The Driving Test
There are not many things to look forward to when you turn 16. However, mostly every kid looks forward to getting their license, myself included. I had taken the dreary driver’s education classes. I had gotten my practice dodging oncoming traffic, a.k.a. the required driving lessons. Five buckets of anxious sweat and 400 dollars out of my Dad’s pocket later, I was ready for THE driving test. THE ONE. I was ready.
I got dropped off at the RMV before school dressed in my uniform; white polo and khakis. I was feeling good. Despite that, I admit I was upset over the fact that I wasn’t going to be driving with my regular teacher Mr. Urban. Mr. Urban was one of those Italian dudes that only ever wore Nike golf shirts with the buttons undone showing his gold chain and Tarzan chest hair and addressed everyone as “champ” or “boss”. He thought I was a great driver.
When I entered the car I was met by another instructor from the driving school and a girl my age, also taking the test. The instructor was named Donald; he looked like John Candy…but fatter. The girl was cute but her name escaped me. Before the test, the girl (Kristen?) and I would each go around the test course twice for practice. I was up first. Donald seemed nice enough, until I reached my first stop sign. My chest hit the steering wheel. He had applied his instructor’s brake harder than Van Damme kicking in a door. “AUTOMATIC FAIL!” I went an inch over the stop line. I knew the remainder of my day was going to be really great.
The rest of my practice was filled with him being nitpicky as possible while I shook in my seat in horror and depression. You would’ve thought my name was “AUTOMATIC FAIL” after how many times he had yelled it in my right ear. I had this strange intuition that he didn’t think I was going to pass.
I just wanted to die. I was absolutely certain I would fail. I switched seats with Miranda (…?). My heart was racing. Disappointment and fright rushed over me. I’m not sure if it was because I would have to face embarrassment from my friends, or that my dad was going to crucify me when I wasted his 100 dollars on the test. Maybe a bit of both.
Sarah (I think that’s it) was on round number two. It wasn’t long until I would have to take the test. I could feel my blood pressure rising. I started sweating. It didn’t help that Donald was blasting the heat in the car. I was unaware that we were pretending to take this driving test in Arizona. My body and mind had given up on me. I thought to myself, “This is the worst day of my life.” Little did I know that my day was about to go from bad to “Fuck this. Kill me.” in approximately 5 seconds.
I suddenly felt a drip of liquid running from the top of my nose, to my nostril, and onto my shirt. Sweat? No. I knew exactly what it was, but I didn’t have the heart to look down. I somehow gained the courage to tilt my head down to my white polo…
As a kid I suffered from chronic nose bleeds. Dry heat was my enemy. You could look at me the wrong way and I would probably start pouring buckets. Between my rising blood pressure and the Arizona heat simulation, it was only a matter of time. I immediately raised my hands to my face to catch some of it, but all that did was create a nice blood waterfall through my fingers onto my shirt.
“Uh…Donald. We got a problem…my nose is bleeding.” He peered wide-eyed through the rearview mirror to see the carnage that had been completed in a matter of seconds. “Do you have a tissue or napkins up there?” None. He had nothing. I was in luck, though. We happened to be in between a Wendy’s, KFC, D’angelos, Boston Market, and Dunkin Donuts.
Perfect. Napkin city.
“Could we pull over and get some napkins? It’s getting pretty bad…”
I was now wearing a red polo.
“Sorry son, we can’t pull over. She paid for this test run, wouldn’t be fair if she couldn’t finish.”
I then knew Donald was really determined to take a shit on my day. Was he getting off on this? The elevator from The Shining had just opened on me, but yet he could not spare one fuck on my situation.
I was in disbelief. I was bleeding out like a bullet ridden 1920s gangster in the back seat of this car, but this asshole couldn’t get me a napkin from Wendy’s. He found a piece of paper in the side door and threw it at me, “Sorry kid, this is all I’ve got.” Luckily, I was an expert at stopping nose bleeds. I considered myself to be a real Bear Grylls because I had managed to stop the bleeding with a “Safe Driving Tips” handout in a matter of minutes.
I’m still waiting on the Discovery Channel to send me a contract for my new show “Extreme Driving.”
Donald in the meantime had found some wet naps in the glove compartment— such a nice guy. Emily (…no, that’s not right) just started to practice her parallel parking. She looked into the rearview mirror to reverse into the spot, only to see me half-dead in the back seat cleaning up the crime scene with two Texas Roadhouse wet naps. It dawned on me that this was the first time she had gotten a good look at me. We met each other’s gaze and my eyes said it all, “I am so. so. sorry.” No wonder why I forgot her name. I honestly felt bad for her because little did she know her driving test was going to end up this fun.
We finally made it back to the RMV. Donald asked with now great concern, “Nate, do you want to go inside and clean up in the bathroom?” I gave him the dirtiest look I could muster.
“I don’t think so Donald. I look like I just murdered 10 people. So no, I don’t think I want to go inside.”
I called up my brother Evan for a change of clothes while I cleaned my face with the paper towels and Windex Donald had found in the trunk— such a nice guy. Windex really does miracles for your complexion.
My brother arrived and I changed in the parking lot. My pile of shame was getting higher and higher, but I just didn’t care anymore. I got back in the car with Donald and Samantha (I give up.) and waited for the RMV test guy to show up. Donald tried small talk, but I was too busy silently plotting to kill him. The guy finally showed up and we started the test. When I started my day I was nervous and anxious, but at this point I had nothing to lose.
After all of that, I actually nailed the test.
“Great job Nate! Enjoy it!” You’ve got to be kidding me. I gave Donald the death stare while I screamed “fuck you” in my head. My brother met me inside the RMV to fill out the rest of the paperwork. “So Nate, you think you want to go to school after this?…”
“No bud, I don’t think I do.”
“Are you even excited you got your license?!”
It took me a month to get back in the driver’s seat again.
Looking back, I’m just glad I’m still alive due to the amount of blood that left my body that morning. If I had known beforehand, I would’ve called the Red Cross to join me and take advantage of my spontaneous donation.
Who would have ever guessed that one of the most defining and exciting moments of being 16 would actually give me PTSD?
Some “Sweet Sixteen” that was.