Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Clear the Roads, Y'all. I'm a Driver!

With all of the mass transit in NYC, there isn't a real requirement for you to have a driver's license. In suburbia, most teenagers know how to drive before they turn 16, but in the city, if you never want to learn how to drive, you don’t have to because isn’t necessary.

With limited street space for parking, having a car can actually be more of a financial burden. Especially in this crowded city that’s already expensive to live in. Even so, I wanted to learn how to drive because I like to go places and I hate having to rely on others to get me there.

I don’t have a car and I don’t need one to get around so I didn’t have a real reason to learn how to drive. Learning how to drive was just something I’d had on my list for a long time. Especially since I’m an antsy person with grand ideas of adventure.

After witnessing a friend of mine suffer through several shady driving schools, I was leery of which one I should chose until my friend Clarissa (Gotta give her credit, cause I don’t want to hear no lip from her) suggested that I check out US Auto School. I bit the bullet and set up an appointment for a few driving lessons.

The experience I had with US Auto School was filled with so much care and professionalism, that it left no room for the shadiness that my friend experienced with other driving schools. The fact that they have at home pick up for your lessons also adds brownie points to their reputation.

Being that this was going to be my first time ever being the wheel, I was excited, but I was also extremely anxious. In the elevator I said a prayer that my instructor, Mr. Hamilton, would be nice and patient. I know how I am and if someone is mean and impatient, I won’t learn a thing and it will ruin the urge for me to want to learn anything.

Mr. Hamilton (who turned out to be very, very nice) put me behind the wheel immediately. “Have you ever driven before?” he asked. My booty has never even sat in a driver’s seat before… Well, maybe when I was about four-years-old and I would play ‘pretend driving’ in my daddy’s car, but that’s not what he was asking.

“Oh, no! Why me?” He chuckled to himself. “I’m getting all of the first timers today.”

He calmly talked me through adjusting my mirrors, the difference in the gear shifts, the difference between the two pedals at my feet (Yeah, those are important).

“Can I use my right foot for the right pedal and my left foot for the left pedal?”


Then the told me to turn the wheel all the way to the left and take my foot off the break…

“Um, now?”

“Yes, now.”


“Well, no. Not anymore, you took too long. Now, there is a bus coming. After that bus passes us….”

“That big bus behind us…?”

Mr. Hamilton and I spent and hour and a half together and in that short amount of time he taught me how to drive him around my neighborhood, how to parallel park and how to do a three point turn.

“An hour and a half ago, you couldn’t drive and now look at you!” Mr. Hamilton said when I pulled up to my building at the end of the lesson. I squealed and gave him a big hug.

I had a fantabulous experience learning how to drive mostly because Mr. Hamilton was AMAZING!! He was calm, patient and extremely encouraging. He only got excited when necessary. Like during my second lesson when he told me to make a right turn and I didn’t turn the wheel all the way to the right and ended up blocking traffic in the intersection. “TURN THE WHEEL!! YOU HAVE CARS BEHIND YOU!!”

The thing that surprised me about myself was that I never got nervous. Those cars could wait or go around me. I was a student driver. It said so in big letters on the car.

Because I don’t have a car that I can practice my driving in, Mr. Hamilton and I spent many months together until he finally told me that I needed to cut the cord, stop booking lessons and just take my road test already. He’d even trusted me with his life on the highway so I trusted that he knew I was ready to take my road test.

Before scheduling the road test though, you have to sit through what I expected to be a boring ass five-hour class. Because the US Auto School office is in Brooklyn and I am in the Bronx, I scheduled my five-hour class with The Six Step Formula Driving School being that it was in walking distance.

Mr. Figueroa, the owner of The Six Step Formula Driving School, began his class by saying, “I’m sure you were all told that you had to sit through a boring five-hour class, but you’re in for a big surprise!!”

Instead of letting us sit and watch videos all day, Mr. Figueroa mixed up his class by interacting with us and acting out different scenarios which engaged us and made the class much more interesting than I expected. I wouldn’t want to sit through that class again, but Mr. Figueroa’s way of teaching actually made the class fun.

Now, that I had my five-hour certificate, I could schedule my road test. My first road test was an absolute disaster. I completely blanked out from nervousness and didn’t do anything that the road test instructor asked me to do. My second try was much better, but I still failed.

By the time my third road test came around, this past Monday, I was completely over it. If it wasn’t for all of the money I had spent on lessons I would have given up. There was no real reason for me to do this anyway. It’s not like I even have a car to drive. I’m wasting my vacation days on this road test biz… I had such a bad attitude, but I forced myself to change my mindset in hopes of passing the road test this time.

I read an article which suggested that if you have something that you think of as a good luck charm, that you should bring it with you when you go on a job interview. Something happens to you psychologically when you have your good luck charm on you which makes you exude confidence and positivity resulting in you landing the job.

I don’t have nor do I believe in good luck charms, but still, I put on some makeup, spritzed on some perfume and told myself in the mirror, “When you look good you feel good. When you smell good you feel good and when you feel good, good things happen for you.” And then I prayed. I also took note that this day was a sunny day and my pervious road tests took place on rainy days. I decided to use the sun as a mental good luck charm.

Feeling good about looking and smelling good on a sunny day must have worked, because this time, I PASSED!!! Maybe the third time really is the charm.

Road test instructors are rude and mean, (I don’t understand why they have to be because they can be still be nice and fail you.) but this time I ended up with one who actually smiled and asked how I was doing before getting into the car with me. Her pleasant attitude might have also contributed to me doing well even though I was still nervous. But who cares, I GOT MY DRIVER’S LICENSE!

Where am I going with my driver’s license? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll frame it and hang it in my hallway because I’m scared as shit to drive a car by myself.

I wonder if US Auto School will allow me to hire Mr. Hamilton to sit in the car with me whenever I decide to drive somewhere. I know that’s not really allowed, but I wish it were. Either way, Mr. Hamilton already warned me not to call him for any more lessons and I can’t promise that I won’t. He doesn’t scare me! Driving without him in the car scares me.

Ugh, I don’t even know how to put gas in the car! All things I will learn eventually, I guess.

Anyway (think positive!), to becoming a safe, confident driver… and hopefully a few road trips to come!

~Louise C.

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