I get honked at a lot. Not the “Hey sexy walking on the sidewalk” kind of honk, but the “Hey you really suck at driving” kind. I’m not a slow driver, or absent minded, just bad. I’ve always been bad at driving, and it’s only sort of my fault.
When I was 15 years old, I enrolled in the mandatory driver’s ed course, the teacher never made me do anything more than parking lots. The other kids in the class always tried to sign up for driving practice in my group because whatever group I was in always got to stop for ice cream, “teacher’s treat.” One student would drive to the ice cream store, with the teacher in the passenger seat and me and another student in the back. Then I would drive successfully around the parking lot, and we would get ice cream. Then the other student would drive back to the building where class was held. Yeah it was weird, and no, the teacher wasn’t a creep. He just was really lenient with me and liked to buy me ice cream and give me A’s on all my tests. So I passed driver’s ed without ever learning how to drive on an actual road.
I never had to take a road test at the DMV either. Hopefully this practice has changed, but 10 years ago, in Iowa, the DMV would pick a random number between 1-31 each month. If the number was 22, for example, if you went to get your driver’s license and your birthday was on the 22nd of any month, you had to take a drivers test (on an actual road). If it was any other day, you didn’t have to. Why would they do this? My best guess is that way they only need to have one road test administrator every day and maybe a few more on the 22nd when a bunch of just-turned-16 year olds would be eager to get their license. Of course, if you weren’t too eager, you could always just wait until the next month when the number would change and avoid taking the test. I did take the written test. I passed it on my third try. But who follows those rules anyway?
So I was issued a driver’s license but didn’t know how to drive. My parents were aware of this, of course, and made me log in extra hours practicing with them before I was allowed to drive by myself. The first time I ever drove by myself, about a month after getting my license, I was on my way to work and had to cross Locust, which was a pretty busy street. I hadn’t developed my sense of timing as a driver yet, so my technique was “just close your eyes, push hard on the gas, and pray.” This was the first time I ever tried this technique, and I made it across the street and continued on. Behind me on Locust street, I heard the squealing of tires and honking. I’m not sure if the loud crash sound was real or something I imagined. But the local paper didn’t have anything about it the next day, so I think everything was probably ok.
Now that I’ve been driving for nearly 10 years, I’m a lot better than that, but still pretty stupid sometimes. I somehow memorized a rule I call “Left on red.” It sounds correct in my head, like “i before e, except after c” and I think I have finally re-trained myself that “left on red” is very wrong.
LA drivers have little patience with me, and I get honked at A LOT. But get this, I have never ever honked my horn. Not even once. Sometimes I want to, when someone tries to merge into my lane and doesn’t see I’m there, but I never do. I hesitate, afraid that my horn will startle the other driver and cause an accident. I don’t even honk when someone does something illegal, like “right on red.”**
**Just kidding about right on red. Mom, if you happen to read, this, I’m sorry if I scared you.