My father is one of the people responsible for me being able to drive. There were several people including a classmate of mine in high school named Michael Murphy (I think Michael is out in Colorado; seems like the both of us ended up where we wanted to be, but that’s a topic for another post). Michael would let me drive his car after school through Westchester County, where I could practice without the intensity existing in my morning drive to high school during senior year. It was a relaxing drive during summer afternoons, allowing me to make most of my mistakes without fear. It also gave me an opportunity to learn more about life outside of the city. Practice sessions with Michael came while going to summer school after my senior year of high school for economics because I missed passing my ½ year class by one point on the state Regents exam. I find it somewhat ironic that my current job is based in the world of economics. No air conditioning in a historic school building in the summer can be brutal, leading to the enjoyment of air conditioning after class.
My father believed that the best way to learn was to be immersed into New York traffic, warts and all. He was determined to make sure that I passed my exam on the second try; I failed miserably the first time, mostly on wide turns and parallel parking. Both are things that I now do without thinking, though my parallel parking got a little slack while living outside of downtown Savannah for several years. The mistakes led to morning driving sessions to get to school. My brother got to experience these sessions two years later and decided that… we’ll just say that he didn’t put up with as much as I did.
There were some benefits to the morning driving lessons. My brother appreciated the fact that he didn’t have to take the bus to school in the morning. It also meant that we got there in a relatively quick timeframe since it was against rush hour, meaning we could sleep in: it took 15 minutes to drive to school; 35 minutes on a day when you timed everything right by mass transit. We did miss the ride on the train; the classmates, the people, the independence. Going against rush hour on mass transit in New York means actually knowing the timetables yes, NYC Transit actually runs on a schedule, it’s become so automatic in most New Yorkers’ lives, we just seem to know when the bus or train will get there. I enjoyed being able to drive there, even if you count the one time when I got caught on ice (I actually got get myself out of a skid. That talent has come in quite handy living around here).
Punishment for going to summer school that year was not getting many practice sessions. This is how Michael ended up being my other instructor.
I don’t know if Michael ever found out that I passed my second exam. It ended up being one of the craziest things ever, and one of the more interesting birthday gifts that one could get. I actually passed my driver’s test the second time because of something I did not do. We approached a quiet residential section and someone was attempting a three-point turn. I just stopped the car and waited to see what was going on. The tester said I was the first person that day to not try to drive through and wait. It was a great way to get ready to move south with a driver’s license in hand, though I’d have to return to New York in October to actually do the paperwork.
I used my license three times between the time when I earned it and when I got my first car. That means that for three years, I was in possession of a driver’s license that served a primary purpose of identification rather than ticket to privilege. To this day decisions on places to live are partially based on how close I am to a bus stop or train even though I have a car that must serve as a primary source of transportation. Driving has always been fun, and we’ve posted before about slowing down if possible to enjoy the view. I have started to wonder about continuing to drive recently. Recently Bets has begun to create a list of what she’s calling “New Traffic Laws”. She’s been keeping this list because of the absurd stuff she’s seen happen around here. Of course, now I’ve started paying attention to all of it as well. The best example in my mind is the one person that loves to zigzag through between all three lanes in heavy traffic on a weekend afternoon. They always seem to be in a rush until you see where they’re heading. The worst part is their not using their turn signal when changing lanes. That’s actually a pretty tame example. Bets has seen people drive the wrong way down a one-way street and get mad at people going in the correct decision. Or the person that got tired of waiting for the light to turn green at an intersection so they just drove on through. Of course, we’ve also seen people who’ve just driven through red lights altogether, even though they’re crossing a busy street like Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. or University Blvd.
Have any of you seen any of these things? If you have and have made it this far into this post, I’d love it if you’d post them here as comments… We’ll see how many of these nuances we can get down on one page.
Have a great week, and hopefully we’ll see you on Tuesday!