“What if we don’t have a permit or anything yet?”
Everyone cast a judgmental eye toward the weird kid in the back of the classroom who had just asked the question I had been thinking but was too afraid of the public ridicule to ask.
My AP European history teacher paused for a moment and then smirked, “Then you’re not a real person.”
After my restricted-driving-privileged peers had a hearty laugh, my teacher continued listing the items we would need to have on hand for our upcoming AP Exam. I laughed along, but I was a little peeved that he didn’t really answer the question.
On the ides of May, instead of letting my driving inabilities thwart my long-awaited four hour comprehensive European History exam, I improvised and brought my passport to serve as identification.
I didn’t start driving until August 2013. I probably wouldn’t have started then, but, by that point in the summer, because the nearest city bus stop is a mile-and-a-half away from my house, I was just so done with walking three miles in the heat of the day to get anywhere and back. Also, my mom sold my bike at a garage sale, so my transportation options were incredibly limited. I was tired of being the loser who either has to mooch a ride or call their grandma to go to Starbucks with friends or downtown.
I actually started the driving process at the same age as everyone else. The summer after eighth grade, I went to the DMV, stood in line for three hours and took the written test to get my permit. Here is where my path deviated: I failed the test. When the bored and slightly annoyed DMV employee told me that I had missed more than five questions so I couldn’t get my permit, I was humiliated. Everyone passes the written driving test. As I began my walk of shame back to my mother’s corolla, I looked at the long line of interesting people waiting to renew their license or receive one, and I realized that they had probably all passed the test I had just failed. When we started the long drive of shame back home, I realized that the drivers of the cars that surrounded my mother’s probably belonged to licensed drivers who had passed their written test. I felt like such an idiot.
Instead of studying my Kansas Driving Handbook like I should have, I instead decided that I just wouldn’t even try to learn how to drive at all. I can up with the logic that since Lawrence had public transportation and I planned to attend a university in an urban area, I didn’t need to drive. I didn’t openly tell people that I failed my permit test, I just told them that I didn’t want to spend all that money on gas and insurance when I could just pay a dollar for the bus. I did not factor the homeless guy’s B.O. on said bus into my band aid solution.
During freshman year, most of my friends had permits, but they were in the same boat I was as far as getting places, so no one really judged me when I called my grandma to get a ride home from basketball practice. However, sophomore year became more and more embarrassing for me as my friends turned 15 and got their restricted licenses. I couldn’t really comment when people complained about the crowded Free State parking lot and the long walk to the school from sophomore parking because my grandma picked me up everyday (I spent a lot of time in the Commons because of this, which you can read about here).
This August, I decided to buck up and get my permit. I only missed two questions on the written test. I got my full license on my seventeenth birthday. By my AP European History teacher’s standards, I am now a real person, and it feels fantastic.
Here are some downsides to waiting for two years too long to start driving:
1. My mom made me take drivers ed as a junior in high school
2. During drivers ed, I was terrified for the entire six driving hours that one of my peers would see me, a junior in high school, driving a car with giant yellow signs on every side screaming, “student driver!”
3. Old people just love to hear how young people are coming along in their driving. I got tired of explaining that I felt like a loser when I failed the first time so I just never got around to trying again.
4. Everyone secretly hated me because I mooched rides from anyone with wheels.
5. I am now terrified of driving alone even though I’m 17 and can drive whenever I want to do whatever I want.
6. I am facing all the problems that my friends faced two years ago: Where is the defrost button? How do I park? What is gas?
Benefits to waiting two years too long to start driving:
1. I skipped all that stupid restricted nonsense and jumped straight to the real thing in less than four months.
2. I got to know my grandma really well.
3. That’s about it actually.