I had to renew my driver’s license on my birthday a couple of months ago. I was concerned that I had all the proper identification that Georgia now requires to get or renew a license. I was doubly concerned because the last time I renewed my license, I wasn’t wearing glasses. I didn’t know if I would have to take the vision test again, and if I should take it with or without my glasses. My nervousness reminded me of the first time I took my driver’s test, 42 years ago.
I don’t know why I was nervous then, after all, I had been practice driving for more than a year, and I was already an ace at pulling in and backing out in a straight line. The house where I grew up in Decatur had a driveway that ran about 50 feet from the street to the garage, which was under the house. The garage was small and narrow, and the driveway, while straight, was equally as narrow as the garage, with a two-foot brick wall on either side. Every time my mom got a new car, the test drive included a trip to the house, so that they could be sure that the car was narrow enough to fit in the driveway, and that it was short enough to fit in the garage with the garage door closed.
That was where I got my first driving lessons, when I turned 13 and started mowing the grass. In order to get the lawn mower out, the car had to be moved out of the garage and driveway. And I had to back out as straight as possible, with teeny tiny adjustments to avoid hitting the sides of the garage and/or the brick walls. There were a few scraped hubcaps along the way, but by the time I turned 15 and got my learner’s license, I was backing out and pulling in without a problem.
Back then, Decatur High School had its own Driver’s Education program. I took the class the summer of my 15th year, and it was quite an experience. We would go out driving with the instructor and three students in the car. I was already knowledgeable about driving a car, but it amazed both me and the instructor when one of my classmates got behind the wheel for the first time and didn’t know what to do. His parents weren’t going to allow him to drive at all until after he’d passed the course, and wouldn’t even let him sit in the front seat and watch what the driver did! He didn’t know how to start the car, put it into gear, or which pedals were use for brakes and gas. Needless to say, while most of us did our practice driving out on the streets, he did most of his in the school parking lot.
The day I turned 16, my mother picked me up from school and we headed to Constitution Avenue in Atlanta where the DMV driving center was. I passed the written test and got into the car with an instructor for the driving test. I drove out into the neighborhood around the test center, stopping at stop signs and signal lights, making proper turns, and heading back to the center. Then I did a lap around the test track, parallel parking and backing into a space. I was passing with flying colors when I rolled up to the office at the end of the test. Another instructor walked across in front of me and I slowed down, but apparently not fast enough for my instructor, who chided me on pedestrians always having the right-of-way. But he still passed me and I’ve been driving since then.
At my license renewal, they didn’t require me to take the vision test, and I had my picture taken without my glasses on. So I’m good for another eight years. Let me know if you need someone to back a car out of a small garage and driveway. I can always use the practice.