I should have known that if I couldn’t master the charts of acceleration and deceleration lanes and on and off ramps that it would be my nemesis for the rest of my life. First of all my geography skills and ability to read maps in general totally suck. Add in a mix of excessive anxiety and you’ve got a case headed for disaster. Truly, not much good could come from me taking driver’s education except the fact that it got my parents off the hook for teaching me to drive.
The driver’s education teachers in my day were the physical education teachers at the local high school. And as luck would have it, I got paired up with Mr. Trusdale. He was a brawny black man with an unbelievably charismatic personality. He was a preacher on the side and was known at school for his colorful outbursts. Most of the kids adored him, but I was scared to death of him. And of course, as my driving partner, I was set up with another girl named Susan who just happened to be a laid back well seasoned driver. I was doomed.
Oh, to say my stomach hurt is an understatement. It was in knots and my legs were weak and wobbly. You could even see my hands shaking I was so nervous. I worried all morning. When I got ready to get in the car each morning, I almost threw up. I trembled for at least two classes afterwards, and then it started again the next day. I can’t remember how many weeks we had to endure driver’s ed, but it was the longest period in my life. It seemed an eternity.
Mr. Trusdale used these on the road excursions as the opportunities to run his personal errands like going to the Chicken Coop to pick up his lunch or dropping by his house for him to retrieve items. It never, ever failed that I happened to be driving when he wanted to pop by his house. The trick was that he wouldn’t let you turn around. He made you back out of the long, narrow, curving, gravel drive that bordered along a hedge and directed you right onto a two lane road back road.
Where he made you drive was only the beginning of the matter. He had lots of little tricks to complicate things. He would yawn with a guffaw that would wake the dead and stretch out both arms smacking you on the shoulder with one arm. Out of no where he’d bam the back of the seat. Occasionally, he would jerk the wheel and run you off the road. I’m surprised he valued his life so little as to try that with me, but I guess he and God had a good thing going.
The fear I had of those back winding dirt roads was nothing compared to the threat I felt of Route 29. This ran two lanes North and two lanes South. And it appeared to be big time to me. The was the road that tractor trailers traveled from Charlottesville to Lynchburg. Murphy’s Law was always with me, as I always wound up behind one, and Mr. Trusdale would insist that I speed up and pass that sucker. My arms would be stiff and my knuckles white and clenching the wheel. He’d cackle and tell me to lighten up. It took everything I had not to burst into tears.
I thought for sure that I was going to fail driver’s ed. I figured I’d be the first in the history of the school to flunk it. Miraculously, Mr. Trusdale passed me with a B-. (With the exception of algebra, that was the lowest grade I’d ever received.)I don’t know whether I actually earned it, if he felt sorry for me, or if he feared that he’d have to instruct me again.
There are many driving stories I could tell you, but each probably deserves a post of it’s own. Let’s just say that I am a careful driver. I am ok as long as I know where I’m going and I don’t have to enter or exit the interstate. I’m fine after I get on the interstate. Oh, and I hate going through the tunnels as well. Give me any back road and I can whip around it like a race car driver, and I don’t mind the traffic here in my city so much. It’s the same dang acceleration and deceleration lanes and ramps that get me! I suppose it won’t surprise you to know that I only put about three thousand miles a year on my car. Once the tires dry rotted before they wore out! It suffices to say that I will never have a career as a truck driver or delivery person.