Six months ago, I could have been the poster girl for the ad: How not to drive a car. Now, you may roll your eyes and be tempted to Cmnd Q me, amused at the idea that I could possibly offer anything new about car driving. That too in the United states. After all, is there anything more pedestrian, more amenable to multitasking, and after bacon, anything more deep-rooted in American culture than driving cars? There is a gas pedal and a brake. End of story.
I thought so too, when I came to this country. There’s automatic transmission and people follow rules. I was convinced about how much a piece of cake driving was going to be.
Then came my first driving lesson. And another. And a lot more, wedged with bouts of exponentially waning confidence and intelligence. To this day, it surprises me how I managed to up the ante of stupidity with every successive lesson; it felt like I was struggling to say oui in french.
But, I’m on the other side now, and very much a member of the snooty driver’s club—cursing drivers who stick to the speed limit, making a grudging stop at every red light and outright scornful of any past-me(s) trying to learn. Also, no longer forcing fellow drivers to check their airbags every time they spot me on the road. I owe all of this to my complacent instructors—they dared to assume that I had a basic level of common sense and quick judgment to begin with. I proved them wrong on all counts, and with such élan, that I truly believe there isn’t room for more blunders. Of course, I could be woefully wrong. Until then, here’s what I have gleaned from the tons of driving classes; my precious tenets of driving, if you will:
1. The gas is always on the right
I have lost count of the times it took me to get this right. I mean I am not directionally challenged, but I have stepped on the gas at a signal, with a stationary car mere feet away from me, so many times that my instructor had to give me the “How many fingers am I holding up?” test to make sure I wasn’t blind.
2. Dividers are meant exactly for that
In a typical four lane road with a divider in the middle, it wouldn’t take long to figure out that the divider separates traffic in the opposite directions, right? Wrong. Yours truly saw the divider, decided to ignore it, and almost rammed into a car headlong, hurtling at 45mph, until the significance of the divider finally dawned upon her. (The other driver had my share of common sense to shift lanes and save us an accident.)
3. The rearview mirror needs an audience
It was probably because my brain was focused on hanging onto the steering for dear life, that my eyes were incapable of axial movement when I drove. I backed up, changed lanes, braked at will, all without glancing at the rearview mirror for once. The instructor told me to back up. I did. He told me to take a turn, and I obeyed like a dutiful medieval wife.
4. Blind spot, where art thou?
Granted that this is something all new drivers have a problem grasping, but I used to do a head-check for changing lanes when I need not and forget when I should. It took me a while to come to terms with the concept of the curved yellow left-only lanes and the center lanes that merged into left lanes. Wait….did I get that right?
5. Right indicator; right turn
There was this one time in my early driving days when I was told to take a right turn. I diligently switched on the right indicator close to the stop sign, halted for traffic and then turned a perfect left, having my instructor bang his head against the dashboard (Well, maybe I am a little directionally challenged.) He told me later, that if I ever succeeded in getting a license, he would consider his job on earth done.
It’s great to laugh at someone’s expense right? I love it too! Glad I could oblige. But, just remember: I do have a license now and you know exactly what I am capable of 😉