Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The deep end

Before I'd started the process, I'd imagined that learning to drive would be a binary sort of thing. Either you know how to do so - in which case the entire world of driving-related possibilities opens up (all of that "take Exit 3 and bear right") - or you don't, in which case you either live in New York City or sit around waiting for a ride from one of those people who has this magical skill. How wrong I was. There is, in fact, such a thing as semi-knowing how to drive.

What happened back home in New Jersey was I sort of plateaued. I got to the point where I could drive anywhere I absolutely had to, and do so quite well if I may say so myself, but whichever sense of (or tolerance for) adventure took me from being incapable of driving around the block to being fully capable of going 50 miles an hour on a country road... that sense/tolerance didn't extend to any further exploration. Let me give an example: my most frequent "long" drive will be to HMart in Edison. If I'm driving alone, I always go on the 27 and not on Route 1, which would be less direct but much faster. I never turn onto the main drag in New Brunswick along the way, even though it looks like it might be interesting, because I'm convinced I'd get lost and OMG driving. Mostly the car is for supermarkets and, at a distant second, coffee shops. I might say I buy clothes in New York for some chic reason, but honestly it's because driving to the very same mall stores closer by would be too stressful. 

Here in Santa Barbara/Goleta/wherever this is, I find myself plunged into the deep end of the driving experience. If I want to be able to drive anywhere during the day, I need access (of course) to the car, which means dropping my husband off at work and picking him up. This is a short, direct drive in light traffic... but it involves a highway. No! A freeway. Prior to yesterday, I'd been on the highway alone exactly one time - driving from Princeton to Lambertville (and, ahem, back). While that had been uneventful, I hadn't ever seen the need to repeat the experience. (There's... very little in Lambertville.) But there I was yesterday, and again today, suddenly going 65 miles an hour and ahead of me were, like, mountains. This tremendous landscape, and the person driving was... me! That inspired such confidence that I drove all the way from Goleta to Santa Barbara yesterday, without knowing precisely where I'd park, all spontaneous-like. 

The GPS helps - or I should say, helped, since just after I figured out how to use one, it stopped working - but I don't think that's the main thing. It's more... a sense of necessity. I also have a secret city-person advantage - willingness to walk the extra block or so to a main street. This is good both for avoiding having to parallel park (I know, I know) and for not having to pay for parking. While I'm still not at 100%, I seem to have nudged myself from 85% to 95% in record time.

No comments: