Every afternoon (Monday-Friday) a bus with a lift would pick me up, and take me across campus to driving school for 3 hours. Before attending the school I had to have my learner’s permit. I had no problem taking the test. I even had to make a trip to OKC, so they could see that I was disabled (duh)! I had the normal first day of class jitters. What will the other students be like? I hope the instructor is nice? I hope I don’t wreck the student vehicle or run over anybody!! 6 of the other classmates entered, and much to my surprise one of them was my peep Alicia!! I knew her from camp, and she was also a fellow FAer. The minute we saw each other we were both happy campers!! Alicia lived in Edmond. Alicia was just 16, and I am assuming because she lived there she knew about the school. We were friends at summer camp, but we did not have much to do with each other outside of camp. I always thought she had that Brooke Shields “Blue Lagoon” model look about her. Anyways, so we were instant class buddies. For the first day we took a simulated test to see which accessible adaptation would best suit us. Not everybody in the class was in a wheelchair. There was one person with one leg shorter than the other one, and someone who walked with a cane. I am not educated at all about the different options for driving. Almost anything can be adapted these days. Because one of the girls had a short leg she used break and gas extenders on the petals. Alicia and I were both in wheelchairs, and unable to use our feet. So we used hand controls. I think this is the most common adaption. It is a bar that is below the turn signals, and you push down for gas and in for break. There is a toggle switch on the bar for the turn signals so that you don't have to take your hand off the bar to do so. There is also a knob on the steering wheel to make full turns. After figuring out what everybody needed we spent the rest of the week practicing our driving on the simulation modules. When it was time to start getting on the road with the vehicles there were several instructors, and we had partners. You will never guess who my partner was? It was Alicia! Our instructor was a young good-looking preppie guy! Alicia and I were both happy about that, for now anyway. So Alicia and I would take turns driving the vehicle. We never really went on real busy streets or highways. I do not remember what kind of vehicle it was, but it was four-door, a brown color, and it ran! I was able to stand up and transfer into the drivers seat. God has blessed me with really long legs, although I think he forgot that I wouldn't be able to use them!! Since all the length was in my legs I sat on a cushion so I could see over the steering wheel. I would leave my wheelchair in the building. The next two weeks consisted of Alicia and I taking turns practicing driving with the instructor. I was proud of myself because I was not bad at going in a straight-line, but I could not get turning! I would overturn the wheel every time. One time we did go into somebody's ditch on a residential street. Thank God there were no children around! Through out this time the instructor and I tried to start up a friendship, but it was not meant to be! He knew who I was from back in the day (being homecoming queen, and getting my diploma), and we even had a friend in common. I do not remember his name and that is quite all right with me! He was getting frustrated, and so was I with the fact I could not get the turning thing down. One of the days he decided to teach us how to parallel park. I was a nervous wreck (no pun intended!) when I realized what we were doing. I had to park between 2 cones. I did it over and over. Surprisingly I only hit the cones once, and it was not hard enough to disfigure them! The instructor and I only spoke to each other when necessary. Alicia and him seemed to get along great-go figure. The straw that broke the camels back was when I saw him and Alicia come back from their driving lesson carrying a bag of tater tots! I was like “NO THEY DI-N’T!” They just took away time from my driving lesson to go have a little brown bag special at the Sonic Drive-In! Apparently Alicia was driving good, me on the other hand was not. I was still not sure of turns, and we only had the week left to practice before the big test. I thought I would give him a piece of my brown bag special mind, and see if he liked it. So I went to the head instructor telling him of my frustrations with the other instructor, and my problem with turning still. Because Mr. Brown bag was not the only instructor so I asked for another one. The head instructor took me as his new student. We used the same vehicle, and he was so patient with me. It made me not frustrated, and I got the turning technique right away. I never had to face Mr. Brown bag for the rest of my schooling.
I was feeling good that day as we got ready to go to the DMV (Dept. of Motor Vehicles). Of course, the exam was on unfamiliar territory. I was doing fine until they called my name. I was again going to be driving the same vehicle so that was good. I got into the drivers seat, and a policeman got into the passenger seat. That is when I wanted to pee my pants, and call my mama! I tried to make small talk with him to break the ice. We went on a busy two lane street. He asked me to move into the other lane. It made me nervous to do that. I had a bad tendency of turning the wheel when I would turn my head to check my blind spot. I looked in the rear view mirror as I saw it was clear I then checked my blind spot. I did it! The policeman then instructed me to turn into a residential street. My turns were very smooth. As we came up on a street we saw two cars that were parked on the side, and there was room for another car to park in the middle. So he told me he wanted me to parallel park in between those cars. You talk about nervous. I am a girl, and normally have no ideas about the make and model of a car. But I do know the symbol of a BMW! That was what one of the cars was that I was to parallel park in between. Forget peeing, I felt like I was going to s**t at that point! I told the policeman I was extremely nervous, and he told me if I felt like I could not do it we could go back to the DMV. I was not about to give up just because of a BMW! I proceeded. and did it just like I had practiced with the cones. I kept telling myself that they were merely cones. I was barely inching into my spot, and gaining a little confidence.... when BAM!! I just knew my life was over as I had hit someone else's car. The policeman said, "you just hit the curb." I was so relieved. He told me to turn out, and go back to the DMV. I was shaking and almost in tears as I really thought I had just failed. As we pulled into the DMV he asked me to park in one of the spot's. I did not do the best job at parking. As I shut off the car I asked him what the damage was. He told me I did a good job and passed! I could not believe it. I told him I thought I was so goner when I hit the curb for the parallel parking. He told me that I showed him I could do it, and that even though I wasn't perfect at it this time he knows I can do it. He said there isn't very many times that you will ever need to parallel park anyway. I was so excited. And eager to look at my old instructor in the face, and smile really big:)
I know a couple of professor's at UCO now, and they tell me there is no more driving school for the disabled there:( Hoping thats because there are more places to go.
Soon after returning home from getting my driver’s license my friend Tonya threw me a surprise party for passing my test! Several friends of mine from high school were there. It was fun for us all to be there together. The cake was shaped like an Oklahoma driver's license. It was very sweet and thoughtful of her to do that for me.
Now tell me about your first driving experience? How did you learn? Did you pass your driver's test the first time? If you do not drive a vehicle you have probably driven something, power wheelchair, a bike, Scooter, a virtual car, you get my drift. Tell me about driving anything. Everyone's got a story of some kind.
Thank you for taking the time to read, Miss S