Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Learning to Drive for the First Time as a 28-Year-Old: A Basic Primer

Things That Are Scary and Hard:

Gradually accelerating.
Gradually decelerating.
Leaving a parking space.
Reversing in a straight line.
Reversing while listing lazily to the left.
Remembering to look in all eighty mirrors.
The blind spots.

Things That Are Less Scary and Hard Than Originally Envisioned:

Using turn signals.
Turning on the lights.
Adjusting the eighty mirrors while still safely sitting in park.

Things That Are Easier and Less Scary Than You Ever Appreciated at the Time:

Living in New York.

71 Comments / Post A Comment

Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood

Well, I'm just turning 22 and I don't know how to drive. This is mostly because I don't want to accidentally kill anyone.

Nicole Cliffe

@Josh is like Germany Ambitious and Misunderstood That is my biggest fear, especially since I am not an American citizen, and would probably get deported. Also, would feel bad about killing someone.


@Josh - I'm 23 and haven't learned yet, because frankly if you knew how many Cycling Disasters I have narrowly avoided you'd be thankful I have never been placed in charge of a vehicle with an actual engine. I think big cities with decent public transport systems will be a way of life for me.

Hot mayonnaise

This is probably the only chance for me to share that when I was 16 and enrolled in a driving school, my instructor fell asleep in the passenger seat while we were driving around. I guess I was that smooth!


@Hot mayonnaise
No shit! That happened to me, too! Did you attend the Sears Driving School in St. Paul, MN?


@Hot mayonnaise my driving instructor was 85 and called 'fast freddy.' when he wasn't sleeping, he was throwing old dunkin donuts cups at me to use my blinker.

Hot mayonnaise

@Anne: Sears Driving School in St. Louis. Weird. He had me go through the Steak-N-Shake drive though too. At least he bought me a shake!


@Hot mayonnaise: My driving instructor used to listen to Christmas music (on cassette, natch) while we drove him around. He also made up annoying little ditties about our names.

What I'm saying here is, shit, I wish he'd fallen asleep more.


i had to learn how to drive when my husband made us moves to the suburbs from nyc, i was 25 and it was seriously one of the scariest things ever.


My mom wouldn't let me use her car to take the test because she thought I might wreck it or something? So I didn't take it until I was well past 17 and my uncle came to visit and I drove his rental. This just gave me a sad.


I didn't take driver's ed until I was 20, which meant that I was in the same class as my boyfriend's little brother. Which meant that he basically had to play the role of "dad" and a) drive us around, and b) drive us back and forth to driver's ed. Awesome.


I didn't learn until I was 36! I hated learning, but I friggin' LOVE driving now. Still haven't parallel parked yet, but this is the midwest so there's always a parking lot around the corner :-)


Lady Mom: But this would all be much easier if you'd learn to drive.
This Moi: Easier? I can get from one place to another while drunk and reading. I can't think of anything easier!
- Conversation dated approximately a week ago



I'm totally ok with another person in the car. I can ask them if I have the right of way at this four way stop, or if it looks ok for me to merge. But driving by myself stresses me out. I'm trying to do it every opportunity I get, to make it easier, but it's taking a long time.


@blily I learned to drive at 26, and for me it was the opposite: I did much better without someone else in the car, because I felt like anyone else was judging me on my skills. If strangers judged me, I didn't care! Man, learning to drive as an adult is terrifying, this is why they teach you as teenagers when you're fearless.

mk rilea

I still can't parallel park, which is pretty embarrassing. However, it's not as embarrassing as the time our "hot, young" driving instructor dude told me, at age 16, that I looked like Natalie Imbruglia. Seriously. Also note that I am Asian and look nothing like her? So what the fuck, guy. He also made my partner driver stop so he could pick a piece of straw from the side of the road to chew on. And then besides all that awkwardness, my dad was the one out of my parents who was willing to take me for drives, and, while I love him dearly, he is the WORST driver ever. Yet, I survived and have been successfully driving without killing anyone for 7 years! So I'm pretty sure anyone could do it, especially grown ass 28 year olds.


@mk rilea oh man, I feel your pain on learning from parents who were/are terrible drivers. They used to get SO NERVOUS when taking me out, and in turn made me into a total basketcase who second guesses every decision behind the wheel--I am terrifed to this day. I love them dearly, but now that I don't live with them anymore I had completely forgotten what bad drivers they were until we were all in a car together in L.A. a few months ago and my dad kept flipping out from nerves and snapping at us. I was like "well there's my root!"

mk rilea

@DickensianCat Ahhhh it's the worst! I moved to LA recently and dear god, I cannot imagine my dad driving here. He does the stiff armed, hands at 11 and 2, constantly shifts the wheel an inch to the right, an inch to the left, while driving down a straight road? And also one time hit a pedestrian, while I was with him. I was mortified. And yeah I'm a nervous driver too! But mainly only when other people are with me, so...shit, yeah that's totally the reason.


I'm surprised merging onto the highway doesn't make the list either way. I understand rotaries not being included because we just like them in New England, but merging! Checking the blind spot while managing to keep the wheel straight!


@NeenerNeener in MA, people read 'merge' as 'haul ass.'


@NeenerNeener Particularly if, like so many fun merges in New England, the entrance lane ends after about 3 feet, so you either have to almost completely stop, or gun it and try to beat out whoever's doing 75 in the right lane.


@NeenerNeener Highway merging, traffic circles, jug handles--three nightmarish NJ driving scenarios that still make my heart race and palms sweat after a decade of driving.


Yes, gun it!!!! The person doing 75'll move, and you're in front of me and you stop, I'm gonna be pretty upset. I get really mad at people who stop because I think it's really dangerous and I don't appreciate the threat to my life. I'll go further and say my fav is the people who merge doing 35 and then immediately get in the left lane before picking up any speed - like they don't want to go for any distance in the right lane, that's just wrong.


@Lola I think I'm nuts, I like these things :)


@Lola My driving instructor took me out to the Tonnelle Circle (aka The Circle of Death) in Jersey City for my first lesson. That circle has since been dismantled, so I can't drive through and show people how effing terrifying it was to be navigating it at 16.


@becky@twitter Oh yeah, I live in MA. I suppose I'm one of these people, as evidenced above. But safely, always safely - I'm not a jerk.


@boyofdestiny I can't believe anyone would do that to a new driver! I spent the first three years of driving actively avoiding huge circles. I don't know that particular circle, but Tonnelle Avenue is still super stressful today.


@Lola That would be my advice to people claiming crippling anxiety as a reason for not getting a license: just do something that'll cause you to be cripplingly anxious on the first day. You'll get over it. You know, because your life depends on it.


I dont understand this. Why wait so long to get a DL? Even if you live where a car isnt needed it seems like learning to drive would be a good idea just in case.


@sp8ce Crippling anxiety. I didn't learn to drive until my late 20s because I would be fearful of a crash just from being a car passenger, let alone a driver. Anxiety isn't really something that you can just switch off.

Nicole Cliffe

@misfit Co-sign on "crippling anxiety."


@sp8ce There are lots of things that seem like a good idea just in case, like learning first aid or learning how to light a fire or learning how to wrestle a bear that a lot of people don't end up doing if they don't absolutely need to.


My Aunt Agatha - the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth - when she wants you to do a thing you do it, or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden days made such a fuss when they had trouble with the Spanish Inquisition.


@AuntAgatha: Do not underestimate the utility of Bear Judo!


@Nicole Cliffe YEP. Also, solution I found: More crippling anxiety to layer on top of it, only this time about how much you need to get it immediately. maybe because you may have lied and said you maybe already had it, and need to get it for your summer job that may be approximately 80% driving.

Which, since it sounds like you are doing it for baby-health-related-anxiety (maybe the worst anxiety ever?), is your solution too. Clearly: the BEST solution.

When I was 17 and in driver's ed, I was rear ended in the driver's ed car, which was subsequently totaled. The entire back half of the car crumpled up... it was special.


I took driver's ed in high school but freaked out behind the wheel while practicing at home (and drove my mom's car into a ditch). Fast forward 10 years and rather than have my SO teach me and make my anxiety skyrocket, I paid for many many many hours of driving lessons that were worth every penny.


At least Hairpin turns aren't a problem.


@atipofthehat Ladies First: Good tagline, bad advice for merging.


I sometimes get so proud of myself when I do things that I haven't had to do since my driver's test, like back into a parking space or parallel park. I'm myopic and grew up in the suburbs, I used to pull up three feet from a curb and think I was practically in the sidewalk, so this winter every space I finagled myself into was a TRIUMPH.

Pound of Salt

At 15 I thought my driving teacher was going to kill me when, after I refused his invitation to go to his house for lemonade, he took me to an abandoned parking lot and pulled gloves and rope out of the trunk. Somehow it was related to parallel parking.


I'm californian and we are basically born with car keys in hand, but I moved to the UK and tried to drive there. UHNOTHXKTHXBAI. It was horribly frightening and difficult. So I feel all you non-drivers and have sympathy, but it really is very freeing to be able to hit the open road whenever you need to... This may have been a big part of the reason I decided to move back.


I grew up in SoCali and Fozzy "a bear in his natural habitat: a Studebaker" Bear is my spirit animal. However, my friends in Australia made me drive while I was there. When I made a right turn, I thought I was having a stroke.


You guys have GOT to learn to parallel park, if only because it's the best thing ever to roll up to a spot and your passenger gets nervous, like, "Ummm are you sure you can fit in that spot?" and you don't even have to say anything, just give them a look because, what's that? Cut to the right, cut to the left, you've already parked. It's like the world is a puzzle and you're a perfect piece.


@SlapHappyPappy I know I always feel smooth and badassed.



BK alt side 4evah!


@SlapHappyPappy But it doesn't work like it used to. In 1967 I took high-school driving instruction. Had crap stereo vision (no depth perception - still don't ... you learn to adapt). But all cars were pretty much the same, and there was a formula to parallel parking. It was the *only* thing I could do - but I could do it at 98% excellence. (Took another ten years to really learn to drive.)

My point is, the cars nowadays don't have the design points that the formula needs. So ... I can't parallel park for beans anymore. :-(


I hate driving. Just thinking about it makes me nervous. I've taken the test and failed four miserable times. I'm beginning to think that I am just not built for this activity, but there was a time when I thought that about anything more strenuous than breathing really slowly.

The real problem is that public transportation gives me similar chills -- growing up in the worst neighborhood had something to do with that, I guess. Rock, hard place, you know each other, right?


Things that sound easy but that sometimes slip my mind: which side of the road you drive on?

I get in my car like once a month and the rest of the time it's storage space. So I'm not a MAJOR public hazard.


@distrighema Pretend you're a knight on horseback, jousting. You want to be able to hang your lance out your nearest window, aimed at your opponent. Doesn't matter which side of the road ... look at your car. Hang your lance out the window. Your opponent will be symmetrical to you.

Second description ... the driver of the car needs to be closer to the center of the road and the passenger needs to be closer to the far side of the road.

(Only know right from left because I write with my *right* hand. East/West .... um ... nevermind ...)

Roxy Throatpunch

I'm 30 and just had a baby. I spent my whole pregnancy saying, "Oh yeah, I'll do it, I'll do it." And then...didn't. I got my permit, though! Now I just need to go take the test, which apparently is ridiculously easy in CO. AND YET. Here I sit, with my bus pass in my bag.

I mean, I actually love the bus, a lot. You can't beat it for getting reading done, and for getting to and from work, it's perfect. But if I want to do anything else, especially now with the kid who is ON A SCHEDULEEEEEE, it involves lots of negotiation and guilt and cursing weekend bus schedules.

I *did* actually take driver's ed and all that shit in high school. I just never got comfortable with my parents' cars - both sticks - and thus never practiced and never got around to taking the test. My younger sister was the same and just finally got her license at 27.


@Roxy Throatpunch Ahh, I feel your pain! My advice, don't even think about stick. I tried to learn a number of times with stick and oh hell no. Do automatic, spend about 45 mins every day tooling around the multiplex parking lot in the early morning, no-one there, (I did that for maybe two weeks straight) until you feel brave enough for the roads. Seriously, take it slow, set your own pace. Forcing things too quickly made it worse for me. My uncle Louie started me at aga 17 with stick and five minutes after I got in the car, he had me in busy traffic. The trauma!!

Nicole Cliffe

@Roxy Throatpunch Honest-to-shit, my pregnancy is the only reason I'm finally driving. My husband pulled the evil "what if I'm not here and you need to take the baby to the hospital?" card. And then I cried, obviously, because WHY DOES MY BABY NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL.


@Roxy Throatpunch omg, I totally don't know how to drive/don't feel comfortable driving and am having a baby in early September and my husband is saying the same shit. Why can't we just take the bus/train? I have a drivers license, but I don't want to drive evereverEVER and we only have one car so why do I have to drive? How do people in NYC take their babies to the hospital?


I grew up in a small town with no public transportation, so I LOVE driving... but riding my bike? Scares the shit out of me. I live in a totally bikeable city now but my little bike just sits there locked to my porch all sad and neglected because I'm scared I'll either get hit by a car or do something stupid and annoy all the cool bike kids. :(


@ArcherLady You should google "urban cycling classes" for your city. I took one. They rode us around in traffic, and taught us how to signal and gave us general bike riding tips that were useful even though I already knew how to ride. Don't let the stupid cool kids keep you from biking in the city. It's super fun!


@blily But do the cars care if you've taken one of those classes?


@ArcherLady Yes! I got a bike last summer and started riding again for the first time since I was a little kid. I had giddy visions of me cruising around on my baby blue bike with a baguette in the basket. Instead it's terrifying. And dude, it was a whole lot easier when I was a young strong child. That shit hurts your legs!


This is timely! Approaching 22, was just lectured by my dad that I should get my damn license already. I've been managing fine using the notorious TTC, and I live in the suburbs! And I won't even be living in the suburbs next year!

Then again, my dad works with cars and lives and breathes cars so I'm probably kind of embarrassing. You know, in other ways than I already was.


I can drive, technically, I just choose not to.


I always thought driving was something you just did. Like a rite of passage. I loved being 16 and the only one of my friends who owned a stick-shift car paid for by my dishwashing job! I would drive my friends around to Mongolian BBQ and Macy's.
The good ol days!


My biggest pet peeve about non-drivers is when they freeload rides all the time and never offer anything in return. It feels chintzy (it IS chintzy) to ask for 2 bucks of gas, which is also something I never worry about with my driver friends because I know it will be reciprocated and even out.

My second pet peeve is people who don't DD. Everybody should take their turn.


@redheadedandcrazy It is so *not* chintzy! It's reminding them that they'd otherwise be paying public transportation fees and also having to walk to public transportation pickup points!


@redheadedandcrazy As someone who was a non driver until I was 26, I HATED having to beg for rides everywhere all the time, and so ever since I got my license my motto has always been that I will always give anyone a ride anywhere because of all of the rides that I got. Also, I got immediate karma when I started dating someone who didn't have a car and had to drive him everywhere all the time.


@redheadedandcrazy I had a friend in high school who NEVER gave me money for rides, and somehow managed this by "inviting" me to go places she wanted to go, and then assuming she would not have to give gas money because, hey, I was driving there anyways! She did this at the time when gas was nearing $5 a gallon, and never said thank you, and partly this is why we are not friends any more.

Kimberly Pine, Drummer

I'm 29 and don't drive. I live in an area well serviced by public transport and frankly have too many books to get through as it is. I've fully intended to learn every year (handy skill to have, etc), and never have I actually achieved this. Now I think I'm too filled with screaming terror to attempt it. Woe.


Finally, at 25 years old, I was technically able to drive. My SO at the time had a bad habit of falling asleep easily. One rush-hour, on the freeway, he was trying valiantly not to fall asleep. I said, "I can drive in this!". So I did. And then traffic started to move. :-o And I continued to drive, because ... you *have* to. And it worked. :-D

Even so, for decades later I always drove in the second-slowest lane. Planned my lane changes as early as I could. Never chatted with passengers while I drove (this persists to this day, 40 years later). I was often complimented on how truly good a driver I was.


So I hate driving and definitely prefer biking. But unfortunately job requires a communte across a bridge that does not permit bikes (i guess I could take the ferry? And wake up two hours earlier) and my office is on an road lined with industrial buildings so there are 18 wheelers galore so even if I moved across the river to the hell-hole of a city that my office is in, I could not bike/walk/use the non existent public transportation). I am so jealous of the people who do not have to drive. I was so spoiled parking my car for months at a time in college. BUT. I am so glad that I had a car and knew how to drive, for emergencies BUT REALLY BECAUSE my grandma never learned how to drive mostly because my grandpa wouldn't let her. So the ability to drive has always been associated with freedom. I mean driving=freedom is silly but i.can't.help.it.


Hmm I thought I was the only one who is a totally nervous driver. I guess I picked it up from my parents who were basically shitting their pants every second I drove. I grew up around DC and learned to drive in their crazy traffic - Springfield Mixing Bowl anyone? But now I live in Philly, a simple GRID, and I am terrified to drive. My spouse does all the driving and we always talk about how I need to get comfortable driving in the city but it hasn't' happened in the ~7 years we've been here...


@DrFeelGood Oh and my bike, sits unused in the basement because WHY would you drive around cars?! So terrifying.

Glynn Walker@facebook

Definitely feel everyones pain here. I'm 28 and I don't drive. The area I live in well serviced by public transportation and the buses are frequent. However, it just sucks not being able to operate a vehicle. I've tried to learn but friends and family scoff at the idea of teaching others to drive. Really!?! They have the nerve to ask for gas money or help for car repairs, yet they cant take a few hours out of their day to teach me. So I guess i'm outta luck until I purchase my own. Oh, and the local driving school wants $300 plus dollars for lessons!

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account