Pretty shortly after turning 16 I went to the DMV to get my learner’s permit. I took a driver’s ed class and went driving with an instructor and friends for about 20 minutes a week. All I remember is that he let me drive on the highway and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Other than that, I had no additional practice so I never ended up taking the road test. Then I turned 21 and my permit expired. I renewed it but had no intention of learning to drive. Then I turned 26. It expired again and I renewed it again. The idea of going for my license was so daunting and I really didn’t see a need for it.
Cars are expensive! Between parking, insurance, gas, and the cost of owning or leasing a car all sounded like a headache I didn’t need. I buy most of my groceries online and whatever is missing I buy at the Key Food down the block. I shop at Trader Joe’s when I’m near one, and if I’m really up for a treat I’ll go to Brooklyn. I love buying meat in Brooklyn. And herring. So much herring. And I’ll shove all those purchases into my stroller. That thing is better than a bubby cart. I digress.
If there’s one thing I’m awesome at, it’s navigating the NYC subway system. I’ve mastered it. I’ve been riding the trains since I was 13; I was riding the bus for years before that. I’m very used to it and it’s normal for me to lug my stroller up and down stairs without thinking. Occasionally I don’t feel like taking the train so I’ll hop in a cab instead — no big deal, I’ve saved plenty of money by not owning a car!
I was laying in bed one evening this past July when I decided to get my license. The next day I signed up for lessons. Not sure what pushed me, I just felt like it. Kind of like the time Forrest just felt like running. About five lessons in I took my five hour class, then two weeks ago I got the phone call saying that my road test will be October 27th at 7:30 am. I quickly took five more lessons and then it was the 27th.
The last time I set my alarm was the morning I was induced with Judah. That was also the last time I sat and ate an uninterrupted breakfast. When I was done I quietly left and grabbed Starbucks. It was still dark out and oddly pleasant. It had me thinking that I should set my alarm more often, but I have no doubt I’d snooze it if I set my alarm for fun.
I got there at 7:15 and met my instructor, Jimmy, who was going to drive four of us to the test site in Riverdale. I was the first ones there so I got shotgun. All of the cars line up, but no more than two drivers are allowed to go per car. If you’re not one of the two, your car gets sent to the back of the line. Guess who got sent to the back of the line? Around 10:15, after nine other cars took their tests and three bathroom trips later (I probably shouldn’t have had that coffee) I was sitting in the driver’s seat. I was buckled in, seat adjusted, ready to roll. The examiner stepped out of the car ahead of mine and, just as I thought she was heading my way, she left for a 30 minute break.
10:45, let’s do this.
Me: Good morning!
End of pleasantries, I guess. She wasn’t much of a talker. I executed some serious judgment by not making a that’s-what-she-said-joke when the examiner told me: “Pull out when it’s safe and go straight.” Really glad I didn’t say that out loud!
I turn on the engine, adjust my mirrors, look around, wait for the cars to pass and then I’m ready to pull out. The car didn’t move — it was still in park. Dammit!
Me: Ok, let’s start again!
I’ll save the details, but after she hit her breaks twice I totally thought I was done for. But then I parallel parked like a champ. My final turn was very wide, so much so that she commented on the width of it.
Me: I’m so sorry. Actually I’m not apologizing to you, I’m apologizing to myself.
I turned the car around and we drove past the line of cars waiting to take their road test. She slammed on the brake once more as we arrived at the end of the line. Then silence. Like ten seconds of the longest silence ever.
Examiner: Here’s your permit back. You should be receiving your license in 2 weeks; you passed.
Me: Seriously? I’d hug you but I doubt that’s okay.
Examiner: Probably not.
Me: Okay, well thank you so much. I have so much respect for what you do — you risk your life everyday.
Examiner: Wow, thank you, no one has ever said that to me before!
And just like that, I became Alison Cohen, licensed driver.