I took driver’s ed after school at a big empty parking lot behind the RIchmond Braves ballpark across the river from the side of Richmond I lived on. Maybe it was summer. The class focused on the practical part of driving. I am sure a family member must have spent time teaching me how to drive a car with a manual transmission (ease up on the clutch while pressing down on the accelerator at just the right time so the engine doesn’t stall out), my memory of learning to drive is from that big, empty parking lot. We drove in and out of orange cones and practiced other driving skills; backing up, parallel parking, Y-turns, U-turns, etc.
I have a reputation for driving a bit too fast so this recollection from the day of my driving test will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. The test was near the ball park – not in my neighborhood – so it was on wide city streets divided by grassy, planted medians and cars parked on the right side of the street. Old Richmond – Brook Avenue – to be exact. Not the place where I’d done most of my practice driving.
I was in the left-most driving lane, closest to the median, when the instructor asked if I heard a siren. I didn’t but I figured he was testing whether or not I knew to pull to the right for an emergency vehicle. I merged to the right lane and had a moment of panic as I realized I didn’t know what to do about getting all the way over since cars are parked there. No need to worry – the instructor hadn’t hear a siren either. When I asked where the siren was, he said he hadn’t heard one either but he figured there must be a fire somewhere by how fast I was driving!
My parallel parking skills must have compensated for what my mother calls my “lead foot” (she should know she has one too) because I passed the driving test on my first attempt.