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The other weekend, Jessica Gould went camping in lieu of driving, and she left me all alone with a new instructor: my boyfriend, Tim.

I wanted to put Tim at ease, to make him feel like he was not going to meet a low-speed demise in a Zipcar named “Yuletide.” So I projected an easy confidence as I took the wheel.

“Press down on the brake pedal and take the parking brake off,” said Tim. Easy enough, I thought, but which one is the brake again? I flashed back to Lesson #1, when Jessica mused on pedal placement.

“It makes sense that the brake pedal is bigger than the gas,” she said. Or was it the other way around? I decided to guess, and I guessed wrong. A look of panic flashed in my instructor’s eyes as Yuletide’s engine revved.

To Tim’s credit, he didn’t take my keys away, and we went on to drift around Wheaton. This particular neighborhood had many dead ends, which gave me opportunity to perfect my three-point turn. Less accommodating to driving lessons was this one narrow street with a very large boat parked right behind a father washing a car with his young daughter, who had a glint in her eyes like she was just itching to dart out in front of me.

Yes, I could see eye glints. I took this particular obstacle course at about 2 miles per hour.

I also had trouble with the many four-way stops in this particular community. I prefer to let everyone go first, including vehicles that got to the intersection just a little after me as well as those still five or six blocks away. “Don’t confuse other drivers,” said Tim, who waved on several cars while I was paralyzed with indecision.

On the way home, we drove under the Beltway. I could see cars zipping along at speeds that would make me catatonic. On that congested interstate, one poor decision would seem all too easily to lead to human tragedy on a massive scale.

“Someday, you’ll drive on that,” Tim said.

Next time: Jessica and I learn the importance of imagination.


Destination: Wheaton
Weather Conditions: Unseasonably warm
Lessons Learned: Don’t confuse other drivers.
Sadie: B.
Jessica: Truant