Friday, August 31, 2012


I got my first learner's permit when I was fourteen (and a half) but I wasn't wild about the idea of driving. I didn't rush out to take the written test on my birthday like my friends did and I didn't beg my parents to let me drive. Ever.

When I moved to Utah my lack of excitement about driving hardened into downright hatred. I was determined to never drive. Ever. Moving from a small town with a piddly handful of traffic lights to a full-blown city with hundreds of traffic lights, huge roads, and heavy traffic was intimidating.

My determination faltered when I realized I'd be leaving the family nest and striking out on my own. No longer could I hitch a ride with my mother or ask my mother-in-law to chauffeur me places. Gone was our home within walking distance of good public schools. And—darn it all!—f there isn't an astounding lack of dirt-cheap taxis and minibuses and metros in America (this isn't Cairo). To top it all off, I would be responsible for chauffeuring my own children around to places they'd want to go and they are getting old enough that they have expectations (like gymnastics classes, for example) that require a commute.

So, I reluctantly began driving lessons a couple of weeks before moving out to North Carolina and, thanks to the incredible patience of my father-in-law, gained primitive (yet adequate) driving skills in a relatively short amount of time.

I'm a bit of a nervous driver. I rival Barney Stinson (watch this). For real.

Now that I'm here I don't know how I ever found Utah roads to be intimidating.

Take 2000 North in Orem, for example. I was terrified to drive on that road. That two-lane road with a 25-mph speed limit, a turning lane in the middle, and shoulders on each side wide enough to park a car and ride a bike. Not to mention the sidewalks. That road left me a huge margin of error.

Roads aren't like that here.

I drove to church on Sunday—it's a good twenty minute drive. It was one long panic attack for me. By the time we got to church I was a sweaty, shaky, hyperventilating mess. I didn't even bother fixing my parking job. I just bailed from the van, told Andrew to repark it, and attempted to quell my nerves before heading into a chapel full of strangers (another thing that makes me nervous).

The roads were windy, narrow, two-lane roads without even a hint of a shoulder. The whole way it was oncoming traffic, me, ditch. No wiggle room at all. It was terrifying. But we all survived. And next time should be easier, right?

I went to the DMV today to exchange my Utah driver's license for a North Carolina one. I was so nervous about the written test that I stayed up until midnight studying (here).

Andrew had had a terrible time at the DMV when he went in. He waited in line for approximately six hours (I kid you not) and then he missed three questions on the test (which is still a passing score) but that had me worried because a) I didn't want to be stuck at the DMV for 6 hours with Benjamin, b) Andrew is a much more experienced driver than I am, and c) Andrew is used to taking tests so shouldn't have been tripped up by questions designed for 16-year-olds.

Benjamin had to stay with me at the DMV because we can't live without each other for six hours (there'd be weeping, wailing, and extreme engorgement) and compared to Andrew I am a lousy driver and I haven't taken a test in ages.

My studying paid off though and, with a bit of luck (the DMV wasn't busy today at all), I breezed through the whole process in less than half an hour. And I got 100% on my test (while bouncing a fussy baby).

"100%!" the official-looking lady behind the desk announced. "I'll waive your practical exam."

I was a little giddy about this (and a whole lot relieved) though I did have to wonder about the sanity of the conclusions she drew. Anyone can memorize a manual. It says nothing of their actual ability. My mom, for example, can't swim—if you threw her into a pool, she'd likely drown. But she was a stroke and turn judge for years while my siblings and I swam competitively.

But now I'm all set to be a driver for the next 8 years.

And I'll likely develop a nervous tic long before this license expires, so if you see me shoulder-checking while sitting on the couch...don't worry.


  1. You'll get there soon enough, I promise. As you know, I was a late driver too, but it was really only the first month or two that I felt like I was going to die every time I got behind the wheel. Eventually all that theory starts making sense and becomes practical knowledge that keeps you safe (and able to pass judgment on everyone who seems to have forgotten), and you'll gradually get more comfortable. Next time you drive to church won't be nearly as terrifying the next time, and the time after that will be even easier. Eventually you'll develop a "bubble" of places you're comfortable driving too because you've done it often enough. My own bubble extends to IKEA to the North and Hurricane to the South. You can do it!

  2. I was always a pretty timid driver until the day I decided to drive from Vancouver to Raymond as the only driver, with how many kids in the van? Eight, I think, wasn't it? After that, I have been unstoppable! :o)