Car Talk: Adrianne hits the streets

Learning to drive a car is often called a “rite of passage,” a sign of growing up. I call it a major pain in the butt. Ever since my first experience behind the wheel, when, sitting on my dad’s lap, I steered the car off the driveway and into a ditch, I have considered driving nothing but a necessary evil.

Years after that first ordeal, I signed up for a Driver’s Ed. class at Northwood. The classroom lessons weren’t so bad. I’ve always been more adept at memorizing correct answers on tests than trying to get a car to start by correctly turning the key in the ignition.

But the actual driving component of Driver’s Ed felt like absolute torture. Aside from the aforementioned ignition issue, my steering skills were seriously debilitated. At one point, Mr. Blankenship, the instructor in the car, suggested that I “stay away from the white line before we all get killed!” After learning a little more about my personal life, Blankenship decided that my violin skills were to blame for the poor way in which I managed a steering wheel. The direction I had moved the violin bow all these years (upwards and to the left) meant that I moved the steering wheel the same way, which in turn meant that our white Ford Taurus strayed precariously toward incoming semi trucks on a regular basis. Whenever this happened, I would hear heavy breathing and occasional sobs emanating from the unlucky kid in the backseat.

Driving in the city was even worse. The crowded traffic on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus is comparable to a summer afternoon in Disney World—except the mix of tourists is a large group of Prius hatchbacks and there are no underpaid college-age interns running around in cartoon animal suits. It was in this jungle of modern education that I made the biggest mistake of my driving career. After dazing out for a few seconds, I found myself turning left—straight onto the wrong side of the road. I was headed straight toward the front grill of a small red car, the driver of which stared at me in fascinated fear. Mr. Blankenship reached over and wrenched the wheel from my hand, onto the right side of the road. It took him a good five seconds to recover from his shock at the public display of my idiocy, and then another hour of lecturing before he seemed to give up on my blossoming driving skills.

Eventually, after three days of similar, yet not-as-severe mishaps, Mr. Blankenship passed me and I received my driver’s permit after an absurdly long wait at my local DMV. My extensive education in the field of vehicular science, though wonderful, has not left me immune to certain mishaps. I have unknowingly run a myriad of stop signs and forgotten to operate my turn signal more times than I can count. The worst casualty of my driving career was my brother’s bike, a mistake my brother has still not quite forgiven me for, and it would be best not to go into further detail regarding that situation. Suffice it to say that his bike was not operable after I was through backing over it.

The moral to my little story? If you see a yellow Chevy Cobalt speeding down 15-501, just pull over. Take my word for it—the inconvenience will be in your best interest.

— Adrianne Cleven