Learner’s Permit

In an unchanging small town, I went to elementary school with pretty much the same thirty-some students for eight years.  When we got bused to high school, we were blended in with other area students, now in four different classes of thirty-some students.

Provincial law insisted that students could not leave school until they were sixteen.  There was a local girl whose birthday was in the spring, as opposed to mine, in late September.  She had an older friend who worked in the local beauty parlor, who would train her to be a hair-dresser.  She finished grade eleven, and quit school to take the job.

She quickly established a clientele and made decent money, some of which she saved, to buy a car.  Her house was on the street behind my sister’s.  When she got off the school-bus, she cut through the property, sometimes stopping to talk.  She was a very mature young lady, unlike my immature, scatterbrained sister.  Despite the ten-year difference in ages, they got along well.  When 21 was the legal drinking age, my 26-year-old sister and her just-as-silly husband, used to take her to hotel bars.  My sister drove her to the county seat, to get her learner’s permit.

The next spring, she bought a small car, and practiced her driving skills.  By this time, I had turned 16, and owned a car I couldn’t legally drive.  It was time to get my learners permit.  I spoke to my sister about it.  She said that my ex-classmate had an appointment to take her road test, and if I wanted to come along, I could write my learners exam.

On a lovely, warm, sunny, June day, we set off, the two gals in the front and me in the backseat.  Imagine a triangle of roads, each side 25 miles long.  From our town to the county seat was 25 miles from A to B.  We got to the edge of town, where the road to the county seat split off the main highway.  Instead of taking the A/B road, we continued on the A/C side of the triangle.  I thought we had to pick up something, or someone.

As we entered the next town, five miles on, I asked where we were going.  To the county seat.  But the road back there takes us to the county seat.  We’ve never been that way.  We’re afraid of getting lost, so we’re taking this route.  Oh well, I’ve got all day.  Sure enough, we drove 25 miles south before turning left to drive 25 miles east, on the C/B side of the triangle.

We got about halfway across, when we had a flat tire.  Not a sudden blowout, we must have run over something.  Just a steady TTtthhhh, lub, lub, lub, and the left, rear tire was flat.  The driver pulled the car well off the paved road, and we got out to look at the problem.

Long before Japanese cars reached North America, hers was smaller than any Detroit iron.  It was probably a Taunus or Vauxhall, imported from England.  Two females and me, guess who got volunteered to change the tire!?  Neither of them knew how.  “Where’s the spare tire and jack?”  “I don’t know.  I’ve only owned it a little while, and I’ve never needed them.”

I pulled crap out of the trunk, and finally found what I needed.  North American cars had bumper jacks, because the cars still had bumpers.  I was faced with a scissors jack I’d never seen before, and had to figure where to place it under the car.  Impact-wrench-installed, rusted-on lug nuts finally surrendered, and I got one wheel off, and the replacement on, and at last we were on our merry way again.  Well, they were merry.  I was rust and grease stained, with bloody knuckles.

Of course, she was late for her scheduled road-test.  She tried to convince the examiner to fit her in, but he had a full day.  She had to rebook for another day.  While she was doing this, I wrote my little test and was awarded my learner’s permit.

After a couple of months’ legal driving practice, I drove my Dad to work, took the family car, and my Mom accompanied me as the licensed driver when I went for my road test.  At least we took the short way there.  The capital of the neighboring county was the same distance away, but it was the little city with the big hills.  Tales circulated of testees getting half-way up the cliff road, when the examiner would reach over and turn off the ignition, to see how you dealt with the problem.  I preferred the flatter city, and managed to get my full license on the first try, something that not every teenager accomplished.

The winner loser in that competition was a British woman who took 49 tries, over 22 years, to finally get a driving licence.  Ah, the freedom of the open road.  While I’ve not driven as much as others, like my brother, I’ve been able to visit some picturesque and interesting places.  I’m not sure Detroit qualifies, but that’s where I’m going next month.  Feel free to tag along.  Right now, I’m going to drive over to SightNBytes place, and pick up my most recent blogging award.

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