I grew up in New Jersey and you can not get a driver’s license until you’re 17, therefore, your 17th birthday is a BIG deal. All my friends counted down the months, weeks and days leading up to their big day and it was an unwritten rule that on your actual birthday, you would come into school late after taking your driver’s test. Friends would pass their newly printed license around as we made plans about where they would drive us after school (Garden State Plaza anyone?).
I was sort of the exception to this as I did not get my driver’s license until 5 months AFTER I turned 17. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t want to drive. I couldn’t wait to drive! I hated depending on friends,or my mom, to pick me up and drop me off someplace. I remember standing in my friend’s basement waiting to see who drew the short straw and be forced to take me home.
No my problem was that I did not have a car and my mom was less than willing to teach me to drive and/or let me use her blue Hyundai Excel hatchback. To this day I really don’t know what my mom’s problem was but she refused to teach me to drive. Instead she sent me to driving school the summer I turned 17. OMG it was hell!!
An obese man in a pea green station wagon (no, I am not exaggerating) picked me up at my house and made me drive around for an hour in a car with no air conditioning. I can clearly remember driving in this green tank passed the Bergen Mall in Paramus and wanting to cry feeling completely humiliated. (Mom eventually took pity on me and put me in another driving school with an elderly teacher who called me Nadine (not my name) for 4 weeks)
However, there was one person who took pity on me, my friend R. One night when she was driving me home (poor R was like my chauffeur that summer – and many more to follow) in her black, Chevy Beretta, she pulled over on West Pierrepont Avenue and told me I could drive her car up back up the street. OMG, really????!!!!!
We quickly switched seats and I buckled myself in and mentally prepared. I remember being very nervous as I stepped on the gas pedal (a little too hard) and up the street we went (flew is more like it). It was amazing!!
I also remember R teaching me how to do a K-turn right before my big driving test. She made it seem so easy and I prayed that I would be able to master that and parallel parking, get my license and finally be able to drive.
Well I passed the test but had to wait 4 more years for a car. Occasionally Mom would let me borrow the Hyundai but more often than not it was me in either R or H’s car calling “shotgun” and playing with the radio (H only listened to Led Zeppelin – yuck).
Yesterday I was making a k-turn on a small side street in Princeton and had a flashback to that summer night, LONG ago and it made me smile. I still can’t parallel park or back up into a parking space but I can drive straight, merge and k-turn like a pro! Thanks R!!