The time has come.
Last Sunday I had a six-hour road safety class in preparation for getting my drive on. Obviously everyone gets their permit here at 16 so the class was basically me and 20 15-and-a-half-year-olds. You know that scene in Elf when Buddy is in the classroom? Well it was kinda like that. I was most definitely the odd one out.
I found the class quite helpful, although I already knew most of the practical stuff from just being a passenger. Our teacher, Officer Perez, was gas though. He’s a cop, and a retired marine, and he’s exactly how you’re imagining him. The first lesson of the day was about integrity. The second was respect. I’ll tell you something for nothing, I’d rather eat a bee than be a teenager again. People treat you like an idiot if they think you’re 15.
I did learn one major thing though: FEAR. Officer Perez’s favourite thing was telling us about the car wrecks he sees all the time being a cop. He illustrated how dangerous drinking and driving is with some lovely pictures of dead bodies and showed us footage of a pedestrian being mowed down by a red light runner. He put the shits up me, basically. Since then I see every intersection as a Potential Kill Zone (Officer Perez’s words) and look at the car as a big Murdering Machine (mine). But because public transport around here seems to be reserved for rapists and hobos, not driving is just not an option.
So with my shiny new Instruction Permit in my wallet, today I had my first practical lesson, which lasted a whopping three hours. Surprise surprise, my instructor was another former military man but he was slightly less intense than Officer Perez. In fact, he was lovely. And, much to my surprise, so was driving. I already had some experience back home but it’s a completely different ball game over here. Like, not only do you drive on the wrong side of the road, but you can do mad stuff like turn right on a red light. Oh, you crazy Americans!
After driving around Chandler, into downtown Phoenix and around the airport (who knew I’d be able to do all that?) we got to the scary bit: the freeway. I was apprehensive cos the traffic moves so fast, and merging is basically a one way ticket to Terror Town, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually handy not having to stop at lights every five seconds and you get used to the speed quick sharp.
After we came in from the open road, I had to practice some parallel parking, which I’ll be tested on when the Big Day comes. Outstanding. That’s how the instructor described my first attempt. I am unbearably smug now and am rather excited about doing some more practicing and (hopefully) passing my test in the next few weeks. Bring it on!