The anxiety was kicking in mid-way into my shift, my minds focus not at the task at hand. “Two number twos’, chicken chow-mein, signal when coming off the curb.” What was my troubled mind racing about? It was the countdown to my important day, the driving test. Weary of anticipation for the future task of pass or fail behind the wheel. Here I was riding on my second permit, expiration around the corner and a borrowed second to stranger’s vehicle to pass this test just hours away. I collected my thoughts quickly finishing out the shift nerves aside for the uncertain future ahead.
I’ve always considered myself the shy type so naturally anything involving challenge, conflict, or simply ordering take out seemed to get me frazzled. (It’s quite silly, I know.) I just needed that push or hand to hold as a young adolescent, you know a boost of confidence. Naturally for most new obstacles in my life I’ve had great supporters, my dad being the number one role model. My dad was the ying to my yang in personality’s. Me being the shy wallflower and him being the outgoing cool guy everybody wants to know. Although he can’t take credit for all my learning experiences rather he’s given me my most memorable ones. It so happens I recall a teenage me, snuggled in bed beckoning for the sweet dreams that never came. To my surprise a knock came instead, “who is it?” I said. It was my dad with a proposal for midnight IHOP! My sweet tooth couldn’t resist so out the door we went. Except for the time of midnight, it was like any other outing with my father, fun and full of laughs. Sadly, our spontaneous delicious trip was coming to an end when suddenly my dad blurts out his second proposal for the night. “Hayley your driving home!” he expressed with excitement. What? Did my ears deceive me? He was joking right? We both knew I haven’t stepped foot behind the wheel, right? So, there I was about 1 A.M. suddenly our GMC pickup looked twice as big, I swear it was laughing at me with intimidation. I wasn’t nervous at all, teeth chattering behind that wheel, sweaty palms, huge owl eyes, with a kung foo death grip. With my dads’ confidence shining on me somehow before I knew it I managed to keep us alive arriving safely home. I’ll never forget that first trip that seemed like a life time away around the corner. My breaking was harsh, I signaled the wrong way, and my turns were embarrassing. However, the sense of accomplishment of the leap of faith I took was what paved the beginning of my driving journey, which I wasn’t quite out of the woods just yet.
The next morning all I had on my mind was of last night’s drive home having so many questions for my father and wanting more practice. I made sure to catch him before work and the first thing out of my mouth was “dad please let’s go for a drive again when you get off.” He was surprised of my enthusiasm it was unlike me that’s for sure. “You were pretty nervous last night, but, we all have to start somewhere.” He said. We both agreed that he’d be showing me the ropes for a few weeks. That was one of the longest days for me as I recall, the anticipation was like when you know your going to your favorite concert or Disneyland, your stomach filled with butterflies and your inner child screaming “Are we there yet?!” My dad finally came home, and I was ready to go out the door when he said he had something important for me first. “Hayley, I went and grabbed this for you your going to need it.” He informed me. He then handed me “The Driving Handbook” which contained all the valuable information I needed to know when driving. “Study it, I can help you execute these rules but It’s not a bad idea to learn for yourself and you’ll need it for your permit test.” He said. Finally, after skimming some of the handbook my dad was ready, and my practice had begun. This time around we made sure I knew how everything in the truck functioned and how to use it. My dad showed me how to use the blinker, turn the lights on, and you know the basics. I thought I knew everything, but man was I wrong. I remember I thought I was showing off saying “I remember where the blinker is dad” and proceeded to turn on the windshield wiper instead. At first, I didn’t even know how to turn the AC on, there was a lot to know about a vehicle then I expected. Each time me and my dad went out for a drive he made sure to focus on a few key things like how to turn, practice on stopping, and the famous backing up without running the neighbor’s cat over. It was like learning how to ride a bike, something that you can only learn by yourself and practice makes perfect.
Sometime went by from the first time my foot touched that gas pedal fast forwarding through life and here I am on a second permit. As many life events came to past here I was running out of time, pregnant, and car-less. This is where it gets interesting many things were riding on me for fast decisions to make. I had approximately one month to find a car, buy it, learn to drive it, find another one to test in, all this while being pregnant. No pressure, right? Luckily, I’ve had some practice up to now thanks to my dear old dad and the rules of the road handbook from the DMV office. Anybody can just step on the gas, but the handbook is what really teaches you what to do, what not to do, and what the signs of the road mean. Anybody can be lost without this. With this knowledge under my belt I felt more at ease but not one hundred percent as the question wavered in my head, where to purchase my car?
I’ve been saving for a while waiting on tables on the weekends, so money for my new ride was waiting patiently I just needed to find a car. As you know I was pressed for time which led me to impulse buy thanks to Craig’s List landing me with a 92’ Honda Civic. It sure was a sight to see, all white, sweet dark as night window tint, no rims in sight, with a spiffy tomato decal. I bought my car, check. Learn to drive my car, check, after a series of perfecting turns for two weeks might I add. The most important piece of the puzzle was all that was left, who’s car can I take the test in? The lucky candidate came to me like picking a needle out of a haystack for my options were limited to none which landed me with my boyfriend’s next-door neighbor Peter. Find a car to test in, check, at least I thought.
It was the night before my test ready as I was going to be, all I’ve learned about driving was counting on me, bringing me to this moment. My focus was shot all I could think about would have to wait until morning. Morning then came as I gathered all my confidence with things looking in my favor as I knocked Peter’s door. Anxious and ready when suddenly my heart sank. Nobody was coming to the door. At first, I kept my cool that only seemed to last about 3 minutes where I completely went into painic mode of stifled sobs and a frantic phone call to my boyfriend. If you believe in miracles I swear I had one that day. In the middle of my meltdown my boyfriend’s roommate Jordan unexpectedly came home from work for an appointment to attend. By pure luck this opened hope for me as he was my second chance of using his car to test in. Summoning back that confidence I had before chanting my driving mantra of all my previous driving endeavors such as following the flow of traffic, use all mirrors, signal when turning, backing up in straight line on late nights in an empty parking lot, I was ready.
Arriving at everybody’s favorite place The Department of Motorized Vehicles I was signed in and waiting patiently for my turn my dad’s confidence radiating through me. What seemed like a life time ended up being a mere twenty minutes around the block and before I could breathe I was hearing the “congratulations you passed.” I will never forget the uphill battle it took to hear those words, they were as sweet as that first taste of hot chocolate on Christmas eve. And it all began with a crazy midnight proposal for IHOP.