Look Out! Look Out!

Lane Cummings meditates on getting her license and the art of driving.

Lane Cummingsby Lane Cummings

Look Out! Look Out!

Look out! Look out!

Whenever anyone tells me that I’m a bad driver I usually correct them. No, I say; I’m a terrible driver. I don’t take offense to any of this. Like many born and raised in New York City, I learned to drive rather late in life. Let’s say my mid-twenties. During this time I failed the road three times: twice in New York and once in Chicago. The reasons for my failures are many: losing control of the vehicle, missing a stop sign, pausing too long at a stop sign, running a red light (yep), and taking 17 minutes to parallel park.
Around the period I failed my road test the third time a friend of mine was getting married in Salem, Massachusetts. I knew I was going to have to rent a car to get from Logan to Salem. I needed that damn license. So I went rural. Using the magic of Google, I found a town outside of Chicago (1.5 hours away and twice that in traffic) that was surrounded by corn fields and had a DMV. I figured that I stood a chance there. Plus, this town, Woodstock, Illinois, was where they shot Groundhog Day (nope- not in Punxsutawney, PA) and I considered that a good omen.

A friend of mine agreed to lend me his car. Another friend agreed to chaperone me. I narrowly avoided an accident on the I-94. Changing lanes, I practically collided with another car, entering the lane from the opposite end. While this did very little to boost my confidence, I did feel a renewed sense of vigor and alertness. In fact, after my friend has stopped screaming, “Speed up, speed up!” he cackled nervously and then proclaimed, “We’re awake. We’re alert and awake.”

We eventually made it to the Woodstock DMV, and I sat nervously twitching in the waiting room among a group of blasé teenagers. The driving test consisted of me moving the car out from a parking lot onto a residential street, going around the block and returning to the parking lot. When we returned to the parking lot, I was sure the test was over so quickly because I had failed. “Did I pass?” I timidly asked. I was shocked to receive an affirmative answer. I jumped up and down in the waiting room of the DMV with my friend, amid the throngs of teenagers who had passed the road test on their first try. They looked at me as though I was they mayor of the town of uncoolness, some of them asking us out loud, “What are you guys yelling about?”

As pleasant as that victory was, it did a whole lot of nothing to prepare me for driving in Los Angeles. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for around three years, in that time I’ve had six accidents, 12 parking tickets and two red light tickets.  I’m still standing, I haven’t killed anyone, but I’ve learned a lot of bad driving habits. But I can rest assured; I’ll never have to take the road test again anytime soon.