Column: This One Time…

Driving Lessons

By Irene Muniz-Frias, News Correspondent

I was 16 years old when I took my first driving lesson. My mom, who was more excited than I was, had waited 16 years for this day. She could finally have a life of her own that didn’t involve dropping and picking me up everywhere. But neither of us expected my first driving experience to be a complete and total fiasco.

Most driving teachers have their business set in individual schools. And of course, once one student spreads the word about a teacher, all the parents end up choosing the same one over and over again. At my school, Cyd Marie was la crème de la crème. She was the one that made sure all her students got their driver’s licenses, and needless to say, her classes were in high demand. Lucky for me, she had some space.

It was Wednesday afternoon when she first picked me up. She arrived at my house in her rusty, tiny green car with two ugly butterfly stickers on the back window. I would soon learn those insects were my guides to a heinous attempt at parallel parking.  She was wearing a short denim skirt and a low shirt that clearly said: Look at my twins. I guess this is why all her students passed their driving test, one way or the other. The tattoo on her arm was disgusting and though her hair was red, you could see black roots creeping out. Her nails were perfectly done. You know, those long nails that urge you to ask yourself how a woman wipes her behind. Anyway, you get the picture.

I sat behind the wheel and took a look at the car. No one could sit in the back seat without being buried in water bottles, Burger King napkins and sharpened pencils (“for emergencies,” she said). Seriously, it could harm someone. The passenger seat (her seat while I drove) had an extra and highly needed “stop pedal.” That’s the name I gave it because every time she used it she screamed “STOP” so loud I wanted to punch her.

I played a lot of Mickey Mouse’s Speedway on my Nintendo when I was kid. I even had that wheel and pedal combo everyone else wanted. In my experience, driving was a piece of cake. And it mostly was until we got to the highway. Her phone rang, she picked up and after seconds of holding the phone to her ear, she started crying and cursing hysterically. Mind you, I’m 16 and have no experience whatsoever with changing lanes or even basic vehicular instincts, for that matter.

She had just found out her 16-year-old son was going to be a father. While she screamed at him, my only thought was:  I’m being Punk’d. Actually, erase that. I’m in the middle of an episode of “16 & Pregnant” which focuses on the father’s side of the story. A cameraman would surely spring out of nowhere soon. It was impossible that this “professional” woman was having this conversation with a driving rookie in the car.

Suddenly, I had to stop, not voluntarily, but because I hit the car in front of me. She didn’t even notice until a guy knocked on her window yelling at her for being an instructor on the phone. She started screaming at me for being irresponsible and right then and there I unbuckled myself and got out of the car. That witch had already made me pass a red light, turn around where I wasn’t supposed to and listen to a mother-son screaming match. While I drove, she had called her mother, boyfriend, sister, friend, friend of a friend and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. After the startling halt I told her I couldn’t drive under such conditions and waited for my mom in a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. She begged me to get in the car again, but I was going to faint if I did. Long story short, my mom picked me up and we left the scene.

Two years later, I saw her at a mall. Her once 16-year-old son was now 18, with two-year-old twins. I had just received my driver’s license. It was all I could do not to stick it in her face and tell her about my other respectful, professional instructor, but I probably would’ve gotten killed.

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