I have uttered that phrase so many times in my life; I wanted to carry around business cards with it embossed on the front, and a short but pleasant explanation on the reverse.
Because, especially in Central Ohio, you can’t just say that sentence without some someone’s jaw hitting the floor. After this shocking (shocking!) admission and once the wheels start turning, the inquiries began. People took an intense interest in my suddenly torrid past, or my difficult and challenging life! Because why else wouldn’t someone succumb to the joy of independence of the American driving experience?!
I am always sorry to disappoint others, but I have no salacious or even mildly passionate tales of driving woe. I lived in cities, was a very nervous driver, and made it through life by walking, taking a bus, or bumming rides off friends, and eventually my very patient husband. I had taken driver’s ed. when I was 16, and completed all the training. I had my temporary license no less than 5 times. I was used to not driving, and it became a regular part of who I was.
My status as a non-driver (as it says in bold print on the state ID card) had become a bit of a challenge. I was limited to coordinating every trip to the grocery store, work and appointments. I became very patient waiting for rides, and learned to organize my life around getting where I had to be….
For 15+ years, “I don’t drive” remained my refrain.
But then came along a career opportunity I could not pass up here in Delaware! One small problem… it required a valid Ohio driver’s license. Up to this point, I always could figure out a way around my driving issues. Now, I had no choice.
Which it turns out, is exactly what I needed. Through the gracious folks I work for, I was hired on the condition of getting my license. I was given a deadline and eventually an extension. It was a long time coming, but I was determined to drive!
I started my new job (www.casadelco.org) in January. The plan was for me to get my license by March 31st. Learning to master the art of driving during the winter in Delaware was not an easy task. I was terrified and practiced as much as I could, but asked for an extension to May 31st.
Uh oh, that is not right!
Murphy’s Law was now in full effect! Less than a week before my test, upon returning home from Cleveland over a long weekend, the tire sensor on the top right tire on our minivan popped, and the tire deflated very rapidly. My husband drove home on a donut…it was a very long ride!
We had to buy four new tires and two new sensors that last week of May. Always one to look for deals, my husband and I ended up at the local Goodyear (150 S Sandusky St, 363-1949) We had a great experience; the service team was super helpful, we got it all done in a few hours, and they even had activities to entertain my toddler. I highly recommend the place!
I re-scheduled my exam to June 13. I spent the last few nights before my test in the Big Lots parking lot on Route 23, practicing under the watchful and sometimes patient eyes of my husband and anyone who happened to be in the drive thru of the McDonalds!
During this time, many Delaware folks played critical roles in helping me along the way. Friends offered encouragement, empathy and kind words. A very gracious co-worker found me her step-dad’s orange traffic cones to practice maneuverability with. My boss borrowed tomato stakes from the Juvenile Court Community Service garden to put in the tops of those cones, so I could see them from the high driver’s seat in our minivan. And most importantly, folks prepared me with strength, courage and lots of hopeful wishes and prayers.
Even the employees at the dreaded BMV were outstanding! Whoever is in charge at the Delaware Drivers Exam Station on Route 23 (http://www.bmv.ohio.gov/21.stm) should be commended for having the nicest staff. They talked me through the test step-by-step. They let me pause and think and pray before I started, in the middle, and at the end! The driving portion took me along Hills-Miller in an area I was already familiar with, and residents on the side streets actually waved at the car!
I failed the maneuverability the first time, and when I came back to conquer those orange cones the next week, the staff remembered me and offered such encouragement! They told me the best place to practice and gave me some tips about borrowing a smaller car.
On June 23, I cried big happy tears when I finally sailed through the maneuverability portion and even got hugs from the testing staff!
I am very happy to say that I am now a licensed driver and that would not have happened without the people of Delaware County! From my fellow county employees, to the mechanics at Goodyear, to the BMV staff, Delaware is truly a town that cares and supports its own.
I am now free to discover all the new places in Delaware; so be on the lookout for my smiling face piloting around town, seeking new challenges.