Guest blog: Leaning to Drive by Gwyn Warren
I could have gotten my driver’s license when I was 16, like all my friends, but Mother put her foot down, “No!” I would learn to drive, just like she did and take the written and driver’s tests, just like she did. (We had a State Patrolman at the time who really loved young people and would see to it they got their driver’s license without passing either test.)
As a result, I was 21 years old before I finally picked up the nerve to try for my license. I had been using my learner’s permit for six years; now, they wouldn’t renew it again. If I hadn’t learned to drive in six years, they figured I would never learn. Actually, I had been driving, even on long trips; but, when I thought about going for the tests, my palms got all sweaty, and I had trouble breathing. But, if I ever wanted to drive again, I had to go for it.
The written test was first. I had just about memorized the Driver’s Handbook, so I aced it. The patrolman was very impressed. “Are you ready to go drive, little lady?”
As I approached the traffic light on the square, the patrolman said, “Doesn’t look like there’s any traffic, so since I am in here with you, you can go ahead and cross against the light.” I declined and he was amazed, telling me that was usually when most people failed their driver’s test.
I completed the route and got back to the courthouse when he told me to parallel park. I knew there was no way, so I was honest with him. He told me I could pull past the intersection, and back into the last parking space in the first block. If I could do that okay, he would accept it as parallel parking. Thank God for “curb feelers”. (Does anyone remember those?) I executed that maneuver perfectly.
When we got inside, he had given me a 98 on the driving test. He explained he couldn’t give me 100 since I couldn’t parallel park; so, he knocked off two points because I seemed extremely nervous driving. I could have hugged him right there.
The block in which I parked had about an 18″ rock wall that ran along the inside of the sidewalk. When I turned right to go back to work, I somehow managed to get up on the sidewalk and scrape that rock wall the full length of mother’s car. I looked at the damage when I got back to work and just knew Mother was never going to let me drive again.
As soon as I got back into the plant, I went upstairs to the department she supervised and told her what happened. She and the other ladies who worked for her thought it was hilarious, and I was in tears.
After work, she let me drive out to my grandmother’s. She was not in very good health, so Mother went by every day to check on her before we drove on home. It was dark by the time we left; but, Mother insisted that I drive on home.
About two miles from home, in a long stretch of road, a cat dashed across in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes. The car spun around twice and we wound up in a ditch on the opposite side of the road heading the wrong way. Mother said, “Kill us if you have to, but, for God’s sake don’t kill that possum.”
“Possum?’ I questioned. “I thought it was a cat!”
“Possum or cat, what difference does it make? We could have been just as dead either way.”
She got the car out of the ditch and drove the rest of the way home. I wish I could say that was the last time I ever did something that stupid, but it wasn’t. I dodged a group of dogs one night, spinning the car around and ending in some man’s yard going the wrong way. Another time I approached a dead end road going too fast and put us in the ditch. She was always as calm as a judge when I did these crazy things.
I think God gives parents’ nerves of steel when teaching their children to drive. When my daughter was learning to drive, I decided to let her drive on the interstate thinking it would be a lot safer than crooked country roads.
Once she pulled over to the side of the road to let me drive and I told her she could drive for a while longer because she hadn’t scared me at all. When she got ready to start again, I told her to turn on her left signal, check her rear view mirror to make sure it was clear then pull onto the highway. As she pulled out, I heard the distinct horn of an 18-wheeler and my blood froze.
“Mom what am I supposed to do?” she cried.
I answered, “She asked as she pulled in front of a tractor-trailer.” We both then got tickled and I explained that she was supposed to have waited until the rig passed us before pulling out. After that, I was a nervous wreck trying to teach her to drive. In the end, I turned that chore over to my brother-in-law and husband.
I appreciate now, more than ever, the patience Mother had when I was learning to drive. If she hadn’t taught me, there would have been no one else. She didn’t learn to drive until several years after Daddy died; so, I think she realized how important it was for both her girls to learn to drive.