When Nervous Turns to Scared

Kenneth C. Hoffman

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All seventeen-year-olds know everything. Just ask them. I had two weeks to learn a twelve page pamphlet on the rules of driving and I actually tried to learn them. Some of the instructions I didn't really understand but I was reluctant to ask for help. Of course I thought that the driving test rated higher in importance over the written test, so I bugged my Dad to take me out on the road for a lesson. Dad was a real Nazi when it came to following instructions and though he didn't curse, the lesson was interrupted by several orders to pull over and park so that he could calm down and stifle his urge to hit me.

The country part was easy but traffic was another story. The first order to turn left found me in someone's driveway. Since we were already on a side street, Dad tried to show me how to parallel park. Many loud screams of “Left!, left" and “Stop!". and “When I say STOP I mean right now!" Anyway, this lesson was cut short when the owner of the house closest to the curb asked us to practice somewhere else or he was going to call the police.

For the actual test, I had to use one of my Dad's cars - a Kaiser Henry J with stick shift. Automatic transmissions were not allowed for the test. After sweating out the written test, an older gentleman asked where I was parked and we got in the car. He said go to the next corner and turn right. So I pulled out and looked at him for approval at my wonderful driving skills when he asked me when I planned to signal to the rest of the world that I was about to enter a traffic lane. I apologized and signaled a right turn and turned left.

By now, sure I had flunked, I found us stopped on a steep grade at a red light. Not knowing how to slip the clutch, I stalled the engine with one foot on the clutch and the other on the brake. If I took my foot off the brake, we would go sailing backwards down the hill. At this point the tester suggested using the hand brake before I started the car. Two aborted attempts later, with a screaming engine, I finally raced across the intersection at about forty miles per hour. Sweating, I returned the man to our starting point without him offering a word of praise.

Two weeks later I received a notice from Motor Vehicles passing me on the driving test but failing me on the written test. The wrong answers were circled - parking within fifteen feet of an intersection and not knowing the proper hand signal for a right turn. To this day I'm the only one I know who can parallel park into a tight spot within six inches of the curb on the first try. Unfortunately, all parking nowadays is head on diagonal.

Retired portrait photographer just glad to get home safely.


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