Getting a driver's license in America is a traditional rite of passage
that has managed to withstand modernity, not unlike marriage or a two car garage
. Its significance varies slightly depending on where you grew up. In the back woods
and mostly useless land of Delaware and Maryland
on the bay, kids were learning on tractors and had mastered a four wheeler by the time other kids were taking the training wheels
off their modest, unpowered, bicycles.
I was denied that rite of passage because my parents, in short, were terrified. It was due to the fact that right after I was the prime age of 15, when a driver's education manual dated from 1977 is enough to put you into cold sweats and paranoia, I was carpooling with two other girls and on our way to school, a woman ran a red light and plowed into us from behind. I don't remember anything leading up to the crash. I only remember not be able to see for about 3 hours until I reached the hospital. In the emergency room, I threw up birthday cake from the prior night's celebration of my 15th birthday. I was doomed.
I graduated early from high school at 16. By 17, I was a freshman in college and for the first time, I was out from under my parents' fear of being a motorist. It wasn't until I was almost 20 before I had the time to go to Driver's Ed and do the deed. Needless to say, it was embarrassing. My mom had been married once before my dad to an abusive, drug-addicted truck driver (boy could she pick em, eh?) who didn't allow her to get her license until she was well over 30. In my white trash upbringing, I guess ignorance is best pacified with fear, unless brute violence was your forte. For my mom when dealing with me, it was pure, motherly terror.
My mother had had her own bad car accident before I was born. Two people in her car died and she was in a coma for two weeks. My dad sat by her side the whole time until she woke up. As a result, I've only know her post-car crash: one arm is an inch or two longer than the other (but only if you're looking), she has steel plates in each of her forearms, and her little toe on her left foot is a bit crooked. My only scar from my wreck that was bad enough to warrant cutting me out of the back window, was a four inch set of stitches on my left foot. We were both very lucky.
I am lucky because I can't have flashbacks. My mother has only had one, and I was there for it. We were watching one of those Unsolved Mysteries shows where they re-create scenes. One of them was identical to my mother's accident from over 10 years prior, and upon seeing it, she began to hyperventilate. Being 9, I did only what I knew to do. I ran into the bedroom and locked the door. Who was this woman, and what did she do with my mom? It took her only about 15 minutes to coax me out.
Now, given that not only these things happened in my family plus the fact that the only person that I've known who died when he was my age was killed, at 16, in a single vehicle crash, it is easy to see how I would be some uptight, conservative, road rage activist. However, I don't believe myself to be any such thing. I now work in a business that exists solely for the purpose of fixing cars involved in a battery of damages: collision, theft, hail, or all of the above. Maybe this is divine intervention, helping me deal with my own fear of what cars can do, or un-do, to my life. I can't help but appreciate the irony, even if there seems to be less and less of it the longer I hang on to this job.
This whole thing is a disjointed introduction to a spoof node that I thought of today, a sort of tongue-in-cheek about the rite of passage. I'll be working on this one tonight as well. It's called Let Them Have Festivas!.
I hope, when it's done, that you get the jokes encased within.