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When I was first learning to drive at age 19, my dad had a turquoise ‘57 Chevy with gears on the column.
My younger brother, Keith, was forever wanting to go to Melvin Hinton’s store for any reason just so he could change the gears for me. You see, I couldn’t get the sequence of stepping on the clutch and changing the gears, so he would sit right next to me, tell me when to hit the clutch and let off of it, and he changed the gears.
Yep, it worked like a charm. Back then, all the roads to Melvin’s store were dirt roads and we would go faster than Daddy would ever have driven that old Chevy. I still wonder how we lived beyond 20 years old.
Another thing those old cars had was a little silver foot clicker to dim the lights — remember those? It became really interesting when you were meeting someone, trying to change gears and dim the lights at the same time, especially on a hill. All these were the reasons I didn’t get a license until I was 20 years old — and the fact that I didn’t think I could master parallel parking.
When we bought a ‘65 Plymouth Fury III with automatic gears and they eliminated the requirement of parallel parking from the driving test, I was ready — or so I thought.
I’ll never forget the day I went to get my first driver’s license. My daddy went with me and that morning as I was getting ready, he very quietly but in a plainspoken fashion said to me “Go ‘dressed’ to get your license.”
I, of all things, am not an idiot. I did as he suggested and put on my nicest dress and shoes, splashed on perfume, put finishing touches on my hair and sashayed to the DMV examiner’s office at the town hall in Spring Hope.
Scared to death doesn’t even come close to explaining what I was going through that morning.
They required hand signals back then so, on a very cold February morning, I left my window down during the entire road test. I had two attempts at the three-point turn and I can’t remember the other things I did wrong.
When we returned to the office, the examiner sat in the car with me and very methodically went over every incident and I wanted to crawl back to Gold Valley.
Then he very politely said, “Come on in and let’s write your license up.”
I could have screamed for joy. Thank you, Daddy, for your words of wisdom.
Jan Mills is The Enterprise’s customer service representative. Reach her at 252-478-3651 and firstname.lastname@example.org.