From the day you entered this world as a zygote in your mother’s womb, to the inevitable day when you’ll pass on from this world, you experience a constant state of perpetual motion, everything from crawling to walking to sprinting to riding a damn unicycle. I know I can’t do that last one, but I’m sure most of you have done the former at one point or another. Even while asleep and inert we’re all still covering an approximate 66,000 mile an hour pace around the sun. Even when don’t seem to be going anywhere, transportation still plays a pivotal role in our lives.
But arguably none of those forms of transportation mean as much to us as the automobile. There’s a reason gas prices are said to be comparable to an arm and a leg. The liberation and freedom driving endows you with is an exciting and pivotal milestone of adolescence, but it can also be a just as scary one. I know it’s a cliche that’s been flogged as much as a dead rotting horse carcass at this point, but with all that great power comes a whole lot of responsibility.
Getting your permit. Getting your license. Parking. Parallel Parking. K-Turns. Traffic Laws. Right of Way. Safety. Not denting your car in a fender bender. Not mangling your car (and yourself) in a deadly accident. All of these wonderful things and more will probably be bobbing around your head the first time you step behind the wheel, and it can be overwhelming. How do you take it all in? I don’t really know, and I’d be lying if I said I did. It’s something I’m still trying to grasp myself, and probably will for a while. But I’ve learned a lot of things (and should’ve learned a lot of things in retrospect) in the road *cue cymbals* to getting my license recently, like…
1. Keep the ID in MIND…
And I’m not talking about the Freudian kind. I’m talking ID’s and paperwork, and before you even THINK about stepping behind a wheel be sure to have EVERYTHING ready. And by everything, I MEAN everything. I’m not going to build a massive wall of text on this page. If you’re so desperate to know, put in some damn effort for once and work for finding the answers. Learning to parallel park isn’t a cakewalk, and neither is Googling. I just have way more important priorities right now then to meticulously scour the corners of the Internet for each and every 50 state’s individual unique ID requirements for testing and getting your license at the DMV. Deciding which college to attend, which bottled sugarcane Mexican soda I’ll get at Target, and which weapons to customize in Fallout 4 are all serious business. Seriously.
But back to the damn point here in this horrible amateurish excuse of an advice column for amateurs, if your ID requirements are as crazy and ridiculous as my own local ones, get it together. Fast. New York and New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission’s both use a “Six Point” ID system so they can prove that you’re *you* and not some fugitive criminal scoundrel. Both states require a primary form of ID, a secondary, a verifiable Social Security Number (i.e. your card), and a proof of address. If you lose your Social Security Card or don’t have one to begin with, you have to fill out an application and it might take up to ten business days to get it back, so prepare in advance.
There’s a lot you have to bring for the six points, but fortunately there’s a lot of ways you could get those six points. Adoption papers, birth certificates, or passports can knock out four of those six points, and if you’ve recently emigrated over here, a foreign passport (or I-94), a refugee travel document, and registration card can also do the job. Just be sure that those proofs of residence aren’t over two months old, have any typos in your name, or get an MVC employee misinterpret them and turn them away, because according to the blogger Expat Aussie in N.J., it happens pretty frequently. Crikey! A School/College ID can cover another two points, or you could pair something like your Social Security card or bank statement for a point each. A full list of what you could bring (in N.J. at least) can be found here.
I had my own brush in with this when the woman at the DMV counter requested my medical card. Almost immediately my hands started pacing nervously around my pockets, and my face lit up like a deer in the headlights as sweat beaded down my forehead. If this were a movie (not that the DMV would be exciting enough for a movie) the camera would be zooming in on my big sweaty face as the foreground zoomed out and the tense melodramatic orchestra built to a crescendo. I wasn’t going to have tediously practiced parallel parking for a year, failed once, finally passed, driven around the entire town in a circle for an because of the evil GPS on my dad’s phone, and wait another half hour there, only to be rejected for one card.
Fortunately this colossal crisis was averted since my dad held on to it in his wallet after a doctor’s appointment, but that wouldn’t have been a fun bullet to bite. But once you have all your paperwork stuff ready, now you have to think about the actual driving part on the road to getting your license. Where do you start with that? Well…
2. Don’t Forget the R(references)
Among the most daunting obstacles to overcome on your license test will be the parallel park and K-turn. Turning all the way backwards, trying to turn backwards in between a row of cones you can barely see behind you, and trying not to hit said cones isn’t a thing to look forward to. Not to mention you may have to get that car within anywhere 2-3 foot distance from the curb (according to my parent’s instructors from their state) or six inches (according to mine). Don’t ask me how they determine measuring this distance, no they do *not* get out of the car and measure your curb distance with a ruler, but (apparently) it’s important, for some arbitrary reason.
I don’t think anything can prevent parallel parking from being painstaking, annoying, and the most horrific evil plaguing our society besides the Kardashians, but one thing that can make it a little less painstaking is finding a reference point. What do I mean by this? Well as I’d practiced parking for months on end, my parents drilled into my head the importance of finding points where you could see things are in relation to your car. For example, don’t complain if your parents are having you practice in an older beat-up junker car. Those logo emblem plates you see on the front of certain cars are there for more than cosmetic reasons. Those are extremely helpful when it comes to determining how straight you are. Or if you’re practicing in a newer model you can use the contours in your hood as arrows pointing to the middle.
But what about backing into the spot? You don’t have to look all the way around to determine that. As I’ve learned from trial and error (lots and lots of errors), the very front of your back side door (whichever side the cones/chairs/whatever are on) is the perfect point to start cutting the wheel back. Adjust the mirror down so you can see the very side of your back wheel for good measure, and move that sucker back (but not too far back.) Put the car back in drive, cut the wheel all the way to the opposite side of the curb, turn out, go into reverse, cut all the way, and go back to drive. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This is one of those things that’s easier on paper than in practice, but you know what?
It’s not the end of the world if you fail your license test. I did so the first time by curbing it after being told to parallel park the car within an aforementioned immaculate six inches (because everyone has to immaculately measure out how they parallel park in New Jersey). It took another frustrating half year of waiting, practicing, and more nerve wracking near-misses to the curb before I finally got it this February. And I’m not just the only one. I was able to get fellow Prospect writer Jessica Barone’s perspective on her mistakes on the road to getting her license, which is what I’m about to interrupt this regularly scheduled hacky advice listicle for…
3. You’re Gonna Make Some M(istakes) (by Jessica Barone)
I also learned to be grateful. For instance, time two; the test was so quick that I made it to school in record time to take my AP Psych test thus securing the fifteen-point curve. Failing twice also taught me that when things are not easily obtained, their worth increases. It is hard to be a seventeen year old with a car but without a license. Knowing that I couldn’t just jump in my car to meet my friends at a moment’s notice but, instead, had to ask my mom for a ride reminded me that 17 is still too young to enjoy all the freedoms of life. Learning to be patient is a valuable lesson in this world of instant gratification.
I expected to be an amazing driver instantly because of my love of Mario Kart, however I learned that real life lessons outweigh computer generated simulations. I also learned, from test two, that if a truck is unloading in the middle of your lane you should not go around it – you should put on your hazards and wait for the truck to finish unloading (even if that will be hours). I never want to be viewed as anything less than human; and a big part of being human is making mistakes. After all, third time’s the charm!
Last but not least…
4. Leave out the one P(panicking) but not that other P(arking Brake)
In all honesty, getting your license isn’t a magical confidence booster, at least it wasn’t for me. I used to sweat and feel knots in my stomach from even thinking about driving, and I still dread driving along certain roads (and anywhere in a city) to an extent, but the liberation of driving on your own is pretty awesome. Especially if that drive involves picking up Mexican sugarcane sodas and blaring your radio to infinity and beyond.
But when you stop practicing driving, *always* remember to keep a firm foot planted on the brake and put the damn car in park when you stop it. You know, it’s important to actually STOP when you stop. A couple I’ve learned that the hard way myself. Just ask the bemused row of propane tanks I narrowly swerved by at the local hardware store. I don’t know if you’ll have taken away anything helpful from this article, but hopefully, not nearly hitting propane tanks is one of those things.