Just Shelley

Driving as a non-driver

Experiences of not having a driver’s license:

When I was 21, a friend left her Volkswagen Beetle at my place when a group of us went out partying. This wasn’t one of the new classy Beetles, this was an oldie — the kind where they’d paste fur on it and call it a mouse. The kind truckers used to play “spin the Beetle, see where it lands” with. The kind you could knock over if you breathed hard on it.

Anyway, back to the story. The next day, my friend came to my apartment to pick up her car. The problem was there was one of her, but two cars. Solution: Let’s get Shelley to drive the Beetle home! Unfortunately, I didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t really know how to drive. Still, you know people in their 20’s — all guts and glory. My friend just knew I could drive if I really wanted to.

After having me drive the car around for a few blocks she certified me as ready to fly on my own. She got in her parent’s car, I got into the Beetle, and we set out to drive from the south end of Seattle near SeaTac to the University district along I5 on a sunny, Saturday afternoon.

My first challenge was figuring out how to shift the car. I finally remembered that you had to push down the shift pedal with your left foot as you shifted. I did eventually manage to shift, but not in time to stop from driving a Metro bus into the next lane. Good thing he swerved– can you imagine what would be left of a Beetle after a Metro bus got through with it? I don’t think he was very happy about my driving, though.

Next challenge — getting onto the freeway. After driving along on the breakdown lane for a considerable distance, with my friend frantically signaling me that it’s okay, I can merge in traffic now, I finally negotiated my first entry on to a freeway. After a bit, I also increased my speed to the point where the other drivers weren’t passing me, staring into the car trying to see what the hell was driving it.

Okay, so we’re humming along, me following my friend, when I noticed how warm it was. The heater was on. Solution: turn it off.

Unfortunately it was at that point that I found out that drivers tend to drive where they’re looking. In the midst of trying to find the heating control, I did the loveliest ballet across I5 that I’m sure most drivers have ever seen. Is this the heater knob? Is this off? Is this how you turn it to cool air? My attention finally returned to the important aspect of “driving” by my friend’s frantic signaling with her horn that I had Better Start Paying Fucking Attention to What I’m Doing! Right Now!

Okay, ignore heater, roll down window, pay attention to driving.

At that point, the football game in the Kingdom finished, and half of Seattle’s driving population entered the freeway.

You know how deer and rabbits freeze on the freeway when your car lights hit them? Well, that day when I was 21, I learned what the deer and rabbit were experiencing. Sheer, raw, mind numbing terror. Luckily, my autonomous nervous system took over in my catatonic state; I was able to follow my friend to her house with no resulting deaths or injuries.

Excuse me, I must end this post — I’m heading to the car dealer to order my very first car. Doesn’t that make you feel comfortable driving in the San Francisco area, now?

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