Saturday, August 1, 2009

Shut Up I'm the Driver, You're the Passenger*

Okay, no, that was rude and I didn't mean it.  You know by now how much I like you and how I don't want to offend.  It's just that I've come to think of that song as my song, the one I always listen to when I'm joyriding around on the back roads of upstate NY.

I was tagged for a meme by two lovely ladies, Marianna and Candie, and asked to list 7 things that make me awesome.  Well, I'm not feeling exactly awesome lately--more like odd and floaty, and overly preoccupied with my writing project, and maybe a little bit insecure, but not really so awesome.  No way could I come up with seven things.  So let me offer just one--

I got my driver's license only six years ago.  And now I am a totally freaking awesome driver.

I'm still proud of myself.  17 years passed between my first road test and my last.  At 16, I took driver's education with a boy I adored.  I couldn't concentrate during class, not even when they screened the grimly enthralling "Highway of Agony," too busy was I, gazing at Jonathan's silly curly golden mop of hair and daydreaming the 45 minutes away.  In the student car together it was even worse, so near was he to me in a closed contained space.  The heady smell of patchouli and weed overwhelmed my senses...but I digress.

I failed that first road test when I nearly drove into a Mack truck as I tried to turn left across an intersection.  The tester actually shrieked a little.  And I blame Jonathan for that one.  He didn't have to be so alluring, did he?

But I couldn't keep blaming the boy for the next 17 years, now could I? Every time someone asked about my lack of license, I replied with the old standard that I was from Brooklyn, what did I need with a car.  Oh please.

So when Hedgehog was three, I finally learned to drive.  My stepdad and Sarge took turns teaching me.  The two men had very different teaching techniques: Sarge was a harsh taskmaster (hm, at least he obliged me on that one), with a cruel look in his eye that prevented me from making mistakes, while my stepdad would get in the passenger seat and just close his eyes and pretend to nap while I drove.  Between the two of them, they managed to make me a driver.

Or, let me take some credit that I honestly deserve, I made myself into one.

I'm now just as comfortable driving in midtown Manhattan traffic on a rainy Monday evening as I am gliding along a quiet country road on a sunny afternoon.  I've just got that sang froid, behind the wheel.

Driving is something that most people take for granted; they've done it for ages, since they were very young.  For me it was enormous; it made me a grown-up, finally independent, long after that milestone usually takes place.

Since I'm tweaking this meme until it's unrecognizable, let me pose a question.  Do you have an accomplishment, near to your own heart, that's significant to you but possibly taken for granted by everyone else? Don't worry, it won't be on the test.  I'm just curious.

*"Sharp Darts" if you didn't know.


Jimmy Bastard said...

Eight years ago I purchased an oul Grandfather clock in an auction down in the North-East of England. I bought it mainly for the wooden case mainly because the innards were supposedly gubbed.

I've tinkered with it on occasion, but the actual worky bits and cogs inside are very small and intricate, especially when you have paws the size of catchers mitts!

However... last year I managed to get the thing working to a point, and the pendulum is no longer resting in the equilibrium position.

'It's alive!'

I reckon in another eight years it might actually tell the correct time.

nick said...

I learnt to drive when I was a teenager but my dad never drove, he maintained it was unnecessary (he lived in a London suburb).

A private accomplishment? Probably those odd DIY things that I actually manage to complete without making a total balls-up of them - as the DIY gene totally passed me by.

Candie Bracci said...

I will soon feel the same and what is amazing too is that my son would be going on his third birthday too.Yes I plan to learn how to drive next year!There's no shame,I know other people who still don't have their driving licence too.

Anonymous said...


Off-topic, but strangely enough one of MY favourite songs involves the driver telling others to shut up. Of course I'm talking about "It's My Car (I'm Gonna Do the Driving)" by the Waitresses, with its chorus of "SHU-SHU-SHU_SHUT UP." Weird coincidence, but even weirder to find out about it by reading your blog. BTW in case you dint notice, I spelled favourite the way you like it, you naughty anglophilic girl.


PS By anglophilic I really mean that in the broadest sense possible and intend no disrespect any member, current or former, of the Commonwealth of Nations, whether such association was freely or forcibly entered, nor to any subsidiaries, associated territories, treaty organizations, unicorporated groupings, or historical entities including but not limited to ... oh well you get the point.

Suzanne said...

What is Sarge, a f****** lawyer? That is hilarious.

Hi honey. You know it's so funny I was just reminding Bindi the other day to use you as an example. She's recently learned to drive, as you know, and she's scared. I told her confidence will come around the six month mile mark! You think? I don't know about you, but she cracks me up with her driving stories. I think I secretly hope she NEVER adjusts! She told me today she needs two slots for her "little" car and parks way the hell in the boonies when she goes to WalMart. Leah, please help me off the floor. I think our darling Indian friend has become a comedian.

I commend you for learning to drive. To me driving is ultimate freedom. As you know, I've known how to do so forever, but also know that many woman haven't, so when they learn, I smile. I can see you on the thruway, the backroads and in the city. And I smile. One day Bindi will have your confidence.

I love your story of Jonathan. He must have been a cutie to get your panties all twisted like that! And about a license. HA!!! You know I've been driving on a temporary license that expired back in November of 2008 because I didn't get my damn photo taken. This is my new plan, so let me know what you think. I'm going to walk into the DMV on my birthday (August 8th incase you don't remember I love a card, gift and lots of love) and pretend my license didn't expire last year on my birthday. I'll pretend I know nothing about the temporary license. Whatdayathink?

And about the question. I have to think, so I'll be back.

Love you darling. Have a beautiful Sunday.


Leah said...

Sarge you commented on my blog. I'm reeling with shock and delight.

You introduced me to the Waitresses, of course, but I've never heard that song. We are as alike as two peas in a pod, you and I!

Now it's down to brass tacks. Will you or won't you wear the frock coat?

Anonymous said...


If, against my inclination, I said yes, that wouldn't be very "masterful." Therefore it would be paradoxically unappealing. You are hoist by your own petard.


Scarlet-Blue said...

I passed my test 3 years ago. I'm still rubbish! But yes it was an achievement considering what a wimp I am.
I still prefer walking.

Brian Miller said...

very cool. congrats on learning. i am sure it gives you a sense of freedom. a lot of people never go back after that much time honestly, so good job.

i'll have to think a bit on your question, be back in a bit.

savannah said...

wow, sarge guest blogs AND comments? the MITM has NEVER commented on my blog! i'll have to get back to you on your question, sugar. xoxoxo

otin said...

There are a lot of things that I thought that I would never be able to do, and when I figured out how to do them, I put them away as life accomplishments, including driving a motorcycle, snow skiing, learning to swim, and weight loss. They may seem trivial to some, but to me they were monumental achievements!

Leah said...

Jimmy--Very cool. I must say, I wouldn't take that one for granted. After all, people apprentice for years and years to learn the fiddly bits of clock and watch repair! And with the "catcher's mitts," too!

nick--yes, the DIY things--if the gene passed you by--must be hugely satisfying to accomplish.

Candie--what a neat coincidence! You will love driving, I predict. It is so much fun, and, as Suzy says, so freeing.

Suzy--I agree with you about driving. And yes, Bindi is so funny! She'll get comfortable with it, as necessity is the mother of invention in that case...

Scarlet--You did too! For some reason that I can't quite remember, I think we're the same age. Is it different over there across the pond? I mean, is it not ubiquitous to have a license, in the cities? And yes, in the end, walking is better. NYC is such a walking city, so much fun to do it, but I find myself taking my car in sometimes, crazy as it seems...

Brian--I guess that was the biggest issue--that so much time had elapsed, and I'd built it up so much in my mind. I'm having that same problem with writing my dissertation!

Savannah--I swear that I am ridiculously happy over this turn of events, I've come over all shy and giddy! It's especially wonderful because he is working in Brooklyn and I am upstate, and I miss him terribly.

OtinI absolutely love your list of accomplishments. They are wonderful.

mapstew said...

I learned to swim at 44!
Now I swim a few times a week and I still get a thrill every tome I get in the water!

And would you two get a room already!


mapstew said...

'every tome'? I must mean TIME!

(see what ye do to me!)

Anonymous said...

Accomplishment taken for granted- motherhood. When both my sons forgot my birthday.

Leah said...

Map--that is an exceptional accomplishment considering that water can be so intimidating, if one isn't in it from a babe. Kudos to you and to Otin for that one.

And this is what happens when one's partner turns up unexpectedly on one's blog!

Cinnamon--that's a good one! Of course, very much taken for granted, and one of the biggest accomplishments of my life too!

PI said...

I took driving lessons when I was bogged down with domesticity and with two children. I wanted to be able to take them to a darling village school a couple of miles away. I learned on a mini and wasn't allowed to practice because we had an ancient Wolsey. It was the most exciting thing I had done for ages and I used to lie in bed going through every move.
I passed after six lessons- we couldn't afford more and I think I'm quite proud of that.

Scarlet-Blue said...

Most people learn at 17... but I didn't! I kind of baulked at the idea. This also meant that I could always drink when I went to parties. Being a wimp has it's uses!
When I moved to the countryside I had to learn to drive - the bus service is not good.

Scarlet-Blue said...

Oh Pat... I think I had over 100 lessons!! Cost a fortune and I passed third time. [With one minor fault - that's the bit I'm proud of, but after 100 lessons...??!!]

Leah said...

Pat--yes, that's exactly how I felt too--just so excited. And I was "bogged down in domesticity," that just captures it so exactly, that feeling of the early days with very little children. You learned fast, you did! Pretty incredible actually. I logged in dozens of hours of driving before I took the test.

Scarlet--ah, so it's really just about the same there. And that's one good thing about growing up in NYC--you take subways or taxis home from parties. Although of course that means that the subways in the wee hours of the weekend nights are kind of rowdy.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

I really don’t like cars and one of the many reasons I stayed in New York City for 20 years was that I didn’t have to drive. I never missed it. But my friends back in Ohio couldn’t wrap their minds around not owning a car. Outside of the city it’s a necessary part of modern life. So going 17 years without driving might seem foreign to some, but I totally get it. And approve.

When my brother took his driver's test for the first time when he was 17 he hit a cat. Really! The instructor failed him.

My accomplishment that means quite a lot to me but not so much to anyone else is that I collect rare books and have one of the depest collections of rare/signed books by Charles Bukowski on the east coast. I started collecting Bukowski decades ago before prices blew up. I could NEVER afford to assemble a Bukowski library like the one I have now if I started from scratch. So there’s that.

Betsy said...

I'm impressed by anyone who can drive in midtown Manhattan on a rainy Monday afternoon! LOL!

Leah said...

UB--he hit a cat? He certainly has me beat.

And the Charles Bukowski library, that's neat. Seriously neat.

Leah said...

Betsy--Thank you! I'm like a taxi driver!

The Ninja Boy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJ said...

I can do amazing things with ping pong balls.

Ronda Laveen said...

My mother didn't get her license until I was 5. I still remember being in the back of the station wagon with her driving and my dad trying to teach her. Sometimes the lesson ended very quickly when the fight was on.

I want to know what amazing things MJ can do with those ping pong balls.

Megan said...

I bet you could handle yourself here no problem.

Suzanne said...

I was just on your "Yarn" blog and yes, Heggie is gorgeous and the shawl so very lovely, but you know what really caught my attention? Your use of a climbing rose and and English geranium to underplant. God, that's just good!!! No, not just good, brilliant. *Suze claps.*

I also learned the correct term for my zig zag afgan and I want a dish cloth. They're cute!!! How easy are they to make for someone who keeps forgetting how to knit?

Love you darling and this comment page. Always a blast!


Baino said...

I got my licence the minute I became eligible and bought a VW beetle, loved that car. Then sold it to go travelling. I'm not an awesome driver anymore. Clare says I drive like a Grandpa (at least you'd think she'd have the sense to call me a Grandma!). Biggest accomplishment? Single handedly raising two children from toddlers to adults who are now indeed my best friends. It was a tough gig but I managed. Doesn't impress employers much! Good for you . . I doubt I'd cope with Manhattan traffic.

Leah said...

MJ--as if we could ever take that for granted!

Megan--I handled myself driving through the streets of downtown Atlanta and the French Quarter in New Orleans. But L.A.? I'm not 100% on that one!

Suzy--so was your afghan a Ripple pattern? The most fun of all and the prettiest. Or was it a chevron pattern? Also nice. And yes, easy as pie. I make those ripple dish cloths easily within an hour.

Baino--that is one serious accomplishment, whether employers recognize it or not!

Leah said...

Ronda!--I missed you. I got distracted by all the flying ping pong balls. It's amazing just how intense a driving lesson can get, isn't it.

Suzanne said...

Baby, it was a Ripple. Trust me. a Ripple. I have no idea how to continue a ripple.


merelyme said...

This was hilarious - the whole thing.

I am definitely one who doesn't like to be stereo-typed. I look like the clean cut girl next door but am a rebel. You tell me a way to go and I'll go the other. Tell me the fastest way to get my degree and easiest courses to take, I'll add on another year doing it my way...and just to have a story to tell! I'll get a D+ in driver education just because the guy wanted to pass me so as not to have to deal with me again. I'll play the drums in junior high because I want to be the first girl to do that.
I'll read people's favorite book just to get to know them a little better.
I am honest to the core sometimes brutally, but am very trustworthy too.
This being a family blog...I'll leave it at that!

muralimanohar said...

I can drive. When I was 18-20, I was an awesome driver. Then I started moving back and forth overseas, got my mind COMPLETELY muddled up about which side of the road to be on, and now am not so awesome. I drive like a granny, cause I have to make sure I am not doing something dumb like cruising down the wrong side of the street. Sadly, I am so not being sarcastic.

My accomplishment?? kids are both still alive, and relatively nice people??