First of all, Merry belated Christmas! I tend to stick stay quiet and reflective over this time of the year, hence a bit of my silence on the blog-But also, I was keeping in contact with some old friends and family, while also playing up the new Hurk character on Vindictus, among other things-Like that crazy allergic reaction.
As I mentioned I get reflective. This afternoon, as I was driving to get to Starbucks, I was thinking about my grandfather. When I took at turn around Cherry and Bayhill, and gently applied the throttle, I smiled at the thought of gramp telling me to do so for the first time.
Grandfather was the person that taught me how to drive. In a van, no less-That was the family car at the time. I had already turned 16, and was in Driver’s Education at my high school. I didn’t have a permit yet, but he taught me anyway, on the barren and deserted back roads of the old Fort Ord army post in Monterey, California. It was some years before it became California State University, Monterey Bay or CSUMB.
We drove deep into the barracks area, where no other cars would be, and then we switched seats, I would be drilled on driving maneuvers, parking, and questioned out of the driver’s manual.
The first time behind the wheel this was not. I can remember as a small child, grandfather would let me sit in his lap as we drove. And couple times he let me hold the wheel. Of course this was years before the seatbelt law took effect, and it was never in large traffic, but my first experience behind the wheel and seeing that perspective wasn’t exactly foreign to me.
Heck, I’ve played many first person piloting and driving game simulations in the arcade and home console prior to my first automobile lesson. Driving a real vehicle would be no problem, or so I thought. Of course unlike those simulations, there are no extra lives, nor do-overs. A mistake can be fatal indeed.
Fortunately the lessons went well, and driving quickly became second nature. I even drove us to dinner on my second driving lesson. I’ve always had a knack for spatial visualization, and coordination when controlling vehicles and devices. I suppose all those quarters spent in the arcade had helped in this regard.
Unfortunately I didn’t actually get my license until a few years later, when I was nineteen and living in Santa Clara. I admit I failed the written text twice when I was 16-What can I say, my mind was studying other things at the time, but also living in Salinas never really required me to have a vehicle to get around. In a far larger city like Santa Clara, driving was a necessity. Furthermore, the written test I had taken years later was the same as the initial test I took, so I already knew the answers. Haha!
When I did finally pass my driving test and procured my license, being poor, of course I was without a car. And my mother didn’t trust me to drive hers, which rather maddened me. Perhaps it was a week later that my grandfather invited me to stay the weekend with him and grandmother back in Salinas. And he decided to let me drive back. It was a good hour or so drive, and it would be a challenge. Of course I was up to the task.
And so I got behind the wheel of that same van I had learned to drive in. For the first time, it was beyond familiar, it was more like an extension of myself. I knew how it felt, and it was as natural as walking. On the other hand, traffic at rush hour in the south bay was not so familiar, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit nervous-But it went well enough, and we arrived in Salinas safe and sound.
The notable point of this experience took place on a bridge, an overpass. I was playing some random radio station and just as we reached the peak of the overpass, the chorus to a Van Halen song rang loud and proud,”Standing on Top of the World!”
It was ridiculous and indeed cheesey, but it was a moment in my life I would never forget, and it was shared by someone I now very much miss.