When my dad taught me to drive back when I was 16, it was not an enjoyable experience for either one of us. My dad, a former flight instructor for the Army, would get quite frustrated at his insubordinate daughter, who didn't react quickly enough to his "orders". His daughter, in turn, would get incredibly stressed out and frustrated with said "orders". As they careened down the 20mph road with her at the wheel of the '63 beetle, he would begin chanting in a military monotone, "To the right. to the right. to the right. to the right. more. more. more. TO THE RIGHT." And I would move slightly to the right, but stop because for the Love of God, the curb was Right There and I was not very good at this, you know? I swear he wanted me to scrape the tires against the curb, and then I'd be "to the right" enough. Every single driving lesson ended with me dissolving into tears and him telling me gruffly to get back home. This is why it took me a year after my 16th birthday to finally get my driver's license, when all my friends had run out and taken the test the day of their birthday. Which, incidentally, made it possible for me to procrastinate a year -- everyone else could drive, why should I?
The other thing slowing me down, besides the frustrating driving lessons, was the stick shift in that bug car. In driver's ed, which I had already taken, we drove an automatic, of course. But nooooo, even though my Grandmother offered to let me take the driving test in her automatic car (ok, it was a huge cadillac and i probably would have failed in that car too), my dad said no, I couldn't take the test until I could drive the car I would actually be driving. Go figure. So about a year later, one night I had a dream where I was driving the bug car. With ease. I was flipping through the gears like a pro, and it felt good. The next day I got in that car and I. Could. Drive. Not quite as smoothly as in the dream, but I definitely had the gears down. With a little more practice I was licensed and ready to go. I even aced parallel parking, but that could be a whole separate entry. I know you can't wait.
I remember that the first place I drove by myself was my boyfriend's house. Which was a pretty straight shot from my house, except for one thing: the Big Hill with a Stop Sign at the top. Every new stick-shift driver's nightmare. I was very nervous about the first gear thing on the hill, but I figured it out and after that, I could go into first without killing it pretty much from then on. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I work well under pressure. So I was excited to take on my next conquest, which was driving to school.
But here's the catch -- my dad sat down and figured out this weird, twisty way to school, and spent a lot of time explaining and drawing me a little map and everything. It finally came out (after his insubordinate daughter questioned his orders yet again) that all this was so I would not have to make a left turn into the parking lot. That's right. I wasn't going to be allowed to make a left turn. We fought about this. Oh, how we fought. There were tears and door-slammings and the kind of drama only wreaked by a teenaged girl. But after much protest, my mom stepped in and overrode him, taking my side. My side was that eventually, I would have to make a left turn. I couldn't go through life taking the long way around to avoid the left turns. Life was not a series of simple right turns. I couldn't truly grasp the wisdom of my argument until almost 20 years later, even though it finally won my dad over.
I thought about all of this tonight, as I sat at a blinking yellow light waiting to make a left turn, AFTER DARK no less, into my neighborhood. I found myself noticing how interesting that my home ends up requiring a *dangerous* left turn every single day. And guess what? I've been doing it for five years and I've got it down pretty well, left turn and all. Now that I think about it, I've been braving the tricky turns since I was a teenager, and here I am. We all do it, every day. And imagine what the world would be like if we didn't? If everyone just kept it simple and took the long way around, avoiding any risk or danger?
What a mess that would be.