On Learning to Drive, Part 2

Car driver
We had an old Rambler, but I learned to drive with Mom’s Buick Electra 225. It was a big car and I was not a fan of traffic. Even though I managed to handle the car in Akron traffic, getting my license became less important. I was dating a lot at the time, so I had lots boyfriends who did the driving. There was one dreamboat Dave who drove a baby blue Camaro that matched his baby blue eyes. We ended up best friends rather than boyfriend and girlfriend, but I digress.

My brother ran around with his good friend who drove a Crazy Grape ‘Cuda. There were no ‘cool’ cars in our driveway.

My best friend, Cindy lived only a few houses away had the keys to her mother’s Firebird, so we often went tooling around town on Friday night. Cindy was not a great driver, but I never told my parents that.

Someday I will write the story of my mother’s illness, but not today. In all that chaos, however, I never went to get my license. I joined the Air Force, got married and discharged, gave birth to my daughter, got a divorce, moved to Alaska and eventually remarried. All in the span of seven years. That was a lot of living in a short span of time.

My then husband was in the Air Force. After my son was born, my husband was eventually sent TDY (temporary duty) which found me with two children and no driver’s license. Before he left, I finally – 7 years later – went to take the test for my license. I passed with flying colors.

The first time I would drive alone, was after taking my then husband to the airport. I drove back to the Air Force base alone, with a toddler and a baby in the car. I was scared to death, but somehow things went ok.

A few days later, I loaded my children into their carseats and drove to one of the small Exchange stores on the base. I parked the car away from everyone so getting out of my parking spot would be easier. Imagine my surprise when I walked outside to see a huge motorhome smashed into our car.

It seems the woman driving parked on a bit of a hill and did not engage the parking brake. I am not sure if she left the vehicle in gear, but it had rolled down the hill into my car. Luckily, the motorhome gathered little speed, but it still damaged the car.

I was so naive. I knew nothing about insurance, who to call, what to do about estimates. I called a man who worked with my husband and he came to my aid, suggesting a place to take the car for repairs. Luckily the damage was not bad and the car was drivable.

I hardly recognize that young woman who was me. Dependent, vulnerable and too soft spoken. It is odd to look back and see ourselves in reflection. I have a fondness for that 25 year old young girl, but I’m glad she grew up and found her voice.

In the years to come, I would become a road warrior, taking many road trips between Maine and Virginia and between Florida and the Carolinas. I have had my share of unfortunate events while on the road, but I managed to work through them without much commotion. Lessons learned, I guess.


On Learning to Drive, Part I

Car driver

    Photo by Peter Fazekas from Pexels

I was the youngest of four and watched each of my siblings go through the process of learning to drive. Getting a driver’s license is a symbolic rite of passage for most teens, but let me just say – I was not a normal teen. Being behind the wheel of a car terrified me.

I took driver’s education while in high school. It was offered after school and taught by one of our high school teachers. I do not remember much about the classroom sessions, but I remember well the time we had in the car. There were three students in the car and we each took turns driving. In thinking back, that drive time must not have been very long considering it was all after school and finished before sunset.

I remember one afternoon in particular. I was in the back seat and one of the other students was driving. All was going well and we were moving along in fairly heavy traffic as a large truck rushed passed us. Suddenly there was a loud THUD that shook us all. The young girl driving started to panic as our instructor urged her to pull off onto the breakdown lane. Once off the road, the instructor got out of the car to investigate. Apparently, just as that large truck rushed by us in traffic, the Student Driver sign had fallen flat on the top of the car. We would live to drive another day.

We lived in the suburbs outside of Akron, Ohio. I do not ever recall driving on the interstate in Driver’s Ed. The highway was packed with semi trucks hauling goods in and out of manufacturers like Goodyear Aerospace, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Firestone, BFGoodrich and General tire among other industries. Getting on and off the highway was challenging for a young driver.

Once I had my learner’s permit, I never pestered my parents to let me drive. Mom had to force me on the road. My mother got her driver’s license late in life and she was determined that would not be my fate. I can remember driving on the long roads through soybean fields when my mother would say “there’s a big truck coming around that curve”. There never was. She wanted me to always imagine that some unseen vehicle was just out of sight so I would always be prepared.

It was when she made me drive on the highway (I76 I think) that I was the most terrified. Traffic was so bad in those times I remember a series of roadsigns on the highway that read something like this:





I did learn to drive – even on the highway – but I did not get my license at that time. It was during this timeframe that my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly driving did not seem so important.