Learning To Drive

Like many 16 year olds, I was at the DMV the morning of my birthday, aced the test, and had my learner’s permit burning a hole in my pocket by noon, when I unwrapped a tiny box, a gift from my mother. It was a key chain with a little red convertible with real functioning head lights on one hand, and a key dangling off the other. “Don’t get too excited,” said my mother, but I knew. I knew it was a key to the family Ford Aerostar, a hideous forest-green hulking rust monster, but I loved it all the same.

But that key never got put into an ignition. Not for days and weeks and months. I was the oldest and my mother was having none of that. Teach a teenager to drive? No thank you. So the task S730830122222would fall to my crazy abusive father, right in the throes of their dirty, nasty divorce. So after my first lesson with him left me shaking and hurting on the side of the road, I chose not to repeat. I’d saved up babysitting money  (two dollars and 50 gruelling cents an hour, thankyouvermuch) to go to driver’s ed, and so twice a week my grandmother would drive wayyyy out to my country-bumpkin school, pick me up, give me lemonade in a mayonnaise jar and cookies in an old pharmacy bag, and drive me very very slowly into the city for my lessons.

What I learned first and foremost was that driving instructors are sexist. But when my lessons ended, so did my driving. Mom still wasn’t having it and dad was a lost cause. So I was a non-driving spaz, until suddenly the expiry date was upon and if I let it lapse, I’d not only have to start over, I’d have to repay as well, which you might be noticing was not really an option for me at the time. So what I did was: I broke the law. My great friend Anna took me out in her parents’ van and let me practice once or twice. A learner’s permit means you can only drive with a 1329492434321_9055156licensed, adult driver, but what choice did I have? So I went to get my G-2 having only ever driven a couple of times, and almost never in the car I was testing in. I told almost no one, certain I would fail, but of course Anna had blabbed to my whole history class in my absence and it was goddamn good thing that I passed when my teacher put me on the spot.

And then I didn’t drive again for a decade. I moved away to a big city for University. I didn’t have a car, couldn’t have afforded to even park a car. A few years later the third installment of the graduated licensing testing came up and I couldn’t even afford that. So I let it lapse. The truth was, it wasn’t just the money. It was also the fear. I’d taken all the anxiety of driving with my father and blamed cars instead of him. I believed that I “couldn’t” drive, that I was worthless, and I was stuck. I moved to an even bigger city and wouldn’t have had a car no matter what. It was pedestrian-friendly, which I love, and transit-supporting, which I navigated well.

But then I moved back here to Ottawa and got a reality check in the form of a bus driver strike. I was surprised to have my independence taken away so easily, and as the strike went on, week after week, in the frigid Canadian winter, I was also in danger of losing my livelihood. Cabs were impossible to get. The city was being held hostage. I thankfully had a good-hearted boyfriend who threw kinks into his own schedule in order to negotiate mine. But I made a new year’s resolution to learn to drive, and then hyperventilated for months at the mere thought of it. But then I signed up for a couple of lessons and went for my test and: passed. Of course I’m leaving 206out the copious vomiting and panic attacks. Assume lots of both. Imagine the puddles I left in parking lots across the city! To celebrate, I went out two days later and bought myself a little bug. I still had anxiety, and nearly getting killed when someone ran a red light didn’t help. But I’ve had three bugs in a row (Gloria, Emma, Ruby), cute, zippy little cars, and you know what I drive today? A little red convertible. Life is like that.

Of course, the movie Learning To Drive neglects to mention any of my fraught personal experience with driving. But it is about Patricia Clarkson, who needs to learn to drive homepage_LearningtoDrive-2015-1particularly after her husband leaving her means not just curbing her independence but the shrinkage of her world. Luckily Ben Kingsley aggressively offers her driving lessons, whether she’s ready for them or not. His arranged marriage really calls her own feelings about marriage into question. The plot, if you can call it that, is a bit predictable. But it’s also languid and full-bodied. It’s not a dazzler but Clarkson and Kingsley would make almost anything worthwhile. This is a film for adults, and Christ, I guess that means I am one. Goes down well with a bottle of wine.

 

Sidebar: one of my favourite bits of the movie is when Patricia Clarkson can’t quite see herself in a red car. “What would it say about me?” she asks, and Ben Kingsley whispers in her ear “Don’t fuck with me.” Her smirk says she’s sold. So what does the colour of your car say about you?

Gold: Warm, intelligent, glamorous

Dark green: Well-Balanced, trustworthy, traditional

Light green: Organic, no-fuss, understated

Yellow: Joyful, sense of humor, sunny disposition, risk-taker

Brown: Powerful, unique, no-nonsense

Beige: Natural, down-to-earth

Orange: Artistic, individual, complex, charming

Light-mid blue: Calm, faithful, true, stable
Dark blue: Confident, credible, authoritative, dependable

Gray: Neutral, sober, practical

Red: Sensual, dynamic, outgoing (vibrant red = bold personality, a go-getter & confident; maroon or wine colour = more subtle)

Silver: Futuristic, prestigious, elegant, maybe a little pretentious

Pearl: Glamorous, exciting, sophisticated

White: Pure, pristine, direct; fresh, young & modern

Black: Powerful, classic, elegant

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31 thoughts on “Learning To Drive

  1. fragglerocking

    Definitely on the to do list. I took to driving like a duck to water and have driven in loads of different countries as well as it being a big part of my job, on my bucket list is to drive a Winnebago across USA.

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    1. Jay Post author

      On my bucket list is to be driven in a winnebago across Canada.
      I definitely don’t drive in foreign places. I am an excellent map reader but i can’t navigate at all when I’m driving. I get lost all the time. I only know one or two routes to work and to home, and everything else is a mystery.

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  2. Jay Post author

    There’s a spot in the movie where Kingsley tells her she’ll have to check her road rage and learn to let her anger go. I confess: I’m a terribly angry driver. I’m not like that at all in real life, but behind the wheel I’m in a constant rage!

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  3. kmSalvatore

    Ong.. Can I ever relate Jay, except it wasn’t an abusuve Father it was an abusuve husband.. Well hexeentvtobtbe curb years and years ago. But your story hit me hard, scars well healed;)!!!!
    I have always , well once I was brave enough to to buy and drive my own car, bought Black cars.
    Yep, I think I’ll look for this movie;)!!

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  4. Sarca

    The geography of Sudbury is not kind to the pedestrian, and neither is Sudbury Transit. Ergo, you are beggin’ for that license the minute you turn 16! It took me one month and 11 days to get my license. That includes the crash course and lessons from Laurentian Driving School. 😀

    Love the bugs. Never owned one myself, but they seem cute.

    BTW Jay, I spied them shoes you were sporting in your pic – dayym! Those look like 10-minute shoes! My dogs be barking after 5 wearing those!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, my mom lived in the suburbs of a small town, so transit wasn’t even an option. It sucked!
      And obviously you got in just before graduated licensing – lucky duck!

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  5. Sarca

    Oh, and my Matrix is navy. Which says I am confident. I didn’t actually choose the colour. It was used and available for purchase at a good price, so I bought it.

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  6. ridicuryder

    Jay,

    I’m not surprised you’re a Bug woman and going topless in red these days.

    I’m fucking shocked you didn’t steal the Aerostar and tour the Atlantic provinces with some friends the first chance you got.

    RR

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  7. Birgit

    Oh I want to see this movie because of the stars involved. I got my license in 1980. All I had to do was get my beginners, got to driver’s Ed and then get my license. I grew up in the country so having a car was a must. My mom was very patient so i was lucky. I drove all the back roads. I went to a town where we heard it was easy to get your driver’s license. Of course, my car always broke down plus I had a thin-lipped Nazi for the test. My car wouldn’t start and he just started to bellow that I didn’t even know how to start a car and that I was wasting his time. Thankfully, there was a mechanic there and he knew the problem and the car started. While he was looking at my car, my mom proceeded to give the Nazi a piece of her mind. I got so flustered, I forgot I had the car in reverse! My test lasted 10 minutes and it was the only time I did a great parallel park. When we ended the test…he gave me the paper…I passed! I believe my mom scared the living s&^$ out of him.

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  8. calensariel

    LOVED the post! I, myself, flunked the driver’s test three times as I couldn’t parallel park worth a crap! I think the guy (same one every time) finally just took pity on me.

    Oh, and we drive a medium purple Sable. So what are we??? 😀

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  9. Jean Reinhardt

    I really identify with this post (the anxiety and panic bits). I didn’t sit my test until I was in my late forties and living in a foreign country with no local transport service. I had to take my test in Spanish and I could barely speak it. After two attempts at the theory test and three practical ones I finally passed. To this day I really think they got fed up looking at me and passed me on sheer determination, lol. It made me laugh that your’s is the first post I’ve read this morning. Our youngest is about to study for her theory test and we are on our way into the city to buy her the driving test questions book and CD ROM but at least she’ll be sitting her test in English. I still have my licence and I still hate driving.

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  10. DotedOn

    Oh Jay! I can relate to this!! I still don’t have my driver’s license (at least, not the German one, so I can’t drive here). It’s taking forever and the fact that I still hate driving, doesn’t help!
    I’ll watch this movie for sure! I like Patricia Clarkson 🙂

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  11. Courtney Small

    “Goes down well with a bottle of wine”

    This sums the film up perfectly. I finally watched this film last night and, while not very deep, it did help to lighten my mood after all the sad new coming out of Paris. Clarkson and Kingsley are enjoyable enough to take your mind of things for a few hours…which is all we can ask for from this type of film.

    On a side note, my car is dark blue. Not sure if I meet the criteria associated with such a colour though. lol

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