There are a lot of pics of me doing lots of things but driving isn’t one of them. Figured I would use this pic because at least I’m in a car in the pic.
I was never one of those kids who grew up wanting to get their license at 16. In fact, I didn’t want to get my license. I always saw driving as a big responsibility. Who hasn’t seen roadside accidents and heard horror stories? Unfortunately, Uncle Sam felt like I should have a driver’s license so while I was in Korea my supervisor would take me out for driving lessons. I would guess I was about 19 or 20 at the time. Most soldiers don’t have a car in Korea unless they’re there long term, a normal deployment is 1 year. We took cabs everywhere or walked. You know I preferred cabs. Since not everyone had a car, I had to learn to drive using a supply truck that had no power steering. Talk about wide right turns! I remember having to cross the intersection behind a truck and I couldn’t see the signal, I’m yelling asking what to do. Or the time where my supervisor Sgt Major who was also a friend pushed his hand on my leg trying to get me to go faster. We had another friend in the car with us at the time. She was screaming at him as was I. My driving lessons weren’t too involved. We would drive to Burger King, eat, hang out for a bit, then go back to the station (I worked at a military TV station). But eventually, we figured I would be ok to take the driving test. I must have found a car to drive for the test because I know it wasn’t a truck I tested with. Sgt. Major was sitting in the back seat while I tested. The tester was Korean. Keep in mind, us Asians like to support our peeps. In Korea, they’re proud to see an Asian in the US Army and I was a female. I could have driven into a car and still passed the test. Whew, I had my military driver’s license with only a little damage to some shrubbery.
Once I got stateside I never got around to getting an actual license. I didn’t want or need one. I usually sat in the back seat because as soon as I would get in the car, I would fall asleep. I think it goes back to when I was a kid. We moved from Illinois to Oregon in a hatchback with kids sitting on laps and in the trunk. Times were different, LOL. We were basically sardines. So the only escape during this long drive was sleeping. Dad would joke that he could take us to the mall and we couldn’t find our ways home because we were all asleep by the time we got there. I love waking up and being at my destination.
Two years later, the Army again decided I needed to have an actual US driver’s license. I didn’t need one for ID purposes, I had my military ID card. So back to practicing driving again. My co-worker Bennie took me out driving. He had a boat of a car. I had to sit forward in order for my feet to touch the gas. We had a Sgt, a grizzled old man who had been around forever. He was a black man with big bulging eyes. I remember stopping extremely short of the stop sign and then couldn’t decide whether to cross or make my way up to the stop sign. Of course, I crossed and he was coming from the other direction. As we cross paths, all I see are the whites of his eyes as he stares me down. Traumatizing (for him, LOL).
I go in to do my driver’s test and it turns out because I had a military driver’s license I didn’t have to take the driver’s test. Yep, I got my license without ever having to parallel park. Ahhh, that explains so much.
I worked in a unit that had 3 different teams. Each week the teams would rotate who the daily driver was to the Pentagon, I was stationed in Ft Meade at the time which is halfway between Baltimore and D.C. Because I didn’t drive for 2 years, every time it was my team’s turn to drive they made me drive…a van…into D.C traffic. The roads were always under construction and I had to drive between cement barriers. Talk about stressful, for me and my passengers. Luckily I didn’t have too much time left in the Army. Those drives were awful, although it was always wonderful to drive down the street and see the Capital Building. I do love the architecture in D.C.
Eventually, I bought a car at an auction. My first Hyundai. A total lemon, what do I know about cars? But I got it working and when it was time to drive home to WA my brother Gramer came out to help me. Keep in mind we were hauling a Uhaul. I didn’t have a lot, but more than would fit in my car. I should have sold it off. My brother did the majority of the driving. Then he got tired and since I had been sleeping all day I took over. A relatively new driver…middle of the night…towing a Uhaul. My poor brother woke up to the sight of a Semi truck coming at us head on. I didn’t slow down enough going around a curb at the same time I wanted to ask my brother a question about where we were going and the momentum of the Uhaul whipped us around. Wish I could say that’s the only time I did an 180 on the freeway but the second time wasn’t my fault, it was black ice. Needless to say, my brother drove the rest of the way home.
Over time, I got better and more comfortable. After the black ice incident, I hated driving in snow but am pretty comfortable in rain, you have to be around here. I still prefer not to drive, I’ll have Nancy drive if we’re going somewhere but I can drive. When I worked at Northwest Cable News I always drove when we went out so the boys would drink. Even tho they loved having me drive so that they could drink, they were also the ones who came up with the term DWA: Driving While Asian. I’m actually a decent driver, but an awful parker. If no one is around, I’m great but I hate having people watch me park. A 3 point turn becomes a 20 point turn so pretty much drunk or sober, one of the boys will get out and park the car for me if parallel parking is involved.
When I moved to Los Angeles Nancy drove down with me because I didn’t want to drive there and when we got there Nancy did the driving until she left. It was for the best. But I learned to navigate the not so mean streets of Los Angeles. If you can avoid the highways during rush hour it’s not too bad.
Vegas was only 4 hours away so I would go there to party and see my friends but 4 hours of driving was way too much for me. I would drive for 2 hours then stop in Barstow and take a nap. Usually at the Taco Del Mar so I could grab a couple of chicken soft tacos too. So it was funny when I got a job in Atlanta that I was going to drive cross country by myself. We were all nervous about that. Luckily by then cell phones existed so I would call and talk to someone for 2 hours then call someone else and talk to them. The drive was pretty uneventful except the part where my car engine blew up in the middle of Nebraska and I had no idea where I was. I had to throw my purse over my shoulder and run (ok walk) up the highway until I saw a mile marker sign. Oh, I was wearing pajamas, I like to be comfortable. Thank goodness some good pedestrians stopped, they couldn’t help with the car but they could tell me where I was so I could relay to the tow truck driver. Long story short, car was dead so I got a rental car, threw all of my stuff in it and off I went again.
Now I’m a total road warrior. I’ve been cross-country a few times and can even drive for more than 2 hours, thanks to phones and audiobooks. I’m getting ready to hit the road again soon. Who knows what adventures will ensue but I do know two things for sure, my car will have beef jerky and funyuns in it and I’m going to need a nap.