Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shut up and drive

A quiet Sunday morning around 9am: the sun is shining, the city is slowly waking up, and I am pacing nervously in my apartment trying to keep busy. My first driving lesson is 30 minutes away. Am I really going to do this?

My lesson was in the back of my mind the whole weekend. I tried to stay positive: This would be fun! This would be an adventure! This would be empowering! And in general, I think I believed most of it. But I had a restless night of sleep on Saturday, so at least part of my brain was struggling.

Still, Sunday came. I distracted myself by debating what to wear. Somehow none of my shoes seemed like good driving shoes: these pinch, those slip off my feet, this heel is too high. A pair of Tod's driving loafers would have come in handy. I settled on my hot pink and orange Sauconys, because nothing says serious driver like neon-bright sneakers. My instructor finally called to say he was close, and I headed out the door. I tried to psych myself up: I am smart, I am capable, I can do anything. Britney Spears can drive a car. The kid who ate paste in 3rd grade can drive a car. 15-year-old kids in South Carolina can drive cars. By the time I saw my dorky Student Driver car parked out front, I was ready and I thought, "yeah, I'm gonna do this!". And then my instructor motioned for me to get in the driver's seat. I have to drive right now?!


But somehow, suddenly I was cruising down Atlantic Avenue, turning on to Court Street, dodging pedestrians on Pacific. I don't really have any plans to drive in New York City, so in my head I thought somehow we'd start of somewhere more...suburban. But I guess most NYers who want to learn to drive need to learn how to navigate the mean city streets, so the training wheels come off right away.

The lesson was pretty uneventful, which I guess is a good thing. I drove, I made turns, I saw my neighborhood from a whole different perspective. I parallel parked a few times and silently thanked the driving gods that I already had passed a road test and would not need to perform this act on command. I drove down INCREDIBLY narrow streets lined with cars on either side, and thankfully I did not relieve any of those cars of their side mirrors. I get the feeling that this driving school likes throwing people into the deep end, because suddenly my instructor was saying, "Signal right and now you're going to get onto the BQE..."

A lovely sign for a lovely road
Image source
Crap. CRAP!

Beep beep! Nervous driver, coming through
Image credit
For non-New Yorkers, the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) is a narrow, winding, pothole-laden, speedy stretch of highway connecting the two boroughs. Even at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning it was jammed, and I was very happy to stay in my little lane and then get off at the very next exit. But I did it! And I probably gave my fellow motorists a good chuckle. My Student Driver car was pretty dorky.

And then it was over. I pulled up in front of my apartment, said goodbye to my instructor, and watched him pull away. I am not a perfect driver yet -- I do need to learn how to change lanes at a speed great than 5mph, that is true -- but I am a driver. It's a start.


  1. Ugh, I had a whole comment written out and Blogger decided to crap out on me. But congrats on your first driving lesson! Definitely a success! Driving in NYC is no joke and you got through it. I've been driving into the city a few times a week lately and came to the realization that I.HATE.IT and mass transit is the way to go! If only it mass transit didn't take me over an hour to get to the east village from Jersey, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Although my parallel parking skills have exponentially gotten better! Do you have more lessons lined up?

  2. I am a seasoned driver but I would never ever drive in new york. OMG. traffic scares and frustrates me at the same time. Good job!

  3. Awww, thanks guys! Yeah, I guess it really IS true about NY -- if you can make it (behind the wheel) here, you can make it anywhere :)

    The driving school I used has a 6 lesson package, so I'm going to do that -- I think I'll have my driving mojo back by then!

    Also, my apologies on behalf of Blogger. I think maybe this summer I'm going to make a switch to Wordpress. Seems less buggy!

  4. WOOHOO!!! So happy for you!

  5. I am just catching up on blogs so I'm (very) late with this! I live in Atlanta so driving is no big deal to me. However - my dad and brother love out in Tuxedo Park, NY and last summer I decided I wanted to go into the city and visit my good friend who lives in Brooklyn (on Union, off Court Street! Small world!) and I was TERRIFIED. Driving in NY is an entirely different ballgame. So I can totally relate to your driving fears and anxiety! Taking a lesson is probably so smart to do.

  6. Thanks so much for your comment! I actually love getting comments on old posts :)

    And I'm glad to hear that an experienced driver feels that driving in this neighborhood is a challenge! I'm getting the hang of it, but it can be unnerving. And definitely small world - your friend is practically my neighbor! It is a fun place to live :)