How Hard Is It To Pass a Drivers Test In a Toronado?
This is embarrassing enough to remember much less actually write about it; but here goes. I did not pass my driving license test until I was 19 years old!
Sad, but true. The tomboy that had a Suzuki 90 since she was 13 years old was unable to pass her drivers road test from the time she was 16, the day of her birthday, and every month after that for a full year, then every three months for the next two. Then finally, finally, after going past the mark for the millionth time on the four way stop, braking too sharply for the yellow light on the left hand turn, nearly hitting the curb when I did turn left then comes the coup de grace. Parallel parking.
Now, to fully understand the angst that goes along with this memory you need to have a bit of past history of the preceding three years. Although my younger brother and I had been given the dirt bike at the same time, I was 13 years old and he was 9 years old. That was the year after we had moved out of the city to the line dividing Jefferson and Shelby Counties in Alabama. The Cahaba River and all the woods surrounding our new suburb were ours for the taking. No restrictions on how far or what we were or were not allowed to do within the span of time between sunup and sundown. The only stipulation was this “Stay out of trouble and be home before supper!” Man, did Momma realize what those words meant to me and my siblings I wonder?
Course the last two were just babies, they had no early memories of the city and certainly had no clue how much it meant to be given not only transportation but also a 22-gauge rifle along with it! My brother and I were just close enough in age to like the same things and because of the gender difference too close in age to like each other. It was a never-ending competition from the moment he was born. My brother and my older sister were instant friends. He and I looked at each other and it was “Anything you can do, I can do better “type of thing.
Thank goodness, I was a little bit older or he would have won it all, hands down I expect; but I was able to hold my own in most things and in two things I excelled. I am a better marksman with a 22 rifle and I took every pool lesson from my Daddy and my Teekee (my Dad’s Dad) to heart. I love to shoot my 22 still and I dearly love the looks on strangers faces when a nearly 5 foot tall female beats the socks off of them at pool without the loud clunking noises, extravagate gestures and weird maneuvers you see at a lot of pool table type establishments!
My Dad taught me to shoot. He would take all three of us, my older sister, my younger brother and me to the dump and we used the rats as target practice. My sister went once. Definitely not her cup of tea. But oh my could she then and still can whisper horses you should have see her! My brother went just long enough to be told by Daddy that he could take the 22 into the woods alone. I loved not just the dump and the target practice but the time spent with my Dad.
We did a lot of stuff together, from the moment of my first memories. But when he moved us all out of the city proper, he also became a Big Boss at Commercial Union Insurance Group. That meant he was home all the time and we all had more down time with him then. I loved the three holes of golf after work, we would walk across two backyards and be on the back nine, play three holes with a wood, a nine iron and a putter, solve the world’s current problems and walk back home! But the shooting lessons continued until finally Daddy said he really hated the dump and anyway I could shoot better than he could so I could go on and “play with the damn gun at the river” if I wanted to.
After that, cottonmouths became my target of choice.
I hate snakes.
OK all you PETA people go ahead and tell one me why don’t you?
Horrible things,snakes and water moccs in particular! I had this really cool rock ledge over the river and the turtles lived under the ledge. I would lay on the rock, totally hidden from any trail or any other person unless they were directly across the river, unlikely in itself; the Cahaba was so dense at that time. I would wait, get sleepy, feed the turtles the left over bits of my lunch, finally give up, dive in and get out of the river again and wait. Around about four o’clock in the afternoon, the show would start. The snakes would start across about five minutes apart…where were they all the rest of the day? Why didn’t I see them on my side of the river? I don’t know and I didn’t even think about the why of it at the time. All I knew was if I waited long enough, they would start across and one by one, they were mine.
It was frightening the first time I saw it, because it was all by accident. I was just messing around on my “This is my day for the bike so get off” fight with brother and I was tired, pouting and bored when the first water moccasin started its ‘S’ shape swim across the river. About halfway across that, the snake's mouth opened and all I saw was a spot of white! I was so scared I missed the first time! By the time I had the single shot 22 loaded again, my hands were shaking so bad I had to go belly down on the rock and that was all I needed to calm down, line it up and blow it out of the water! I hooped and hollered so loud the poor old turtles scattered!!
After that, no more every other day fights with my brother over the Suzuki 90. As long as I got the 22 gauge he got the dirt bike and vice versa. I never told him about my spot anyway, we were so not friends enough for that much information, and of course, I never told anyone but my Daddy about the cottonmouths! He just said “Good girl” and “Pay attention, this is straight pool, not eight; you have to sink the twelve ball next!”
It was two years of that before it even crossed my mind I had to learn to drive a car! Why drive a car? If my parents weren’t driving then I was with my friends from church and the Lifeliners. I didn’t need a car and besides, I had the worst crush on Grover LeBert, our bus driver. He was my older sister’s age and he loved her to distraction of course, every male within 50 miles did, so I had not even a chance. Plus, I sang soprano but rode a motorcycle and shot better than any guy my age…whatever made me think Grover or any other self respecting red neck southern male would look at me?
At any rate, when I was sixteen it was my Momma, not my Daddy, that gave me driving lessons. I was astounded but Teekee explained it this way. “Your Mother is the better driver, black girl, your Daddy jerks and snatches” which is humorous, as Teekee never drove either! Momma did her best, I knew all the safety and all the mechanics and all the how to’s involved.
There was only one small problem. For whatever anniversary it was…let me count…Their nineteenth wedding anniversary, my Dad gave Mom a white Oldsmobile Toronado with red leather interior, electric everything and the stupid car stuck three foot out of the carport! I hated that damn car. It was worse than Mommas sewing machine and that is a whole story in itself! Everytime I got behind that steering wheel the toronado would allow me to adjust the seat so I could see and touch the pedals and set the back rest just so…then it would transform itself into the beast car from Hell!! Stephen King’s story “Christine” was more than likely based in its entirety on my mother’s Toronado!
Go ahead and laugh!! I swear it is the truth!.
OK well, the fact that if I lie I am five foot tall, and at the age of sixteen weighed in around 90 pounds may have had a few things to do with it along with the fact that the length of the car plus the fact I couldn’t see over the end of the hood may have also factored into the equation…a little bit. But not by much!! I am telling you I could hear that car laugh at me!
Every time it was time to retake my driver’s test Momma would smile and say “How bout today Boo? Let’s go try again today, this is your day I can feel it!” the use of the royal “we” notwithstanding; the fact that by the time I was eighteen every cop in the drivers license department knew me didn’t help my confidence! That plus the fact my brother would snicker and say, “You think you’re something on that stupid little dirt bike but you can’t even drive a car can you?” I wanted to sock him! Then I’d get on that dirt bike, walk it across the river road, and take off up the river path as hard and as fast as I could go. That made me feel fine; until the next drivers test came around.
So finally, age eighteen, March of 1971,Graduation from high school coming up and then in September Nursing School at UAB (another story, that one, as my Dad and I had an ongoing ‘discussion’ about ADN versus BSN nursing degrees) and my Momma took me one more time to downtown Birmingham, Alabama and the driver’s test. In those days, I at least never had to retake the written test, but I did have to retake the eye exam every time. I always hoped my eyes had changed so badly I would be reprieved a bit longer but my Mom was smart, eye exam in February, drivers test in March, oh well…I get behind the wheel, set all the adjustments to meet my standards, go through the safety test of lights, brakes, blinkers with the cop and “once more, into the fray” off we go.
It was as horrible as all the other times, except this cop was one I had had the last three times in a row; he’d seen me blush red as a beet, cry in the middle and the end of the test, and be totally silent throughout the whole test. I really think he just felt sorry for me that last time. Because that last test, let me tell you, was the absolute worst! As I said in the beginning, I could not have done a worse job. But I did, oh man, did I ever. I had to parallel park. The nice cop gave me a parking place at the end of a lane, with an alley at the back of the car! How lucky could I get?
I pulled up to the car parked at the next to the last parking spot until my passengers side door was even with that drivers side door, put my arm over the seat, turning my head and body so I could see, turned the wheel and backed up until my passengers side door was even with the other cars back wheel and turned the wheel in the other direction.
Then I hit the telephone pole.
But, as I said, I think he felt sorry for me. That last time was the time I was totally silent the entire time, even when I hit the pole. When we arrived back at the starting point, the cop looked at me and said "Young lady, If I were you, I wouldn’t ever parallel park” and told me I passed.
I burst into tears, my Mom’s face sank into that “Oh dear, not again” look, the cop pounded my shoulder and got out telling Momma I had passed.
He nor I ever told her about the telephone pole!
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