Editor’s note: Last year we ran a post from Tova Schreiber on what it was like to learn how to drive at 24. Now she’s back to tell us about having her driver’s license and driving.
I’m sitting at my desk, waiting for students to arrive and thinking about cars. Waking up at 6:00 on a Sunday morning is rarely fun, but I truly love what I do for a living. My fingers are stained from last night’s dye job, and they clutch a tall Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate. Together with a calorie-laden croissant, it’s a breakfast of champions that fuels my discussions as a teacher.
I filled the tank in my brother’s old Focus wagon a few weeks ago, spending what was small fortune to me to repay a favor of his. That car isn’t in great shape, but I borrow it whenever circumstances allow. It takes me to meetings, on errands, and through excursions with my darling nephew. It’s a rare moment that doesn’t see me begging to get behind the wheel, even if I’m only going to be driving for ten minutes.
Last year, I was a scared kitten. It was a few hours before Rosh HaShana and I had to merge onto the interstate for the first time. The driving instructor, a comedic sort, told me I should pray for a sweet new year. I just wanted to survive the freeway.
Things got easier. With time, my hands no longer shook or sweat when they gripped the steering wheel. My then-boyfriend’s ex-police cruiser, with its fearful acceleration, died a few days after I got my driving permit, so he bought a cute, easy-to-handle Hyundai and that’s what I learned to drive on.
There were many frightening moments in the past year. One evening, I was taking some friends to the pub when I suddenly heard, “Tova, change lanes! The lane is ending! No! We’re going to die!”
I did what I was told in the nick of time. We didn’t die.
This summer, a cute guy sat behind me in my Statistics & Econometrics course. I would lend him my notes, which everyone else wanted but couldn’t have, and tell him about my driving adventures. When I said I would soon be taking my road test, he was sure that it would be a second license for me at 24. His look of shock at my explanation (“Nope, I’m a new driver!”) was beyond price.
It’s all been an interesting journey for me. The day I passed my driving test is the day my relationship with my now-ex combusted. He still lets me drive his Hyundai, though, when we go out to dinner.
I’d like to get a motorcycle endorsement eventually and buy a small Honda bike. My parents don’t like that idea, although I rather enjoy the imagery of arriving at my weekday preschool classroom in leather chaps and a tough jacket. More than one person has told me to restore my dad’s ’66 Elan in the garage (pictured above); I fear it has been rendered irredeemable by feral cats. I’m still in love with Chevelles, talking K-cars, and vehicles with interesting cosmetic details like sequential tail lights and gull wing doors. Then there’s my friend’s old Firebird, which needs a few grand to run and many more to be worthy of the Woodward Dream Cruise. (In happier times, we’d goad Corvette drivers, almost all of whom were men with midlife crises, into racing against us. They were left in the dust every time.) As it stands, though, I am carless and moping about it. Moping about not having a car and craving those moments when I can control a huge machine! What a difference a year or two can make.
This summer was filled with milestones. I turned 25, graduated from college with an degree in economics (Detroit editor‘s note: magna cum laude), and began a modest teaching career.
…None of these things has given me the type of thrill and enjoyment that driving has. None of them. I finally came to understood the gravity of it on a warm evening a few weeks ago. I was driving home from a meeting with my boss. It was dark, and the streetlights shone down on the rings on my fingers, making them sparkle. I tapped the steering wheel, cruising along as Billy Idol crooned over the radio waves.
What set you free? I need you here by me! In the midnight hour, she cried, “More! More!
Flooring it, I merged onto the interstate and blended into the colorful stream of cars. The music surrounded me, claiming me as my own voice added itself to the din. I had power and speed and independence. I had myself, and I was driving. In the mad, rushing tons of steel death traps, I felt quite alive.
Getting over fear is a beautiful thing.