Learning to drive has to be one of the most exciting milestones in a teen’s life. You turn 16 and suddenly feel ready to get behind the wheel and jet off around your neighbourhood, so proud of your new abilities. You beg your parents to whisk you off to the MTO to write your test and all of a sudden you have the power of the road.
The first practice stop is the back parking lot of a big building: Target or the waterworks will do. You place yourself in the driver’s seat, stick the keys in the ignition and press down your first burst of gas to feel the car almost fly out from underneath you. You realize that maybe this will take a bit more getting used to than you had expected.
My first experience driving was with my father. We drove up to a big, open parking lot, switched positions, and finally it was time to take the wheel. I remember the look of terror in his eyes and the holler of “slow down!” bouncing off the windows as I floored it across the yellow painted lines, weaving back and forth as if I was at the Ex driving a bumper car.
Luckily, I’ve come a long way since then. But of course there were many dicey situations in between.
One day we were cruising along Birchmount Road after a trip to Costco to practise parking. My father decided to throw the changing lanes lesson at me and I went for it.
“Check your left mirror and blind spot then smoothly merge over,” he told me.
Well, I dove right in. The problem was I was so busy checking my mirrors that I lost focus on the road ahead of me and somehow traveled over into the oncoming lane of traffic, challenging the semi-monster truck headed straight for me! I was still obliviously checking my surroundings and ignoring the road when my father realized what I had done and frantically scrambled to grab the wheel and swerve the car out of the oncoming collision. Safe to say, it wasn’t my finest moment.
My mother wasn’t particularly comfortable being my passenger and she showed it through her ‘magic dashboard stop button.’ Her way of expressing her absolute terror was slamming the dashboard so desperately that her fingerprints temporarily embedded the soft vinyl. There was a brief period where I refused to have my mother in the car while I was driving. Thankfully, as my skills progressed she calmed down and I have allowed her back in the car.
After about eight months of practising I was ready for my road test. Back up to the MTO my father and I went, me nervously chattering the whole way there, but after about 10 minutes around the block I was certified to finally drive on my own!
I decided that my first big solo trip would be to Pickering to visit my best friend, Charles. My father mapped out a route for me to ensure I would avoid the highway but, as Bugs Bunny would say, “I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque,” and ended up on the 401 express lanes on a Saturday afternoon.
Cars rushed by me at 120 km/h as I crawled at a snail’s pace, bawling my eyes out. I finally realized I was heading for an exit, so I pulled into the closest parking lot and waited for my parents to drive out and save me.
All of these experiences and trial and error have taught me to be a cautious, courteous, and responsible driver respecting others on the road and my parents’ wisdom. No matter what you learn in class, nothing compares to the experience of really being out there on the road.
Mosie Fraser is a Grade 12 student at St. Joseph’s College School and a lifelong Beach resident.