This was the first essay I submitted for my ENG 111 (Composition) Class. Try to remember he asked for a rough draft, not to make it look pretty, with proper punctuation and such… he said revision is where the class gets to participate and see us improve. Enjoy… I hope:
My Knuckles Are White
My knuckles are white, my palms sweaty; my neck has a crick and there is a throbbing pain in my right leg as it hovers over the brake pedal. My hands positioned at ten and two rarely move. I set the cruise control to just over the speed limit, I don’t want to annoy other drivers or speed. When I drive, I imagine the worst things that can happen; if there is a semi to the right I imagine careening into it; perishing as the vehicle is engulfed in flames. Cars in front of me and I assume they will suddenly stop causing me to impact with them head on, flipping over and taking my life… or worse surviving. If I need to adjust the thermostat or wipe the sweat from my hands then the grip of the remaining hand is that much tighter. I’m not a driver, I don’t feel comfortable behind the wheel of a moving vehicle and I doubt I ever will. I obtained my license at the age of 24, eight years after most people. I hoped that by watching other people drive, I may learn some trick or secret that will help me to relax.
Observing my friend Suzanne behind the wheel is a portrait in contrast to me. She has one leg crossed over the other, one hand on her cell phone one on the wheel and she’s chewing gum. Somehow she knows where everything is; she notices the girl in the right lane that won’t let her in, I didn’t see her. She plans ahead, knowing the traffic patterns like the back of her hand, taking this right or that left to avoid the congestion. She’s called me from her car to read things. Suzanne loves to drive, she says she feels relaxed.
Another friend Mark, is an aggressive driver, always screaming at other drivers for something they did that he found to be exceptionally stupid, or kept him from his task. I remind him that we live in a dangerous city and his behaviors may get him shot one day. He’s just as dangerous as a pedestrian; he’s been known to bang on drivers hoods if they’re stopped in the crosswalk. Mark’s license has been suspended, but that doesn’t stop him, he loves to drive.
My roommate, Gary, is at home behind the wheel; relaxed, yet vigilant, steady and true. He loves to drive, rarely goes over the speed limit and always seems to know his way around. Yet, when I’m a passenger in his car, I find myself stepping on the imaginary brake pedal frequently. I’ve driven the car, the brakes should be replaced, I know how it handles; but he just drives how he wants to drive with never a care in the world, ever confident he’ll foresee any dangers.
Randy says driving during the day makes him tired, yet at night there is a surge of adrenaline that keeps him awake. He should wear his glasses when he drives, but vanity, arrogance or stubbornness keeps him from wearing them. He’s a practical driver; he drives when he has to drive, to accomplish a purpose. He finds driving a waste of time, one of those necessary things that a person has to do.
I missed the vital experiences from a young mans teenage years; normally filled with cars, motors, and speeding around the neighborhoods. I entered foster care when I was fifteen and even thou I had completed Drivers Education, I didn’t actually have a learner’s permit or any experience behind the wheel. My foster parents couldn’t assume responsibility for my driving and my Mother was unwilling to. I was dependent on friends to drive me around, or I could walk. One of the benefits of small town Wisconsin is that you can walk almost anywhere. I could walk to school; to parties, or walk away from parties… and there was always hitchhiking!
Not that I didn’t manage to drive illegally when I was younger. I remember one such incident where I was awoken from a drunken slumber, as it was assumed I was the soberest, having had an hour of sleep. Yet, while backing the beautifully restored MGB two-seater convertible out I managed to side swipe the car next to us. The owner of the car I was driving insisted that I get the hell out of there, so go I did. He later took all the blame for the incident, but I’m fairly certain his parents knew he wasn’t behind the wheel.
I was twenty-one the first time I took my drivers test, or at least that was the plan. One of my drinking buddies let me use his car for the test, but I had never driven the actual car. When it came time to get behind the wheel and the examiner was asking me to check things out. I had no idea where the dimmer for the lights was. We never left the parking lot that was the end of the test.
At the age of twenty-three I managed to get clean and sober. My friend, Nancy, was kind enough to allow me to not only practice in her car, but to use it for the exam as well. The written exam was a piece of cake. When it was time for the driving part I was incredibly nervous, but managed to make it out of the lot this time. The instructor had me do some simple maneuvers around the neighborhood, and didn’t even ask me to parallel park. Part of me thinks he felt sorry for the twenty-four year old that didn’t have a license and let me off easy, but who am I to complain?
For the last seven years I’ve been living in Washington, DC. On the Metro, DC’s subway system, you can get to almost every area of the city and surrounding suburbs, almost echoing exactly their Beltway. Once you’ve reached your destination, you can take one of the different buses to your final destination, or in many cases walk. The first two years in our Nation’s capital I took both the bus and the Metro, and for the last five I’ve only had to take the bus. A twenty minute ride on the bus is relaxing compared to the hour of so my co-workers commuted in their motor vehicles. Driving my roommate’s car to pick him up at the airport was about the extent of my driving in the city.
Now here I am in Chesapeake, VA; gas is suddenly $3.20 a gallon. I’ve recently bought a bicycle to get around. Between the stresses I feel driving and the stress on my wallet, there’s no way I can afford to drive. I’m content being a pedestrian and a passenger for now at least.