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D.C.’s car cell-phone ban is very wise, I discovered during my driving lesson this weekend. But I’d take it a step further: Don’t let people talk in cars at all.

That’s because conversation saps precious mental resources from such tasks as noticing stop signs. While silent, I drove like a pro, cruising at speeds upward of forty miles per hour. I spent several minutes on a four-lane road without breaking a sweat. Then, I turned left, boldly crossing a lane of oncoming traffic. I even remembered to check my mirrors with some frequency—-no mean feat given my one-month driving hiatus.

Things went south when I told Jason (my friend and driving instructor) about a strange personal essay I recently read. In it, a Poynter Institute scholar has a moral quandary in a church bathroom, involving a little boy and his zipper. Seriously. And to top things off, the writer then posted a link on his blog to solicit admiration for his hackneyed literary devices.

Thus distracted, I rolled right past a stop sign. A few minutes later, I nearly knocked off Jason’s left mirror while slaloming through parked cars on a narrow street.

Rattled, I turned over the wheel to my instructor, who drove to a church so I could practice parking. At first, I didn’t have much luck—-either I hit an imaginary car, or I ended up all crooked in the space. But just as I was about to give up, a church-bound lady flashed me a reassuring smile. I pulled into the next space without a hitch.

Maybe she was an angel.

Driving lesson 5
Destination: McLean
Lessons learned: Don’t talk and drive
Weather conditions: Cold
Sadie: B
Jessica: Truant