I opened the door and flung myself into the passenger seat, slouching down as far as my long legs would allow. Without a word, I shook my head, then folded my arms across my chest, completely dejected.
"What happened?" my mother asked.
I didn't want to answer, preferring to let tears do the talking. But the tears wouldn't come. Shock coupled with disbelief and disappointment left me numb. It wasn't real, it couldn't be. I was in the middle of a bad dream and I would wake up to realize my day was only beginning, instead of wimpering to an end.
"I didn't get it," I mumbled. I didn't want to offer any other details. Details would mean it actually happened.
We rode home in silence, interrupted by my mother's occassional listless attempts to cheer me up. "You can try again in a couple weeks," "It's not the end of the world," and blah blah blah.
I walked in the house and headed straight for my room, bypassing my father's reclining form planted on the sofa in front of the family room televsion. Hiding under my covers, I could hear my parents discussing me. The comforter covering my head wasn't enough to drown out their voices. Their voices kept me from convincing myself it was all a dream. And dreams overtook my addled brain when denial rocked me to sleep.
"Lizzie!!" my father bellowed. "Telephone."
My eyes opened to darkness and the familiar thunder of Daddy's voice. Comprehension came quickly and I staggered to the phone in my parent's bedroom.
"Hello," I croaked.
"Did you get it?" Jailbait asked, her tone breathless with anticipation.
"Are you kidding me?"
"Dead ass," I replied.
"What happened this time?" she inquired.
Coming to terms with the reality of the situation, I provided the details I had previously been unwilling to give. "Some crap about speeding in a school zone! I didn't even see a freakin school."
Laughter was her response. Uncontrollable, side splitting, hiccuping laughter.
"Oh shut up," I snapped.
"Umm, Liz how many times have you failed your road test now?"
"Only five, and one of them doesn't count," I said with as much dignity as I could muster.
While I was consistently ahead of the majority of my peers in the classroom, when it came to earning the right to operate a motor vehicle, I was quite remedial. Like every other teenager across the country, I looked forward to my 16th birthday, determined to head down to the DMV to take the first step towards vehicular independence. I counted the days and perused the drivers manual. Four way stops, first come first serve, unless there was a tie, then the car to the right has the right of way. Signal when changing lanes. Always wear a safety belt. I mastered the basics and prayed the test was multiple choice. Sweet sixteen arrived with moderate fanfare and I was all too happy to jump into Mommy's station wagon when she said, "I have some place to take you." To my dismay, instead of pulling into the DMV, she took me to the local McDonald's to fill out a job application. Happy fuckin birthday to me.
My learner's permit didn't come for another eight months. Armed with a not quite license to drive, I was ready to learn how to navigate the side streets, avenues, and highways. Unfortunately, my parents weren't quite ready to teach me. Too chicken shit to get behind the wheel with me, they insisted that I take driver's ed, like my older brother did before me. With an after school job and an overflowing activity calendar, driver's ed just wouldn't fit. Whenever I tried to explain to the parental units that building the perfect high school resume to get me into the perfect top tier school didn't leave time for driver's education, they told me I could wait until my summer vacation to take the course. That plan would have worked, if I didn't go away to an 8 week summer program two days after school was released.
The first day of 12th grade, it dawned on me that I was the only senior still riding the bus to school. I spent the entire year begging and bitching at my parents to teach me to drive. Over time they relented enough to sit white knuckled in the passenger seat as I drove their cars two miles down the road to my part time job at the local supermarket. It was difficult to learn with my mother gasping at every sign of acceleration and my father shouting whenever I hit the breaks. Changing lanes was never allowed.
I graduated high school with an honors diploma, but no driver's license. Hollow promises of driver's ed still sprung from my parents' mouths, even though I left for college the day after graduation. Two brutally sweltering months of trekking across a mountainous college campus strengthened my determination. As God as my witness I would never walk uphill again. I called home and convinced my parents I was ready to take the road test. The fact that I hadn't been behind the wheel in over 60 days wasn't an issue. I could signal, I could turn, I could start the car and stop it too. The only thing I couldn't do was parallel park, but after a conversation or two with my licensed friends I figured that was something I could learn to do 20 minutes before the test. Tired of the harassment, my parents relented and allowed me to schedule my test for early August, when I would be home for a break between summer session and the official first semester of freshman year.
Test day arrived. 30 minutes before my appointment, I had my father set up two garbage cans roughly 15 feet apart. I threw his car in reverse, backing up past the makeshift parking space, then tried to maneuver into the spot driving forward. Not quite parallel parking. On the third attempt I was ejected from the drivers seat when I tried to put the car in park without first coming to a complete stop. It was a sign of things to come.
The test began smoothly. I remembered to buckle my seat belt before I touched anything. I put the key in the ignition, made sure to check my blind spot, then pulled the car onto the road.
"Make a right turn here," the man instructed.
I turned on my blinker and easily turned the corner.
"Okay, stop here and make a left turn."
Left turn completed. Next.
"Alright, now you see that car up ahead. Parallel park behind it."
The moment of truth. I pulled up alongside the wide body GM car and shifted the gear to reverse. My foot eased off the brake, and the car rolled backwards.
"You didn't check over your shoulder for oncoming traffic," the man chided.
Strike one. I backed up past the parking space and tried to ease into a parallel position from drive.
"No, you have to back into the space. Try again."
I sidled up next to the marker car again and reversed right past the parking space once again.
"Okay, let's stop. You can drive back to the DMV now."
One left turn and a right turn later I was back where I started. I looked at the keeper of my fate expectantly.
"I'm sorry, but you didn't pass."
"You couldn't parallel park. You have to parallel park to pass," he explained.
Over the next year and a half I trudged back to that DMV four more times with the same result. Parallel parking screwed me up during the second test too, but I'm not such a moron that I made the same mistake twice. I got into the parking spot just fine, but almost hit the car in front of me on the way out. That didn't piss the tester off nearly as much as missing a stop sign and almost hitting a pedestrian. I'd never seen anyone get out of a car so quickly. On my third attempt, I was sure I had passed. I parallel parked and avoided hitting anyone in a crosswalk. Unfortunately, two dangerous actions prevented the conferrance of a license upon me that day. I was positive the fourth time would be the charm, but I wasn't even allowed into the car that overcast day when it was brought to my attention that corrective lenses were required for me to even turn on the engine. Who actually looks at what's on the back of the permit, anyway? While I assured the nice man that I didn't really need glasses to drive, he proved me wrong when he stood 10 feet away from me with an eye chart and asked me to read the bottom row. Ummm, N D Q....is that an H or a W...uhhh T...yeah T. Or not.
It was at this point that I started to think that maybe there were forces beyond my control operating in a covert mission to keep me from getting a license. Whoever heard of a dangerous action anyways? And was it really possible to fail a test without even putting the key in the ignition. I didn't think so. And most of all, why the hell should I have to parallel park. I live in the suburbs and have a driveway, so was it really necessary in order for me to pass the test? Someone, somewhere didn't want me driving. Nothing anyone could say could make me believe I wasn't a good driver, so what was the hold up. I was rapidly approaching my 20th birthday and I was still dependent on mommy and daddy for a ride to the mall on Friday night. Hell, even 17 year old Jailbait had her own car and could drive after nine.
After the fifth failure, I was even more convinced that there was a statewide DMW conspiracy to keep me off the road. Maybe someone wanted to see how many times my name could come up on the test schedule, just to get their jollies. Or maybe someone was jealous of my stellar three point turns. There are some sick individuals in this world. But good always triumphs over evil and in May 2000, I finally got my due. Five points from a failing score, I got my license! Nobody could ever keep me from driving again. That is until I got a very official looking letter in the mail 90 days later informing me that my license was suspended for non payment of a speeding ticket. CONSPIRACY!!!!!