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Assisi & Brannan #7: Driven

Mar 11, 2014

I drove a dune buggy once in the Pajaro Dunes. Does that count as driving? How about watching retro Mad Max movies with those crazy cars?

I grew up in Hong Kong where no one drives. The subway system is Blade Runner, while BART is like the stage coach. My father was the only one in the family who drove our car on the weekends. In LA, I got around campus in my Vespa and caught rides with friends when I needed them.

The money was too good for me to turn away, so I told Sam I would get back to him about the limo driver job.

It wouldn’t be that bad once I took serious driving lessons. Coming up from LA, I didn’t know the area, but who needs to? I bought a GPS and read Google maps. I’m an Android girl.

But…learning to drive was much harder. I found a teacher from Yelp. A Jenny Higgins. She had a four-star rating, so I figured she had to be good.

When I met her, she was my mother. Petite, full-figured and unsmiling, we stared at each other until I made the first move.

“Jenny? I’m Garnet.”

“Yes. Nice to meet you.”

I guess she married a Higgins.

Her green Ford Taurus had passenger-side brakes. The front bumper looked scraped, a casualty of many student drivers.

“You know how to drive?”

What?

“Ok, I tell you. Just go straight. I will tell you to turn,” she started.

“Do I start the engine?”

“Yes, start the engine.”

I lurched out of the parking lot of my apartment and into the street like a marionette on meth. We drove along a street that ran parallel to the freeway. My peripheral vision registered cars zooming by. Any hopes of getting that limo gig faded steadily.

“Stop!” Jenny’s scream was pure terror.

A truck hurtled past us into the freeway.

Jenny and I were on the dashboard, our hips about a foot behind our heads. My right foot had pushed the brakes through the floorboards and was frozen in that position.

“You can drive now,” Jenny said, patting her bouffant reassuringly.

Every object in the rearview mirror was a source of dread. My eyes wavered and caught sight of a line of 20 cars that had gathered in a matter of seconds behind me. How had they gotten there? What were they thinking?

“Let go of the brakes,” she continued.

“Press the gas?”

“Yes, press on the gas.”

She deserved her four-star rating. Despite our brush with death, Jenny never gave up on me. She took it upon herself to lift me from hopelessness and worked until I stopped shaking the wheel like I was afflicted with an ague, worried less about what was behind me and mastered the California Roll.

When I passed my driving test I asked Jenny, “Do you know how to drive a limo?”

“Start tomorrow?”

I took the job with Sam.

© Jocelyn Uma 2014. All Rights Reserved.