Learning to Drive
A student, over sixteen, and a teacher, a driving instructor of any age.
I pretended that I was all right. That I didn’t mind having to go through this. That this hideous feeling of incompetence didn’t bother me. I tried to appear eager, and pleased to be gaining a new and useful skill. There’s a good reason why most people learn to drive when they’re sixteen. When you’re sixteen you don’t know you can die. If you’re much older than that, not only do you know you’re going to die, you also know that this is probably where. Lesson three. I approached the third lesson confidently. Nothing much to this driving thing, really. I am a smart, competent person. Lots of people who are much more stupid than me can drive; I can certainly learn to drive. I was feeling cocky and expansive. My teacher and I chatted. (Lights up on TEACHER.) Do you like teaching? I don’t know. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the teacher shaking his head. What had I done? I suppose this was when it came home to me that what I had to learn was potentially deadly, and I had better pay attention. For the next lesson, I decided that my problem was that I was too tense and if I could just relax the whole thing would come naturally. I made stupid jokes and counted to three in a different language at each stop sign. I blathered on about the psychology of learning. I realize now that I was, of course, trying to sound smart because he knew how to drive and I didn’t. (To TEACHER.) You know, I think the problem with driving is that all of a sudden you’re, like, two thousand pounds heavier, and what I think you have to do is you have to sort of re-learn the boundaries of where you end, you know? The powers that be have told that you you can go ahead. You have the required skills. Freedom! And you realize with painful clarity that you are alone, you are in control of a powerful machine and you do not know ho to drive. The powers that be know nothing. There is only one brake and you’re the only one that can use it. You must make all the decisions. Is it now safe to make this left-hand turn? There is no one to remind you able speeding and its dire consequences. No sign on the top of the car that says: “New at this. Thank you for getting of the way.” And there, suddenly, you are. This is lesson six. Time passes and I’m not dead yet. Although driving in traffic still causes a certain amount of indigestion, what I now love is to take my little car very late at night or early in the morning and just drive when no one knows I’m gone. I wonder if other people do this? What I do not like is driving with passengers in the car.