Silly Fears

 

All of us, regardless of how brave and rugged we may appear to others, have to deal with fears of all sorts throughout our lives. This post is about a fear I experienced. At its core, I think the fear I’ll be describing was about my being able to make it through what is a rite of passage in modern life: obtaining a Driver’s License and becoming a legal car driver.

At the time (late 1960s/early 1970s) and place (California) one could secure a Learner’s Permit at age 15-1/2 and a Driver’s License at age 16. The Learner’s Permit allowed you to drive a car only if you were accompanied by a responsible adult, while the Driver’s License allowed you to drive a car without any such restriction.

I don’t know exactly when, but I think it was about the time I became a teenager, that I started to take an increased interest in cars eventually becoming something of a car nut. Not as big a nut as some guys, but more than many. I read Motor Trend and Car and Driver magazines, paid attention to engine sizes and configurations and horsepower ratings, fantasized about the car I knew I’d eventually own (a Shelby Mustang – never happened), went through endless of pads of paper drawing cars and hot rods, and looked forward to and helped my Dad in the routine maintenance of our two family cars – oil and filter changes every three months, new points, condenser and rotor at about the same interval, and spark plug change-out every four or so months.

As I got closer to the time I’d be able to drive legally, my Dad would occasionally let me drive the car. These instances usually occurred after dark. Dad would pull over and slide over to the passenger seat, and I’d get behind the wheel and drive the last several blocks home. Since we were in a residential area, I doubt I ever drove faster than 20 or 25 miles per hour.

At the same time, however, I began to experience a recurring nightmare (the only one of my life so far – knock on wood). In my dream, I was driving a car – accelerating it – 10 mph, 15, 20, 30, 40, 45, 50…and so forth and as I continued to gain speed the steering wheel would start to vibrate – slowly at first but with increasing frequency and intensity as my speed increased. As the steering wheel vibrations grew, I had a harder and harder time holding onto and controlling the wheel, eventually losing control as the car crashed. At that point, I’d wake up in a cold sweat. I, of course, never mentioned the dream to anyone.

I did get my Learner’s Permit, at which time I occasionally got to drive the family car around town with either my Mom or Dad in tow. In these trips, I don’t think I ever drove faster than maybe 40 mph and my recurring nightmare continued. Six or so months later I got my Driver’s License and so occasionally got to drive the family car without a parent present.

I imagine my progression as a driver was similar to most. At first, I was an extremely cautious and conscientious driver – hands at ten and two, constantly checking the rearview and side mirrors, strictly complying with the speed limit. Within a couple of months though, I was just another driver – steering the car with my wrist and my other arm resting on the door, radio blaring, and the posted speed limit starting to become more of a recommendation unless a cop was nearby. I was able to drive at speed!

A year or so later I was able to buy my first car (a 1967 Ford Mustang with a small-block 289 V-8) and I had even less fear of speed. By this time my recurring nightmare had long since decamped never to return.

And so my recurring nightmare turned out to be nothing more than a silly fear.

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Oh the memories. I remember being shocked that anyone would give me a license to drive a car when I was 16.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    tigerlily: fantasized about the car I knew I’d eventually own (a Shelby Mustang – never happened), went through endless of pads of paper drawing cars and hot rods

    I drew dragons and space ships. I haven’t gotten either one, yet.

    • #2
  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    4,000 lbs. of metal and gasoline and hormonal 16-year-olds… what could go wrong?

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    fantasized about the car I knew I’d eventually own (a Shelby Mustang – never happened), went through endless of pads of paper drawing cars and hot rods

    I’m still shocked.

    • #4
  5. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Arahant (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    fantasized about the car I knew I’d eventually own (a Shelby Mustang – never happened), went through endless of pads of paper drawing cars and hot rods

    I’m still shocked.

    You and me both.

    • #5
  6. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    And of course the scariest part of the driving test was the dreaded parallel parking test.  What’s funny is that now I so rarely have an opportunity to parallel park that I enjoy it now.  There is a place I go to breakfast that has one of the only blocks with street side parking around.  Now here is a two-fer pic.  My Shelby Mustang after I parallel parked it.

    • #6
  7. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Reminds me of one of my recurring nightmares ( along with suddenly being naked in public and suddenly realizing that I had missed every single calculus class and it was time for midterms) which was driving down a city street and suddenly becoming blind and not being able to see where I was going.

    Now that I am retired with no deadlines I no longer have anxiety dreams.

    • #7
  8. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    My driver’s license fear wasn’t the initial test for my first driver’s license at age 16 (also California, also early 1970’s). It was a couple of years later when I went to get a bus driver’s license so I could drive our church’s 15 passenger vans. There were more rules to be aware of (such as stopping at railroad crossings), so the test was already more stressful than the regular driver’s exam. But the real terror was that I had to take the test in one of the vans, and the vans had manual (3 on the tree) transmissions. I could drive a manual transmission very well, but was terrified that in my nervousness on the exam I would panic and stall, and immediately flunk the exam. I did not stall, and did pass, and safely drove many groups in those 1972 Dodge Maxiwagons. Even met the now Mrs. Tabby driving a group in which she was a guest. But that driving exam was terror-inducing.

    • #8
  9. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    We have to take a separate exam to drive large firefighting equipment. The last time I took someone for the test the examiner told me she had gone to give the test at another department, strapped herself into the officer (passenger), and immediately the siren went off.  After a few seconds it stopped and they went on their way.  After the test she asked the driver about the siren (he had passed the driving test) and he told her that she had activated the knee switch for the siren but he was too terrified to tell her.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Reminds me of one of my recurring nightmares ( along with suddenly being naked in public and suddenly realizing that I had missed every single calculus class and it was time for midterms) which was driving down a city street and suddenly becoming blind and not being able to see where I was going.

    Now that I am retired with no deadlines I no longer have anxiety dreams.

    Come to think of it, I haven’t had so many of those since retirement, either. They haven’t gone away entirely, though, especially the one about driving blind, or driving from the back seat where I can’t operate all the controls.  

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Oh the memories. I remember being shocked that anyone would give me a license to drive a car when I was 16.

    About the time she started college our daughter was with me in the car when we stopped at a gas station. She pointed in alarm to the vehicle next to us, “Children driving!”  

    • #11
  12. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Oh the memories. I remember being shocked that anyone would give me a license to drive a car when I was 16.

    I was shocked that anyone would make such an obviously capable and mature person, such as myself, wait until I was 16!

    • #12
  13. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Reading your stories makes me laugh. I was driving across country at age 12.  This was in 1950, no freeways. My father was a professional Greyhound and Sac City bus driver. The year he took my brother and I to AR, he would let me drive. Mostly across TX, as nothing there but tumbleweed. He taught me how to talk with the headlight with truck drivers, how to pass other cars and trucks safely, When it was safe to use speed, when to anticipate a slow down. I made 3 or 4 cross country trips with my dad before age 17. He was a Country Western singer, taught me a lot of songs. I have only had 2 accidents in my life time, once with a migraine backing out of my driveway and into a parked car across the street, the other when a person broadside me running a red light. Destroyed my brand new Subaru.

    • #13
  14. T-Fiks Member
    T-Fiks
    @TFiks

    As a boy who reached adolescence in the ’60’s, I was more eager than fearful about learning to drive. Steering a tractor once while my cousin pitched hay to waiting cows was a huge thrill for me at age nine.

    A few years later, my dad seemed very casual about my getting behind the wheel of our family station wagon. Perhaps it was because he had twice transported Dutch emigres all by himself from New Jersey to NW Iowa when he was fourteen. My first highway experience behind the wheel came at about the same age.

    My family and I were returning  to Washington from a Christmas vacation trip to southern California, heading north on Highway 97 in Eastern Oregon. It was a flat, straight two-lane road, but the temperature was below freezing and the occasional car that we met was traveling at least 60 mph. Dad and I were in the front seat, and Mom and my two sisters were semi-dozing in the back.

    “Ya wanna drive a stretch?” my  dad asked.

    From back seat we immediately heard from my mom, “Oh Fiks, are you sure he’s ready for that?”

    “Oh, he’ll do fine,” Dad answered.

    So he pulled over to the shoulder, and we got out and traded places. I had to avoid little patches of icy snow on the gravel shoulder as I stepped out of my door and walked around the front of the car.

    I looked into the back seat as I reentered the car and everyone there was suddenly awake, with eyes wide open.

    I took off slowly, carefully pushing down on the clutch and moving the column shift lever through the three gears.  I held the wheel tight, especially as the occasional oncoming car seemed to be bearing straight for us. Gradually, I got the speed up to around sixty, but the thought of accidentally steering into those cars as they approached had me practically paralyzed behind the wheel.

    After ten miles or so I calmed down enough to briefly take my eyes off the road and look to my right. I saw something that showed something about my dad’s regard for me that I’d only vaguely sensed up to that point. My dad was slumped on the bench seat, eyes closed and quietly snoring.

    A young man doesn’t forget an endorsement like that very soon.

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    T-Fiks (View Comment):

    As a boy who reached adolescence in the ’60’s, I was more eager than fearful about learning to drive. Steering a tractor once while my cousin pitched hay to waiting cows was a huge thrill for me at age nine.

    A few years later, my dad seemed very casual about my getting behind the wheel of our family station wagon. Perhaps it was because he had twice transported Dutch emigres all by himself from New Jersey to NW Iowa when he was fourteen. My first highway experience behind the wheel came at about the same age.

    My family and I were returning to Washington from a Christmas vacation trip to southern California, heading north on Highway 97 in Eastern Oregon. It was a flat, straight two-lane road, but the temperature was below freezing and the occasional car that we met was traveling at least 60 mph. Dad and I were in the front seat, and Mom and my two sisters were semi-dozing in the back.

    “Ya wanna drive a stretch?” my dad asked.

    From back seat we immediately heard from my mom, “Oh Fiks, are you sure he’s ready for that?”

    “Oh, he’ll do fine,” Dad answered.

    So he pulled over to the shoulder, and we got out and traded places. I had to avoid little patches of icy snow on the gravel shoulder as I stepped out of my door and walked around the front of the car.

    I looked into the back seat as I reentered the car and everyone there was suddenly awake, with eyes wide open.

    I took off slowly, carefully pushing down on the clutch and moving the column shift lever through the three gears. I held the wheel tight, especially as the occasional oncoming car seemed to be bearing straight for us. Gradually, I got the speed up to around sixty, but the thought of accidentally steering into those cars as they approached had me practically paralyzed behind the wheel.

    After ten miles or so I calmed down enough to briefly take my eyes off the road and look to my right. I saw something that showed something about my dad’s regard for me that I’d only vaguely sensed up to that point. My dad was slumped on the bench seat, eyes closed and quietly snoring.

    A young man doesn’t forget an endorsement like that very soon.

    I think I did that on one of my boys, at least once, except I hopped into the back seat and went to sleep while Mrs R stayed wide awake. And there was ice, too. I’ll have to ask her if I remember this right, because it’s something she would remember better than I would.  I think it was on US-71 in Minnesota, on the way to my parents’ place.   And we never had a stick shift; Mrs R wasn’t interested in having one, even though she drove her father’s John Deere B at age 7.  

    • #15
  16. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    Your recurring nightmare is exactly what happens when the stabilizer shock goes out on a 4×4. 

    • #16
  17. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret
    @CarolJoy

    I failed my first driver’s test at age 15 and 1/2. Simply could not manage to do a parallel park.

    I must have been rather rotten at it. Later that month, when my dad had a weekend to spend helping me master the intricacies of this challenge, I realized how bad I was.

    We found a quiet city street, which had an available parking slot. Plus that slot was rather spacious… How could anyone botch this up?

    While I was attempting to meet the challenge, three frantic people came down from their apartments to move the cars that were anywhere near ours.

    When I completed the mission, my dad had a big grin in his face. I never figured out if it was the sight of those scared three people, or my success at parking, that made him smile so much.

    • #17

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