit yourself. Will never forget my first mother-in-law who did not drive--she barely ever got off the farm...

Hallie Ephron said...

Amazingly, Hank does get off the farm. A lot. For someone who doesn't drive. And I confess if I could have ONE true luxury it would be a car and driver.

But you're right, Lucy, car=freedom! Especially for a 16-year-old. Gives "I'm outta here" new meaning.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

My father got stuck teaching my sisters and me. The story I told my kids and now grandkids as I teach them to drive involved backing. Dad drove me to a powerplant that had a quarter-mile long rear entry that only coal trucks used.

It was a Saturday morning and we had a light dusting of snow. I was to back the quarter-mile and then drive forward. So I backed and backed and backed and I knew I had nailed it. I was in total control, right down the middle of the road.

Until I turned around and saw the sinusoidal curves wandering back and forth over the road. Dad didn't have to say a word. The proof of my need for more practice was in the tire prints painted on snow.

~ Jim

FChurch said...

16 years old and behind the wheel of the drivers ed car, my instructor unclenched his hands from his seat and took me to the cemetery to practice. I followed his advice and took both my youngest nephews to a cemetery before they were allowed on the road--right turns, left turns, staying in your lane, line of sight issues, but no one to hurt! The closest I ever got to a stickshift was my 69 VW bug--automatic with an electric clutch on the stickshift. Boy, did I love that car!

Ellen Kozak said...

My mother was of a generation that thought it was a big deal, and very liberated, when a woman learned to drive-- and I think she was always a little afraid of driving the rest of her life. She had a '53 Dodge with a stick shift, and she took me, without any preamble, onto a country road the summer I turned 16. I promptly drove it into a ditch.

Then I took a couple of lessons from a driving school, on a car with an automatic shift, and took the test that fall, knowing I would flunk it because everyone in the suburb nearest our home did so the first time. The thing was, I didn't want to take it a second time.

But my grandmother got a new car that year and parked her '53 Mercury sedan in back of our house and said it was mine once I got my license. All that winter, I'd go running for the bus stop and think, if I had my license, I could take the car. Once the ice melted, my grandmother took me out driving a number of times (SHE wasn't afraid of her car, not at all! She'd learned to drive in her fifties, after my grandfather died, and loved the independence).

I passed the test just before my seventeenth birthday, and that summer my five best friends and I LIVED in that car. It was the summer we nerds got to pretend to be the kind of kids we saw in the movies about "cool" teenagers. I loved that summer, loved those friends, loved that car-- and then I went to college in NYC, where no one drove (I have New York friends who to this day have never learned).

The engine fell out of the Merc while I was away at college, and from then on, I only got to drive when I could borrow a car from my mom or my grandmother. But the summer after my first year of law school, I bought a car from a junkyard because there were race riots in our city and I didn't want to be caught somewhere waiting for a bus. That car-- loaded with furniture, dishes, clothes and books-- died en route to Madison (my parents came in both their cars to haul my stuff to school), and because I had taken an apartment off campus on the strength of having the junker, I needed transportation.

So my father bought me Hermione, the candy-apple red VW Beetle whose stick shift I learned to drive in fifteen minutes (the salesman taught me). I drove that car all over Wisconsin and all over the country for the next 11 years. Eventually it had daisy stickers all over one fender. I was brokenhearted when it threw a rod and died.

I am on my third car since, after a white Honda wagon whose name was The Enterprise and a nameless gold Dodge Neon. I waited an extra year before buying my current, much-beloved 1994 Colt Vista Wagon so it would have an air bag and ABS brakes. (Yes, I keep cars a loooooong time.) I love this one because it fits into a compact space, but is very roomy inside (and can haul furniture and gardening supplies and 8-foot boards). And do you know how hard it is to find a car that has roll-down (not power) windows AND a/c? This car has an automatic transmission, but even after 20 years, I still find myself reaching for the stick at stop signs.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

You are so right Hallie, in fact Hank is rarely ON the farm!

Jim, laughing at that story...I'm still no champion at backing up. He was a smart man, your father!

FChurch, another cemetery driver--who knew?

Ellen--you are remarkably loyal to your cars:)

Bionic Photography said...

This brings back memories. When I lived on the East Coast, I visited a couple of friends (wife/husband) in Virginia about 30 miles from Charlottesville.

The husband taught driving at the private boarding school for boys. He was very patient with me. He tried to teach me how to drive a Woody. I think it was a Ford Woody from the 1980s. I am still laughing because I went around in Reverse a few times then I stopped.

Then I did not drive again until I went to a driving school where they had cars with difficult steering wheels. But the good thing is that I got to practice driving early in the morning in the parking lot. I practiced driving the family Volvo. It was EASY for me to drive the Volvo.

After I failed the first driving test when the examiner made a mistake and I also forgot to stop at a Stop Sign in the rickety car, I decided to take the driver's test at a different place where my cousins took their tests. Good thing I could take the test in the family Volvo and the examiner was smart and focused. I passed and got my driver's license!

For me, some cars are easier to drive than others.

Ellen Kozak said...

Sudden flashback: I am at the HQ of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in the summer of 1964. A young Les Aspin (later the Secretary of Defense, but then just another Yalie friend) tosses me his keys and says, "Can you move my VW so I don't get a ticket?" "Sure," I say, and then I realize it has a stick shift, and I can't get it out of the parking space.

Four years later, once I have learned to drive the stick shift on my own VW (see earlier post), I am at my grandmother's, looking out the window, watching my younger brother, who has just gotten his license, trying to get MY VW out of a parking space. I see it lurch forward and then back. I remember how embarrassed I was when I couldn't move Les's car. I am extremely amused at my brother's predicament.

Susan said...

My best stories are not about my learning to drive, but teaching my son. For the entire 16 years of his life to that point, my husband had been the more patient, easygoing parent. But when it came time to learn to drive, they went out together on exactly two occasions. The first went badly, the second worse. When they came in from that outing, it was hard to say which appeared more traumatized. I took over and to everyone's surprise, including my own, I was pretty good at this. He passed his test on the first try and has been driving uneventfully (well, save one little fender-bender in high school) for five years now. And my husband can still barely stand to ride with him.

Kathy Reel said...

I am so impressed with all you stick shift drivers. I've always felt a little under-achieved not learning to drive one. When choosing our first car to buy together, my husband suggested we buy a stick shift. I confessed I didn't know how to drive one, and he said it was easy and we'd test drive one. After once around the block with me floundering in my attempts to drive the stick, he announced that we should probably get an automatic after all.

In getting my license, I was not the eager beaver that I should have been. With everything else, I jumped in and wanted to be the best, but for some reason, driving didn't interest me all that much. Thankfully, my next-to-oldest sister insisted that I learn to drive and was generous enough to let me do so on her snazzy cream-yellow Mustang. She also made me go take the driving test, for which I probably wasn't well enough prepared, but I passed it the first time, not with flying colors, but I passed. I actually liked parallel parking, and I still do to this day.

I was the youngest of four kids in my family, and I'm sure that my father rejoiced when I got my license. My mother didn't drive, and so my father was our chauffeur, and I was involved in lots of school activities. His buying me a used Ford LTD was probably less a gift to me than it was to himself.

Mary Sutton said...

Kathy Reel, that's funny. I was the oldest of four. i didn't get my own car, but I got to borrow my parents' cars whenever I wanted. The price tag? Shuttling my three younger brothers and sister to their activities. =)

Tammy said...

I learned to drive in a station wagon only slightly smaller than the one Lucy/Roberta describes. Mine was a 1972 Volvo wagon, and its stick shift was about 2 feet long. A lot of throw (distance) in that shift pattern! But, like Debs, I was somehow also a savant in parallel parking.

I've always loved driving a manual, except for the time my mother made me drive across San Francisco (stoplights on hills) in one. (I required a drink after our successful arrival.) But these days, I quite enjoy an automatic and a comfortable cruiser of a car.

Of course, all the racecars are manual, and to the manual, you have to add the ability to heel-and-toe downshift, which ... greatly adds to the complication level!

PK the Bookeemonster said...

In Montana, one could take drivers' ed at age 14 1/2, in the summer. In the early 80s they still showed those old black and white films of crashes, remember those? My driving teacher was one of the football coaches (yikes), Skip Anderson. To this day, I remember practice driving downtown, I was to make a right hand turn. The pedestrian on the corner obviously saw the "STUDENT DRIVER" sign and motioned me to go ahead and he would wait. Mr Anderson slammed on his brake and yelled "YOU. NEVER. DRIVE. IN. FRONT. OF. A. PEDESTRIAN!!" Lesson learned. Really. We could get our actual license upon turning 15, so on a snowy November day my mom let me get out school to take the written test and then the driving test which in winter consisted of pulling out, turning right four times (yes around the block) and parallel parking. You should have seen the grin on my face returning to Mr. Lee's science class -- one of the first students of our class to be able to drive. :)

I currently drive an SUV I call Moby Dick; we have two big dogs. One dog rides in the middle and one in the way back and neither the twain shall mingle by their own choosing.

Diane Vallere said...

I learned to drive on a stick and I still remember my dad and I yelling at each other in the parking lot outside of Boscov's Department Store because I could not get the hang of the clutch!

From there I went on to drive a VW Bug with a semi-automatic (two of them, actually, because the first was totaled in an accident that I still claim was not my fault!).

Denise Ann said...

I learned to drive from my father (before I was driving the car, though, I had experience driving tractor). Anyway, the car was an International Harvester "Scout" -- sort of a jeep/truck thing. And,of course, standard transmission.
I drove it into a ditch once, and failed the test the first time -- I had to parallel park on a hill, and the brake didn't hold.
Where I lived, getting access to the car was a LIFELINE! I was highly motivated.

Melodie T said...

Sadly, my parents didn't own a stick shift and I still can't drive one. I learned to drive at 16 on a 15 passenger commuter van. My father bought it used for cheap so we could take it on long road trips. When I took my driving test, the DMV worker's eyes bugged out and he said, "You're driving that!?" Luckily, he didn't ask me to parallel park. He told my dad that since I could drive that van, I could drive anything. Of course I was humiliated driving it in high school. Imagine me at 5 ft 2 inches falling out of that van in my cheerleading uniform while my friend gracefully exited her shiny red brand new Mustang purchased for her 16th birthday. But it was better than nothing and I was able to drive myself to the library. Such freedom!

Deborah Crombie said...

As I've been immersed in Tammy's books--she's up on JRW next week, Yay!!--I've really been missing driving a high-performance car. But those don't suit big dogs, groceries, garden stuff, and big city traffic. Sigh.

More on my crazy dad: The first time my parents took me to England, my dad rented a Mini-Cooper at Heathrow Airport and we set off across the English countryside on the (to us) wrong side of the road. What WAS he thinking? He must have had great confidence in my driving abilities. My mom never did drive in the UK. (Thank goodness. She was a terrible driver...)

Funnily enough, I've never had trouble with the left-handed shift in the UK, and I think the most fun I've ever had driving was the time I was doing research for a book set in the Scottish Highlands and I hired a red Honda Accord Sport (similar to the two-door coupe Honda sells in the US, I think, but sportier.) I spent two weeks driving twisty up and down roads in the Scottish moors with hardly another car on the road--just plenty of sheep. It was a blast!

Jody Crocker said...

I'm so enjoying reading all the tales about learning to drive.
I was 14 & a freshman in HS. Our drivers ed teacher insisted on a stick shift vehicle for the class. He said anyone could drive an automatic but we needed to know how to drive a stick shift in case of an emergency.
I had a bit of trouble with parallel parking & still hate to do it. I amazed myself once by perfectly parallel parking my husband's huge pickup truck on the first try.

Karen in Ohio said...

Deb, I've always wondered about driving the left-handed shift, and on the other side of the road. It was hard enough for my husband and me together to stay on the left in Australia, and that was an automatic rental car.

Tammy, your comment about the 2-foot throw reminded me of why Hondas were so popular with women. Built for smaller people, they had short-throw shift columns, and they were so much easier to drive.

Our youngest daughter, a brilliant young woman (seriously, she had a PhD in microbiology just after she turned 26, and never paid a dime for her education), had the toughest time figuring out the clutch. Over and over again we watched as she jerked around one parking lot after another, never seeming to get it. Finally a boyfriend was able to give her the key to the smooth movement, somehow.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

These are great stories! Debs, inspired choice of topic.

Reine said...

Lucy, I had my first driving test in Massachusetts in February. I was living with my grandparents in Dorchester, and they sent me for driving lessons near the Longwood Medical Area. An indication as to their confidence in me?

There was snow on the ground and more falling. A thick layer of ice covered the streets, and the testy tester had me drive up—anyone from Boston?—Parker Hill. Just before the curve at New England Baptist Hospital he said, "Do a hill stop."

I pulled on the emergency brake. Shifted to neutral. Gave it gas. Eased up on the clutch till it hit purgatory. Released the emergency brake. We slid backwards down Parker Hill Road, avoiding ambulances, delivery trucks, and taxi cabs all the way to Huntington Ave where the car swung around and the two left wheels lodged in the Green Line trolley tracks facing toward Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Very calmly and with perfect reserve Testy Tester said, "Let me off at The Brigham ER. Get out of the car. Sit in the waiting room, and don't move. I'll call Mr. Harrington."

My grandfather showed up about an hour later. He drove over to Dunkies and bought a couple dozen donuts to bring home. We sat at the kitchen table while aunts and uncles and cousins filed in with more donuts from Dunkies. Everyone had a miserable driving test story. A few had stories about "borrowing" cars. Bad tickets. Fixed tickets. The proposed law that to make fixing tickets illegal. "Let them try that one," from the mouth of Uncle Tommy Troy, then cop/future criminal attorney (RIP, Tommy).

It was another two years, and I was 18 before I got my license. Auntie-Mom says Tommy and the uncles put the kibosh on it ever happening before then. Thank you— Tommy. Kevin. Happy. Thad. Dan. Jim. Sully. Philip. Bill. Jack. Kelly. Wee Ball. Paddy. And Paul.

Deborah Crombie said...

Great story, Reine!!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Humiliating at the time Reine, but such an amazingly funny story now:). I remember having to go back to school with the news that I'd failed...awful!

and ps Susan, I know you meant "Lucy" but when someone has a story with German shepherds in it, we all think of Debs:)

Deb Romano said...

My mother didn't get her license until I was in Fourth Grade. This was difficult for both of my parents, because Mom couldn't do the grocery shopping without Dad, couldn't take us kids to the doctor, etc, unless Dad took time off from work. Eventually, he started to do all the grocery shopping, and we kids LOVED that, because he was an impulse shopper and came home with more things that we shouldn't have been eating, but that sure tasted good!

I picked up Mom's nervousness about learning to drive, and when I was old enough to learn I was too scared to give it a try. By the time I was in high school we lived in a downtown neighborhood, and I could walk to most places I wanted to go to. In college I finally learned, during summer vacation. My dad tried to teach me. He was a nervous wreck, and was convinced I'd get us in an accident. His reactions made ME even more anxious than I already was. He'd already had one heart attack by then and I think he was afraid he might have another one from trying to teach me to drive! I was actually a good student but I "caught" his nervousness, and my mind would go blank. He finally decided I should be taught by someone from a local driving school. Knowing Dad, I wouldn't be surprised if he asked the school if the teachers had healthy hearts! With strangers as teachers, I felt relaxed. I eventually LOVED driving, drove to all sorts of places, went out for weekend drives just for fun, until I had a job that had me on the road all over the western part of the state for much of the week. I now work three miles from home and avoid driving out of town unless it's absolutely necessary. Too many years spent sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic took the fun out of driving for me.

storytellermary said...


Reine, I think you win meanest tester . . . I didn't get a license until Prudential asked me to switch from secretary to sales agent -- the bus wouldn't work for that. My co-workers and my then-husband worked together to teach me, church parking lots, the State Fair grounds . . . My first test was dismal, but the second try brought me a calmer, positive test-giver. Parallel parking on a hill was my hardest part, but I did it . . . and eventually left sales for teaching in St. Louis, which also would not have worked depending on buses. I second the motion for drivers . . . or better public transport.

Reine said...

Oh…Storytellermary… I think the Testy Tester just wasn't very bright. Picture having an 18-year-old do a hill stop on a very steep city hill that was coated with a sheet of ice—while it was snowing out. Don't you think?

Susan D said...

Hee hee. Heck no, Lucy, it was not a sports car with 2 seats. A Honda Civic with 2 doors (3 counting the late lamented hatchback). You know -- flip the front seat forward and crawl into the back seat. Not so great when all your friends are counting the months until the pension plan kicks in.

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