Motorists Beware, I'm Learning How To Drive

My plan is to head down to the recession-friendly but not shady "learn to drive" storefront shop in a gentrifying neighborhood and man the wheel like a woman.
Publish date:
November 17, 2011
fears, cars, driving

Usually when I tell people I don't know how to drive, they have one of three visceral reactions:

1) "Everyone on the East Coast is a non-driving loser."

2) "Learn before you have kids, otherwise they'll DIE!"

3) "Wait, whaaaaa?"

Answers one through three are as follows: I'm from Los Angeles, my womb might never get invaded and I knoooooooow.

I'm 31 and have no clue how to drive one of those newfangled four-wheeled electro buggies. Aside from the figurative, I've been in the driver's seat all of twice in my life. The magical plastic card that gets me into clubs is a "non driver's ID." Mine is nice magenta and everyone else's is blue, the color freedom, people.

About six years ago, my mom got bored of me hanging around the house after grad school and decided a decade too late to teach me. I hopped in on the left side excited, stretched my legs and planted one foot on each pedal. You know, like how they do on "The Flintstones"?

"No, Dodo bird. You use one foot for the gas and the break."

"How does that even make sense? What if I need to push them both at the same time?"

"Why on earth would you do that?"

"For a fast break!"

This debate could have continued at the stop sign if the local fire truck hadn't pulled up and started honking. Not alarming, but honking.

After shouting something in the street Spanish she learned during the Peace Corps, my mom climbed over and took the wheel. And that was that. I haven't put on my imaginary student driver thinking cap since.

I've spent my life as a pedestrian. I love the feel on the street beneath my feet and the social immersion one can only get when there's the potential to actualyl feel up on someone else -- but not in a pervy way. Remember this quote from "Crash":

It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

I don't have to risk hiking up my insurance premium just be a human being. Plus, my whole operation is pretty green by accident, leaving tiny carbon footprints everywhere I go. Is that too much?

A few years ago, the fact that I don't know how to drive was still a cute personality tick, like hating chickpeas but loving hummus. It comes up in conversations randomly and people do this whole song and dance of "No waaay?" and "Don't you wanna learn?" And I go into my "Crash" philosophies and my favorite line about being chauffeured for life.

But in reality I'm just scared shitless of the idea of manning a killing machine that's responsible for something like 30,000 deaths per year. No thank you. I don't trust myself not to wander off into "la la land" (what my mother calls my brain) and then BAM!

A little person races into the street and because I'm too busy going over a mental grocery list a life is lost. I seriously think about stuff like that. Killing someone just because I wanted to get to the Filene's sale on time? Why not just take the metro?

It's a kid's nightmare, really. I think of driving a car like a six-year-old thinks of closing their eyes in the dark. There are just so many unknowns.

But "now that I'm in my 30s" (the R&B hook of my adult life rap) I need to put away childish things and get my ass in gear -- literally. Huffing it up the sidewalk in the rain in three-inch heels is just not the "Sex and the City" dreamscape it used to be. I'm way more Danny Glover now than I ever used to be. "I'm too old for this shit," is the catchphrase of this decade of my life.

The Rock Driving School claims to "help licensed drivers OVERCOME all fears due to nervousness or lack of confidence behind the wheel." That sounds about right. It's also FIVE HUNDRED dollars. Jesus. No wonder my mother shirked it when I was in high school. Eating was clearly more important.

According to a review online, The Global Driving school down the street from my house "will take your money and never teach you." But will I get a license?

My boyfriend is out of the question because I think next to home renovation and financial woes, teaching a loved one to drive is probably the first step toward hating them. Or so I hear.

My plan is to head down to the recession-friendly but not shady "learn to drive" storefront shop in a gentrifying neighborhood and man the wheel like a woman. With my aversion to mock authority, short attention span and bad eye sight, this totally promises to be an adventure.

I'll keep you all updated on my progress. From the sheer embararssment of going down to the DMV for my "learner's permit" like a 10th grader, to the cast of new citizens I'll be meeting in class. I'm jumping in feet first, but now I know I only need one for the gas and the brake.