Thursday, June 07, 2018
I'll Always Remember the First Time
I lead a small writing group through the Council on Aging called Fun in Writing. We meet every Wednesday afternoon. Each week, I give the members a prompt to write a short piece from. I decided that I had all these kicking around, I might as well use them for something. This prompt was called I'll Always Remember the First Time and I wrote it 6/25/08
Driving a car for the first time is a big deal for a teenager. I vaguely remember the first time I got behind the wheel, but I don't have a clear remembrance of it. It wasn't a disaster, I do know that. However, I do remember very clearly the first time I drove with the driver's ed instructor.
In the town where I grew up in western Nebraska, there was a huge bluff to the southwest of town. It had a steep, narrow road going up the outer edge of the bluff and, for the very brave, an even steeper, narrower path. There were parts of that road I hated as a passenger. I had never driven up the Bluff before. I also had never driven a big car. Ours was a Pontiac Bonneville, but the driver's ed car was Cadillac De Ville, V-8 and HUGE. The hood and front seat were nearly as long as our entire car.
Coach Thompson came to get me at home one Saturday. Back in those days, they didn't have a closed course at the school. Instead, we drove around town, in the country and wherever else the coaches felt like going that day. I had expected to have another person with me, but the other kid was sick, so it was just me.
We fastened our seat belts and Coach Thompson said, "Drive to the Bluff."
I checked my mirrors and pulled carefully away from the curb the way I had been taught. I knew my way to the Bluff. By the time we'd made the fifteen minute drive, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I pulled in the parking lot and Coach Thompson said, "You did great. Now drive up."
He nodded and pointed.
"Up there? You've got to be kidding."
"Go ahead. It's not that hard." He looked smug.
I seriously wanted to punch him. I was thinking, "Not hard for you maybe!" But I kept it to myself.
Did I mention that I was terrified of heights? I didn't tell Coach Thompson either. Maybe I should have, but I was embarrassed enough as it was. I didn't need him to tease me about it, and he would have.
I started up just fine. But by the time we'd made it halfway up, other cars were coming down. I was trying to maneuver a car roughly the size of Texas and handled about as well as a tank, up this narrow road with a stone wall three feet from the side.
Coach Thompson had lost some of his smugness by now. Watching the car get closer to the wall with each passing vehicle, it was finally making an impression.
"Move over," he warned on a particularly close turn. "Move over. Move over!"
Okay, yelling at me was not helping. By the time we got to the top, my hands ached and I could hardly stand up, my knees shook so. We walked around, talked to the other coaches and students as the men decided to go were to go next. I had relaxed by this time, thinking Coach Thompson was going to drive down. Wrong!
There was even more traffic on the road than we had met coming up. I was petrified! Now instead of a rock wall, I had a guardrail and a LONG WAY DOWN! Somewhere along the way, my mind shut down and went on autopilot. I don't remember the rest of the ride. Somehow we made it down in one piece and didn't go over the edge or crash in the badlands.
After that, we drove over to Torrington, WY about thirty minutes away. We had lunch and I sat there hoping we could go home soon. I was the only girl in the bunch with a passel of coaches and jocks. They were prepared to spend the rest of the day, or so it seemed. I decided right then, sitting in that crappy little diner in Wyoming, I was in my own, personal hell and I was never, ever going to forget my first official drive.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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