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Driving Lesson Lessons

“If you want to learn how to drive, you have to go to where the drivers are.”

Behind where I live, there’s an office complex with a parking lot for employees. On the weekends it is entirely empty and on occasion you will find a student driver, or two comfortably practicing with either an instructor or a parent. I watch the slow and steady moves and smile thinking back on those lessons. It reminds me of the first driving lesson I had at 17 in Manhattan, which was less than comfortable.

The quote, above, was from my driving instructor, Tom. A chain smoking, tinted glasses wearing individual with a witty personality, Tom said that quote the moment I sat on the driver’s seat. We were parked on a busy section of Lexington Ave. which was crawling not just with other cars, vans and trucks, but people crossing streets. Being very nervous, he told me to make a left turn onto East 62nd Street and head towards the F.D.R. Drive – a multi-lane highway hugging Manhattan’s East River.

Growing up in NYC, I knew that, that location required a merge onto fast traffic. I was very scared. As Tom was helping me with his foot on the dual brakes and his left hand on the wheel, I successfully timed my merge onto the F.D.R. Drive going North. Relieved and going with the speed of traffic, I couldn’t believe that, that was part my first driving lesson. Soon after, I remember feeling like “hot stuff” behind the wheel.

Tom was a fun instructor who did a great job. But of all the things he taught me, that quote, or unsolicited advice remains on top. I still look back to that situation because sometimes for me, the best way to learn new things is to jump into it – cold. After that scary experience, the rest of the driving lessons with Tom seemed pretty darn easy.

We can only drive on an empty parking lot for so long. What have you jumped into cold?

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