Highway Star Rising, Act 1: Permittance Regained

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
highway star rising act 1 permittance regained

Kept you waiting, huh?

The 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Classic wagon above is similar to the one I first drove in high school when I took driver’s ed — one in white, one in the same shade of reddish-brown as pictured (I drove the latter). Both wagons were to have been replaced by Chevrolet Astro minivans the year I took the course, but the signs made for them were too large; thus, the wagons were called into duty one last time.

While I passed the knowledge portion of the course with flying colors, accomplishing the same feat behind the wheel didn’t go so well. Mom herself didn’t have a license at all, we didn’t have the money to buy a car to keep ready for the day when I would drive, and — after an issue involving one of their children driving — our neighbors weren’t able to lend their vehicles and experience to help. The best anyone could do was an arrangement where I would walk from home to the school district’s vehicle yard next to one of the elementary schools, then take the wheel with the instructor to the high school parking lot to pick up the rest of my group for the day’s lessons.

Despite the extra help, I only managed Cs and Ds throughout the driving portion of the class, earning a single B on the final day upon pulling into the front yard/driveway of my home. My final overall grade for the course came to a C-, enough to obtain my first license, which then was left unused until years later when I made the then-reasonable, now-stupid decision to voluntarily give up my license.

This was the status quo when I began writing here in April of 2012, and continued to be so when Aaron took over the daily news from me this summer.

Until now.

On an early September morning, I took the bus up to the Defensive Driving School branch near my home to take the $25 knowledge test for my permit. The branch was located on the second floor of a building housing a nail salon, an Indian sweet shop and restaurant, a beauty salon, and a travel agency on the first floor. Their training vehicle — a second-gen Honda Insight — was parked under the building’s signage, hiding behind maintained bushes from the street in its white, yellow and blue livery.

Inside, around 12 individuals — all much younger than I and the test proctor — were already seated and filling out the rest of their paperwork. Oh, how I would have loved to have snapped a photo to shove in the faces of those journalists, reporters, and bloggers who keep going on and on and on about how today’s teens and young adults care more about their smartphones than about driving at all. Not every child lives under the gleaming crystal and steel towers of Manhattan, dearest brothers and sisters of the Fourth Estate, where power-injected black cars, checkered taxis of tomorrow, and ancient subways carry all to and fro. Nor is car culture solely the province of older generations protecting their manicured lawns from the technohipster youth army, my darlings. The sooner this is realized and accepted in full, the better for us all.

Once all the paperwork was gathered, testing commenced. I had 25 questions to answer on the version (out of three) I was given, 25 minutes to complete the test, and needed 20 correct answers to pass.

Fifteen minutes later, I passed with 22 out of 25 questions answered correctly, for a score of 88 percent.

A couple of weeks and an additional $25 later, I received my plastic permit in the mail. And though it is good for a year, the path toward driving destiny won’t be too long, my dearest B&B.

Photo credit: Greg Gjerdingen/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0 and Cameron Aubernon/The Truth About Cars

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