Judith Serin

You have vivid memories of huddling in the back seat while your father teaches your mother. Your father’s teaching involves a lot of yelling. Your mother is flustered, but patient. In your years of her driving you smoothly and skillfully it is hard to remember this beginning.


Your mother teaches your sister how to drive without yelling but with a certain amount of sarcasm. Your sister tells you, laughing, that when they are leaving a parking lot with her driving your mother calls, “Whee, let’s play crumble fender.”


You decide not to learn to drive. There might have been a couple of tries with a terrified parent, but that is conjecture.


Others attempt to teach you over the years. You now tell people that you failed the driving test at least two times in three states. In the last state, California, you feel a sinking panic every time the bus you are on passes the DMV. Finally, very stoned, you see your friend, Cathy, almost as short as you, peering over the steering wheel of your boyfriend’s 1959 Volvo station wagon, a tank of a car. You have a stoned epiphany that you think of driving as a male activity. You secretly hire a woman instructor and pass on the second try. (The first time you were thrown when a fire truck roars by as you are pulling out for the test.) An adult education student of yours, a psychic who wears leisure suits and gemstones in her navel, helps you with the second test by putting white light all around you from her suburban home.


You slowly shed your driving phobias: driving on the freeway, pumping gas, talking to mechanics. You still get that sinking feeling at the DMV.