I am not an awesome driver.
It all started when I was 15 and decided it was about time I tried out this driving thing. I didn’t have my permit yet, so my Mom said I could give the driveway a try. She turns in, we trade places and it’s at about this point I realize I know absolutely nothing about driving a car. By that I don’t mean I was unclear on the finer points of parallel parking and cruise control. I mean I literally did not know which pedal was the gas and which was the brake. So we all know how well this turned out.
After a minute or so I finally figured out how to put the car in drive, shakily eased off the brake, and hit the gas. Except the wheel was still turned all the way around from when my Mom had turned in. Meaning we went careening to the left for about 20 feet before I managed to get my foot off the gas and find the brake again. Really I think it was the fact that we were suddenly going uphill that stopped us more than I did.
Of course there was a tree involved. Being the overachiever that I was in high school, I didn’t just hit the tree. Doing an almost perfect reenactment of the Titanic hitting the iceberg, I dragged the entire length of the car against that tree. Leaving no surface unscratched and the driver’s side mirror hanging limply by a wire. Afterward we both just sort of sat there panting and shaking in stunned silence for a while.
Needless to say my Mom and I (and the tree) were pretty much scarred for life. I’ve been involved in a few accidents since and although none of those were actually my fault, they each made me that much more nervous. A bit of caution can be good in most situations, but when you hesitate behind the wheel it can really turn out badly, especially when you’re surrounded by city drivers. Since I moved to DC I have been slowly learning how to drive a bit more aggressively. It really is kill or be killed around here.
Today I was reminded of that delightful first driving experience when I was trying to merge to the left in heavy traffic. The car in front of me chose the exact moment I was checking my blind spot to hit their brakes. I turned back around just in time to think huh. I’m going to hit them. And then I did. Don’t panic Mom! It was just a fender bender. Thankfully no one was hurt. Although I’m confident my bank account and insurance premium are going to take quite a hit in the near future. And my friends can look forward to having Nervous McGee behind the wheel again.
I blame the tree.