Licensed to Drive
It was this day in history that I got my drivers license. Fourteen years goes by fast.
I remember studying that little stupid book like it was gospel. On my 16th birthday I went down to the main DMV office and got my learners permit. A part of me was expecting them to note my perfect score on the permit like, “We got a genius over here.” They could care less and, judging by how most people drive in this city, I can see why. Nonetheless, I had my permit and was ready to go out and do some “learner-ing.”
And for the next three weeks not a damned thing happened.
No one took me driving. No one even offered to discuss the rules of the road with me. Everyone who owned a car got ghost. So what did my crazy ass do? I went over to the carnival, bought one of those unlimited rides wristbands and practiced on the bumper cars. People looked at me like I was crazy riding around the joint trying not to get hit. I even parallel parked the thing in the corner before it cut off each time.
It was about a week before the test when my aunt came by and I asked her to take me out to Forestville Mall so I could practice driving on Crusin USA at the Time-Out Arcade. That was enough to earn her pity and she took me out driving. We crammed an entire Driver’s Ed course into a few days. That following Monday I went to the Brentwood location to take the road test.
I think they had a quota for how many people they were supposed to fail each day, because they didn’t even bother tallying up stuff. They just failed you as soon as you made your first mistake. Don’t stop at that first stop sign when you leave the parking lot AND stop before you cross over the sidewalk…They pull the emergency brake. Cross over that bold white lane divider line at the top of the hill…They pull the emergency brake. If you’ve ever driven in DC then you know the least of your concerns is someone switching lanes at the last minute. They need to have something like, “Crater-Depth-Pothole avoidance” or “Distracted tourist collision maneuvers.”
Half of my friends failed before me, so I kept a mental record of everything not to do. First and foremost was “Don’t get the mean lady with the bush.” Her whole purpose in life was to fail people, so I made sure to let the girl behind me go ahead of me when I saw her standing there. I knew I needed a strategy, so I played the same card I used to get into R-rated movies: Old people relatability.
I got in the car, turned down the stereo, checked my mirrors and then asked the guy if he wouldn’t mind double checking to make sure his seat belt was taut. I think he was about to call bullshit on that one, so I brought out the big gun. I closed my eyes and prayed over the vehicle and our safety. Then we were off and running. I made idle conversation, played up the whole “I’m a nerd that goes to Banneker” thing and how my license is going to allow me to take my grandmother to Bible Study. By the time we got back I think that man was so tired of hearing me talk that he passed me just so he’d never have to see me again.
It doesn’t matter what I had to do to get the license. All that matters is that I got it. It was August 10, 1998 and 16 year old Ordale J Allen was now a licensed driver. Not that it’s saying much, but DC believed I was ready to drive alone and that’s exactly what I was planning to do.
And for the next few months…not a damned thing happened.