Driving's been bumpy road for her

Growing up in Manhattan lays foundation for not-so-smooth car experiences later in life for this writer
2012-07-12T00:00:00Z Driving's been bumpy road for herOpinion by Alexis Powers Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

If I were wealthy, I would have a chauffeur who also served as a hair dresser, dog walker and chef.

To clarify this longing, you need some background information. Since I grew up in Manhattan, my mom, fearing for my safety, did not allow me to learn to ride a bicycle. As an adult I tried on my own. I had fantasies of biking around the country, maybe with a little dog in my basket, but disaster followed disaster, culminating in me dislocating my finger falling off the bike.

I tell you this because I have come to the conclusion that people who never learned to ride a bike do not develop a fondness for driving.

I did not get my driver's license until I was almost 30 years old and living in Southern California. Getting the license became a prolonged agony. My poor husband took me to the state Department of Motor Vehicles about every three weeks. Each time I failed the test I would cry for the entire weekend.

The last time I took the test, my husband watched me try to pull in between two white lines. After seven attempts, the instructor giving the test said, "Forget that part." Assuming another unsuccessful endeavor in passing the excruciating exam, my lower lip began to quiver. As I was about to cry, he said, "You passed, but you really need to practice."

Incredulous, I shouted, "I passed? I passed?" With that, I opened the car door to sprint over to my husband who anticipated another sad weekend.

"I passed! I passed!" He couldn't believe it. With a smile he walked over to the stunned employee and patted him on the shoulder as he shook his hand. "Thank you, thank you. You don't know how much this means to me."

About six weeks later, my husband called me at home. "Get ready. I found a car for you. I'll be there in 15 minutes to pick you up."

I had not driven since I'd passed the test because Jack would not let me drive his new car. We arrived at the car dealership. Unbeknown to me Jack had called every dealer in Glendale telling them his wife had a license but lacked driving abilities. He asked them to look out for a tank. And he found one. A 1956 Chevy (this was 1970) that had one owner, the hackneyed little old lady from Pasadena.

I looked at the car as if it were a jet plane. "Get in," Jack ordered, giving me the car keys. "We're going home."

"I have to drive this?" I asked. Rolling his eyes, Jack said, "Yes, follow me."

"I can't drive," I said. Shaking his head, he replied, "I know that but I can't drive two cars at one time. You need to drive this car home. And don't crash into me."

With hands shaking and heart racing, I followed him. We made it intact.

The first time I went to the grocery store I hit a light pole when I was leaving. That happened because I did not know what the rearview mirror was for. Why can't they figure out a better way to light parking lots? Do they really need to have cement poles? Two days later my husband noticed the dent.

"Where did you get that?"

Shrugging, I feigned ignorance. "I don't know."

The second time I was out driving I had my two young daughters, Liz and Madi, and my collie, Shep, in the car. Confused as to where I was (I failed geography and have no sense of direction - in fact, some people think I have no sense), I was looking for Glendale Avenue. While waiting to make a left turn, I realized that I actually was on Glendale Avenue. Relieved, I put the car in reverse and backed up. When the light turned green, I crashed into the woman behind me. I had forgotten I was in reverse.

I still haven't mastered backing up. I once got stuck in an underground parking lot. I couldn't figure out how to back up the car to get out of the space. A couple finally came by and the gentleman backed up my car while I endured dirty looks from his wife.

Another thing I hate to do is make left turns. Once when driving with a friend I needed to turn left.

"You're supposed to turn the wheel, not your body," she remarked.

When the girls were teenagers I bought a huge old black Cadillac, believing it would be safer for us. Minor fender benders and crashes into inanimate objects occurred frequently. When my daughters got older, they told people they had whiplash for most of their lives because of the way I hit the brakes when I stopped. They loved to tell stories about my driving.

I am fortunate though - many of my friends feel sorry for me and insist on taking me where I have to go. Very few will let me drive. If I do offer, most folks say, "Oh, no, don't be silly. I'll be happy to pick you up." And away we go!

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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