Prior to my 16th birthday I was presented with an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour Europe with a musical group. My parents gave me the option of going on the trip or learning to drive – there was no comparison in cost, a trip to Europe was far more costly but it would be impossible for them to pay for both. This was my first big decision as a young adult and I choose Europe.
Upon returning from my 3 and half week sojourn across the western European continent, I got a job at a fast food restaurant and began saving money for drivers ed. In December of 1993, I found myself in a small, poorly lit drivers education classroom. The classes were unremarkable but the sessions with the driving instructor were incredibly memorable.
The driving instructor’s name was Earl Speedy, I shit you not, Earl Speedy. Sounds like a race car driver or a cartoon character. There were typically 3 of us in the car at a time, 1 driving and 2 in the back seat. We drove all over the place, probably much farther from home than expected. Mr. Speedy talked and talked and talked and talked… about his kids, about driving, about nothing at all. He was a kind man with a great deal of patience than I believe I could ever muster. Truthfully, I didn’t learn anything new about driving but I always walked away with a smile from a silly random story he told.
It just so happened that a few days before I was to take my driving test, it snowed like a son of a bitch, the worst snowstorm in 17 years my dad said. The sheriff who administered the driving portion of the test (I aced the written – not surprising) lacked a sense of humor. The snow drifts were so high they came up to the lower branched on the trees, making visibility damn near impossible. I passed, barely. His major issue with my driving? I would stop at the stop sign and then creep forward to see beyond the ginormous snow drifts. He felt I should stop past the sign rather than start and stop which could be confusing to the driver behind me. Those words still ring in my ears.
So on my 17th birthday I earned my drivers license and on my first solo drive… I ended up in a snow bank. It should have been a sign.