February 20, 1971
'I’ve Got My License!’
By STANNIE ANDERSON
Look out World, I’m driving!
For 44 years. I hoofed it. People are always telling me, “Why don’t you learn to drive? You’d love it.” (Sure, I’d love Russian roulette, too.)
But came the day I made up my mind to learn, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I’d always been one of those passengers who absolutely ignored the mechanics of driving. Any driver could take me anywhere, without my noticing how we got there.
My lessons were traumatic, not only for me but for my driving instructor. But my advice to any mature person who wants to learn to drive is: Hang in there, and keep trying. If Stannie Anderson can learn to drive safely and get a license, ANYONE can get a license!
My first driving lesson was a real bust. It just didn’t seem safe out there on the streets with all of those cars coming at me. So every time I rounded a corner, I carefully ran the wheels up over it.
I clutched my instructor’s arm with one hand and covered my eyes with the other hand whenever another car headed toward me in the left-hand lane.
Gradually, I became more skillful. I kept an eye out for the fuzz.
Hoping to build my confidence, my instructor had me drive on the interstate. I got the car up to 70 miles per hour before he lost his nerve and directed me to an exit. Of course, those other drivers shaking their fists at me and leaning angrily on their horns may have had something to do with it, too. And it might have been the maniacal gleam in my eyes as I roared down the highway!
Once I almost got a broken foot when my instructor stomped on me while I was parking in back of my neighbor’s car. That engine sure did roar as I jammed down on the accelerator when he said to hit the brake. It shook up my instructor so much that it was a week before he worked up the courage to take me on another driving lesson.
Driving Lesson No. 2 was the most interesting. I had a blowout while going 40 miles an hour. Afterward, my instructor wiped his brow, got out of the car and took a little walk, came back and gently explained that hitting the brakes is a “no, no.”
But he was game. Week after week, he came back for more. Once, an extremely foolish driver made a sudden turn in front of me. I tromped on the brakes so hard my instructor nearly flew through the windshield.
I had such an aversion to getting close to other cars that I sometimes drove the right wheels of the car on the right shoulder of the road. My instructor complained that this was bumpy.
Once I missed a curve, and came to a screeching halt just about a half-foot from a ditch.
Learning to drive made me an impossible passenger in others’ cars. My friends—some of whom have driven 15-25 years—stopped offering me rides. (They were sure making mushy lane changes.) A few times, my 16-year-old son, Mike, who is a good driver, even threatened to park my car and let me find my own way home, if I didn’t stop yelling, “Watch that stop sign!” “See that pedestrian!” and “Look out!”
I think my son is glad that I got my license. Now he can yell at me.
I really think it was downright mean for my editor to caution all the other reporters to stay off streets Friday afternoon while I was taking my driving test. And I don’t understand why all the reporters are asking me to promise not to park next to them in the parking lot.
After all, I’ve got my license!