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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Driving Saga Is About to Begin

So as part of the program of self-improvement, I found a driving school. All I need to do now is get my parent or guardian to sign paperwork, and I’m good to go.

I can just imagine this scene. Parents bring their kids to driving lessons while a middle-aged Clarissa is brought by her husband. I wonder if I can get him to pack my lunch and pat me on the head. It can be a sort of an erotic role-playing.

Who wants to bet that I will be the worst student this driving school has ever known? Imagine the plethora of fun blog posts, whoever.

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33 thoughts on “The Driving Saga Is About to Begin

  1. Good luck! I’m trying my best to learn driving without access to a car, (not as easy as it looks) have fun. 🙂

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  2. Good luck! For me, driver’s ed (what they called “driving school” where I am) was a colossal waste of time, during which they spent most of their time trying to convince a bunch of 16-year-olds to not drink and drive and to wear our seat belts. There were some gems, though. Mostly it was just a good time to practice mental mathematics (my boredom technique – I try to prime factor the time)

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    • Did you learn, though?

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      • I did learn – driving with the instructors was far superior to driving with my parents, who would constantly bicker at me about how they thought the other was a terrible driver (sigh). I’m a very cautious driver, because I try to never forget that I’m operating a several-thousand pound killing machine (terrifying isn’t it?) and it means that I often annoy my passengers by not getting in races or competitions with other cars. But I’ve got a pretty good track record. So I’ll take it. 🙂 Good luck!

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  3. The hardest part is keeping track of everything outside the car. Or getting used to that, anyway. And if you’re in a vehicle regularly you can practice that as a passenger.

    You’ll do fine. 🙂

    Is it a classroom thing, or will you actually get to practice driving?

    My grandparents actually bought driving lessons for me, because my father got frustrated and gave up trying to teach me in his old car, a 1991 (or 1993?) Ford Festiva; a manual transmission. That damn thing had the most sensitive clutch ever, and I’d kill the engine nine times out of ten. We’d sit there for ages while I s-l-o-w-l-y let out the clutch. I found out recently you actually needed to barely push on the gas while you let out the clutch in that car, which is not what my father told me. I was so glad when my father got rid of that fucking thing. All this to say, don’t worry, everyone has stories.

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    • I don’t even know what a clutch is. 🙂 I think I will have to practice for a very long time. I give it a year.

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      • There are two types of transmissions in cars: automatic and manual.

        With a manual transmission, you have three pedals on the floor: the gas, the brake, and the clutch. To get the car moving, and keep it moving with a manual, you have to press down the clutch, shift into first gear, and simultaneously let off the clutch and press the gas. You have to time it perfectly, otherwise you’re going to kill the engine. Once you get going, you have to shift gears (there are four, I think?) at certain speeds, repeating the whole clutch-and-gas pedal pressing.

        With a automatic transmission, you have the gas and the brake. You put the car into “drive” and you go.

        You’ll have snobby car enthusiasts insisting that manual is better, because gas mileage, old cars are all manual, and blah blah blah. I prefer automatic, myself. It’s so much simpler, and I don’t have to worry that I’m going to screw up the engine because my footwork is off or I forgot to shift out of first gear.

        If you get a car with an automatic transmission, I doubt it’ll take a year. Soon you’ll be yelling at stupid drivers just like me. 🙂

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        • “To get the car moving, and keep it moving with a manual, you have to press down the clutch, shift into first gear, and simultaneously let off the clutch and press the gas. You have to time it perfectly, otherwise you’re going to kill the engine. Once you get going, you have to shift gears (there are four, I think?) at certain speeds, repeating the whole clutch-and-gas pedal pressing.”

          – Yes!! That’s precisely how it was when my ex-husband tried to teach me to drive. I would stall the engine 5 times in a row before managing to turn in it. It would make those horrible screeching sounds, brrr! And then I would keep putting it in backwards gear accidentally. Oy.

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      • Oh, those screeching sounds. And the jerking! The small, sharp jerks when you killed the engine, and the throw-you-back-into-the-seat jerks when you lose your patience and push on the gas before you let off the clutch. I thought I’d never get my driving license. Thank goodness we lived with my grandparents at the time, or I probably wouldn’t have. My dad wouldn’t have thought of buying me driving lessons, and certainly wouldn’t have bought me an automatic transmission car to drive.

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        • My father tried briefly to teach me to drive a stick shift… “release the clutch, and push on the gas” was what he told me… so after about 3 or 4 days of screeching and jerking and getting lucky when the car started, I figured out that what he meant was “as you release the clutch, push on the gas”. Then lessons stopped because I moved away. I can now get a stick shift car going and I can do it on a hill… so I figure, unless I’m in San Fransisco for some reason, I could probably drive one in an emergency. Not my first choice, though!

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          • My ex-husband would always start the explanation of how to start the car with a description of how the internal combustion engine works. Then he’d draw formulae. I’d get so bored by the end of the explanation and still not know how to start the stupid car! 🙂

            “My father tried briefly to teach me to drive a stick shift… “release the clutch, and push on the gas” was what he told me… so after about 3 or 4 days of screeching and jerking and getting lucky when the car started, I figured out that what he meant was “as you release the clutch, push on the gas”. ”

            – Non-autistics. How typical of them to be imprecise with words. 🙂

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            • “Non-autistics. How typical of them to be imprecise with words. :-)”
              Ironically, my dad is a poster-child for undiagnosed Asperger’s… The guy never graduated high school (left because he was bored), dropped out of college because they wouldn’t let him take the computer classes he’d been hired as a teaching assistant for because he “didn’t have the prerequisites” and is an internationally recognized computer specialist, who for years, worked out of my basement… like I said, poster-child… classic Asperger’s – “what? you can’t read my mind?!”

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              • “Ironically, my dad is a poster-child for undiagnosed Asperger’s”

                – Mine too, actually. He refuses to consider the possibility, of course, and it’s not my place to insist. But I think it’s too obvious. He never learned to drive, by the way, and that’s precisely why.

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      • Oh you definitely want to learn the manual transmission if you can. Like anything with a steeper learning curve, it’s more rewarding.

        Given your stated views regarding licensing, it’s laudable that you’re going the licensed route with the driving.

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  4. I had a motorcycle when I was a teenager before I learned to drive a car. $50 for a licence and no instruction – just a booklet to read. You get to know the rules of the road, low cost insurance and much cheaper on gas. I have an image of you in a black leather jacket with some statement in Spanish like ¡No Pasaránon on the back tooling around the campus on a Harley which you would name “La Poderosa” after the bike on which Che Guevara drove in his book, “The Motorcycle Diaries” . You could make a list of suggestions and post it on the blog for a vote. 🙂

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  5. Not to bring you down, but when I was a 16-year-old taking drivers ed, there were some older, foreign people taking driving lessons with us and they were TERRIBLE at it. Have fun!

    Umm, okay, to be encouraging, it it quite stressful to drive with a teacher in the car, and the key is to just to get through it, be able to drive passably enough to take the test, and then true good-driver-ness will come once you have your license and can drive around by yourself. So don’t worry if you feel like a really awkward driver around the instructor – having someone sitting there watching me drive and telling me what to do certainly made me feel awkward at driving.

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  6. I heard of somebody getting a license as a pensioneer. Another woman I know got it at age 50+. And why not? Don’t worry and have fun. Good luck!

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  7. the twisted spinster on said:

    I learned to drive in high school. Instead of taking the class during the regular school year, I decided to take it for summer school. It was a good class — we had a good instructor, and all the cars were those big Seventies cars so we had the added bonus of learning to maneuver a land yacht. We did have to see those silly cautionary films but at least we were sitting in an air-conditioned classroom (this was summer in South Florida, and my father hated air-conditioning and had removed the units from our house). My favorite film was one on the problems of something called “3.2 beer,” which is a low-alcohol beer that was apparently legal or semi-legal for high school kids to drink. (The moral of the film was that low-alcohol beer can still get you drunk, and you shouldn’t drive. It had very bad acting and a scene where the drunk kid’s car is stuck on the end of one of those drawbridges with his girlfriend in the passenger seat yelling at him about drinking “3.2 beer.” I have never again seen any reference to this type of beer and never saw it in the stores.)

    One other added bonus was I was learning to drive in Miami, where you get to encounter situations that don’t occur many other places; situations such as the yearly land crab migration, where thousands of crabs start walking in the roads.

    One more thing: you’ll probably be taught to drive an automatic, because that’s what most Americans prefer to drive, despite the fact that manual shifters save more gas and cars with automatic transmissions are more expensive. I didn’t learn to drive a stick until I bought my current car. I looked up a few instructional videos on the internet, got on the Amtrak to Raleigh, NC where the friend who sold me the car lived at the time, and then drove the car back to Florida myself, basically teaching myself to drive it along the way. It was quite… interesting. By which I mean really stressful.

    Oh also, you’re lucky you’re learning in the Midwest, where I hear drivers are more law-abiding. Here in the South it’s every man for himself and God against all.

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    • Yes, everybdy seems to drive in a calm, relaxed way around here.

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    • Is it a regional thing? In my experience it’s more of a city vs. small town dynamic. Driving in my college town, for instance, drives me nuts because everyone goes the speed limit or slower. They use their turning signals for every lane change, too.

      I would say it’s more of a “every man for himself, and every man against the cops and school buses” sort of situation, though. 🙂

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      • That’s the beauty of college towns, they’re non-driver friendly. For that reason (and mainly that reason) my college years were hands down the best years of my life (so far), which is somewhat sad since that was 25+ years ago.

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  8. Evelina Anville on said:

    I’m thinking of learning to drive this summer too! I really really really don’t want to. I just want good public transportation. Every single time I have tried to drive it has ended in tears! (And I’m about your age.)

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  9. Couldn’t your husband teach you?

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    • I’m still hoping to preserve this marriage. 🙂 I already had one husband try to teach me and where is he now? 🙂 🙂

      Besides, N.’s car is stick shift or whatever and I need automatic.

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      • Can just anybody teach you to drive in US and then you only take a test?

        In Israel you have to take minimum 26-30 (forgot which) lessons from an instructor and pass a theory exam before you have a right to take driving test.

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  10. Evelina Anville on said:

    I am going to have my partner teach to drive. I’m hoping our relationship is strong enough to withstand the drama. 😉 I just can’t stand the thought of being that nervous in front of a stranger though! At least he know I’m a mess when it comes to driving!

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