Driving was easy; parking is not

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yep, it’s official. Haley is mobile, as in auto – mobile.

My son sent me a text with a picture of my oldest grandchild holding her driver’s license and smiling. I replied, reminding him of a phone call I got years ago when Haley started crawling and he was having fun chasing her.

“It’s a lot harder when they are mobile,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, “the fun is just beginning. Wait until she starts driving.”

As I looked at my granddaughter’s happy face, I remembered when I got my driver’s license. Unlike Haley, it took me more than one try get “mobile.”

My first step toward becoming a driver went well. I took the test for my learner’s permit and passed with flying colors. Things went downhill after that.

I wanted to drive the second I had that learner’s permit and Daddy was ready to teach me. His excitement and patience lasted through one lesson.

I did well as long as the car headed in a forward direction. When Daddy told me to turn off East Stewart Avenue, I panicked, jerked the steering wheel hard right, and in my state of panic, mixed up the brake and the accelerator pedals.

Daddy grabbed the steering wheel and kept the car from ending up on the front porch of the Hart House. I don’t remember what he said or if I drove the rest of the way home. What I do recall is him telling me I had to take driver’s education classes.

I did fine in those classes. Never confused one pedal with the other one. I mastered turning, backing up and staying within the speed limits. While I didn’t quite get an “A” in parallel parking, I did well enough to pass the class.

In Opp, they gave the driving exam on certain days of the week when an officer came to the city hall. Most of my friends took their tests as soon as they turned 16.

My 16th birthday was long over when I showed up to take my test, so the pressure was on to join my friends and get that license. (Finishing those driver’s ed classes took a while.)

There was one problem as I slid behind the wheel. The car I was driving was the family station wagon, a vehicle I’d driven very little since the Hart House incident. It was about a mile longer than the cute little driver’s education car.

I did fine until it came to the most dreaded part of the exam — parallel parking. I tried, oh how I tried to put that big hunk of a car into a space between two other cars.

The officer, seeing I was holding up traffic and might take out a couple of cars in my panicked parking effort, put down his clipboard and told me to head back to city hall.

I knew before he said a word that I wasn’t going home with a license. Oh, the humiliation of failing your driving test.

But wait. Humiliation gets easier the second time around. Yep, I failed at parallel parking the next time, too. I wanted to explain that I could do it in a smaller car, but since I didn‘t have a smaller car, I held my tongue.

The third time turned out to be the charm, not because I parallel parked that big yellow sucker. Nope, I passed because after a year of trying, the guy giving the test felt sorry for a 17-year-old girl who looked like she might cry if she failed again.

When it was time to park, he found three empty spaces and told me if I could back the car into the middle one, he would pass me. I did it and that is how, more than 40 years ago, like Haley, I became mobile.

Still in fairness to other drivers — if you see me trying to parallel park anywhere near your car, you might want to get out of the way.