My grandfather drove me out the state trooper barracks one bright sunny afternoon in the summer of 1982.
I was sixteen, my parents were both working, and it was time for me to take my driver’s test, so he volunteered for the job. Brave man. You have to go to the state police for that in Pennsylvania, though you can go to any barracks you want – there were several near enough to get to conveniently. We didn’t go to the closest one. We chose the one out by the Granite Run Mall, because we thought it would be less crowded. We were probably right.
Passing the Pennsylvania driver’s test is not one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Honestly, barnyard animals could probably get a driver’s license in Pennsylvania if you could figure out a way for them to take the written test too. There isn’t even an over-the-road portion of the exam, or at least there wasn’t back in the early Reagan years. Instead they had a course in the back that you had to slog your way through. It had a slalom portion where you weaved around some cones, a couple of stop signs that you had to obey, a 180-degree turn in the middle, and a three-point turn that our vast 1973 Pontiac took with surprising ease.
Sometimes they’d ask you weird questions, like how to turn on the brake lights, but mostly they seemed just as glad as the examinees to have it all over and done with and nobody hurt in the process.
When it was all over, my grandfather let me drive home – a trip of about 15 miles across some fairly big highways – and we made it safely. I remember being vaguely surprised at both halves of that sentence. I’ve been driving ever since.
Here in the midwest, you have to drive if you want to get anywhere. Public transportation is something reserved for only a few places and generally not for long – the buses in Our Little Town stop running fairly early in the day, as I recall from the last time I tried to use one – and in sharp contrast to the dense cities of the east the midwest is far too spread out to do much constructive on foot other than get exercise.
So we drive.
And now we have another driver.
Tabitha passed her driver’s test today.
We’ve been practicing since last fall, taking long drives up and down the state highways and short ones in and out of town, and on one memorable occasion driving backwards around the Home Campus parking lot for an hour and half to get the hang of how to steer in that direction. It’s not intuitive, really.
And today it was me starring as my grandfather and the DMV standing in for the state troopers. She drove over. We filled out the paperwork and got ready to go. The tester took her out on the open road a good ten minutes early – seriously, for all the bad reputations they have I have never had a bad experience with either the DMV or the IRS – and a quarter hour later they were back, signed approval in hand.
A new photo, a temporary paper license until the plastic one comes in the mail, and away we went.
The Pastafarian in front of us getting her photo done really did wear a steel colander on her head in the name of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” which struck me funny. The DMV folks don’t care. I’m not sure what the point of absurdist protest is if nobody notices, but then I’m not the one with the colander so clearly it isn’t any of my concern. If you want to wear a kitchen implement on your head, I say go for it.
Congratulations, Tabitha. A whole new world awaits.