Historical License

18 getting her learners permit has been fraught with frustration. From forgetting the birth certificate & having to go all the way home for it & then her failure of the learners test to the subsequent 2 times she had to take the test it’s been a big deal & now, she’s afraid to drive!

She says she doesn’t dare to drive because everyone goes so fast, yesterday when we went to town she was ok driving from our house to her friend V’s house to pick her up, she lives on the same road as us though- about a mile away & then from there, on another back road, to the dumpsters to dump our trash but to go to town she flatly refused & took a seat in the passenger side of the car to force me to get in the drivers seat & drive.


I understood when it was my PT Cruiser, it was a stick shift & was a lot for her to concern herself with as a beginner. But now, with the new car it’s an automatic transmission & easy to drive (maybe a little too easy with it’s electronic slip protection & automatic shut down for over-revving of the engine) she is afraid because of the incident with the ditch where she tried to kill us all & doesn’t want to take any more chances.

I tried to make the point that she’s aware of the dangers now & will subsequently be more careful about ditches, the sides of the road & too much gas in general. She flatly refuses. I tried to point out that sooner rather than later, she’s going to be out of school without the class the school provides (at a substantial discount- $100. for in school students, $250. if you’re out of school & below 21- & you have to take this course under 21 if you want your license)

She doesn’t want to do it though. And that drives me nuts! I can’t believe that a normal (well as normal as anyone in my house is) 18 year old person doesn’t want to drive. I was 14 & already dreaming about getting behind the wheel, by the time I was 15 I was routinely offering to drive – my parents turned me down every time & as soon as I was 16 & old enough (or was it 15 & 1/2? I can’t remember now) I got my learners permit. (10 written, multiple choice questions on a piece of paper at the registry & I was out the door with that pale green piece of paper)

bb-85101.jpgMe at 18

Contrast that to 18’s 10 sign related questions of which she couldn’t get a single question wrong & 25 general knowledge driving questions of which she couldn’t get more than 5 wrong. -It’s a whole different world & yes, I took my tests in MA & she’s taking her’s in VA but doesn’t it seem like the more rural community (at least in my area VA is rural) would be more relaxed about the whole driving thing?

When I was a teenager, it was recommended that you take a course, my parents saw no reason for a course, because as far as they were concerned, if I wasn’t able to pay for my own car, my own gas, my own insurance & my own license, I wouldn’t be driving. So no course for me. My Father took me to a parking lot, explained the difference between the clutch, the brake & the gas – with great emphasis on the need for the brake usage nearly constantly & let me go to it.

I learned to drive on a 1978 VW Rabbit, which my parents babied, because it was essentially our only car, we did have a 1976 Datsun f10 which was my mother’s car for work, but the gearbox was messed up & it was hard to get the car into first or second gear, only my mother & I could do so. It would fight my father every time, my mother could finesse it into gear & I learned to do the same.

becky88.jpgMe at 20But that came later, I had to learn to drive first, I heard all about VW bugs & their relative merits & issues (most of which – like no heat- I was well acquainted with as my father had only had VW Bugs up until we got the Datsun about 3 years before I started learning to drive. ) How the internal combustion air cooled engine worked & how little he knew about water cooled engines. He gave me most of his pointers & tips long before I started behind the wheel but was compelled to reiterate them all to me while I was learning to drive.

My mother would have nothing to do with my driver education, she still maintained that I shouldn’t learn to drive until I had a job & could afford a car. (I still don’t know how I talked my father into agreeing to teach me) I practiced for quite awhile & in mid November, just a few weeks before my 18th birthday (& Literally days before I moved out of my parent’s home for the first time- I was out before I was 18 & legally allowed to leave) I went for my license test.

We were a little worried about the officer making a fuss about the car’s roadworthy-ness, but he didn’t really pay any attention, just got in & we started off, I don’t recall why we went to take the test in Brockton- but we did & it was horrible, crowded, miserable & teeming with people, we didn’t have any sort of a closed course or anything, you had to drive out on the road & that was where I made the mistake which he said he failed me for- I hesitated too long pulling out into traffic.

That’s what he wrote on the form, that I was inexperienced & needed more confidence behind the wheel, however, when he was telling me this he then put his hand down, patted me on the knee & said ‘And honey, when you take your exam next time, use a car with an automatic transmission, it’s easier for you women- not so many things to distract your pretty little mind’

This was 1986- not 1956 I have to point out. I was so aghast & flabbergasted I didn’t say a word the whole way home. I could not believe that this cop had said that to me! I was so upset & disgusted that I didn’t even try for my licence again 2 weeks later like you’re supposed to & let my learners permit expire.

don-w1st-vw090.jpg my father with one of his first VW bugs

I was still moved out, sharing an apartment with Chrissea when I decided it might be a good idea to get my license after all. I went to the Quincy registry & took the learners permit test again & scheduled my test for the very next week. My father met me in Hingham at the easiest testing site in the state & I took the test.

The cop who gave the road test was coincidentally the same officer who’d administered the learners permit test the week before & I remembered him, he didn’t remember me but seemed flattered that I’d remembered him & passed me though I nearly backed into a telephone pole- he seemed mostly bored by the whole procedure.

My father had to get back to work right away & so the father of another person who was getting their licence the same day offered to give me a ride to Quincy & so I got my license alone with strangers. They were from Hull & gave me a ride home too- right to the top of my street- I never saw them again but I was very grateful because I didn’t have money for a bus or the will to hitchhike that day (I used to hitchhike everywhere back then)

About 3 months later Chrissea & I lost our apartment at the beach & I had to move home, I was amazed when I asked for the car that my mother gave it to me- the only condition being that I put gas in it & return it with the same amount of gas.


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