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19 May 2009 @ 11:52 am
Driving Shame  
Our neighbor across the street is a very fine man who should just not drive. Ever. Once, as Best Beloved watched in bemused astonishment, he backed his SUV-type-car smack into the little red sports car he loves but almost never drives (because he has kids). He just - he put that car in reverse and hit the accelerator and did not stop until there was a CRUNCH sound. And then the sports car had to go away for a few weeks.

Twice, he's managed to back out of his driveway and somehow hit his lawn instead of the street. Twice. And I don't mean just brushing his lawn with a single wheel; he backed right straight across its lovingly-maintained greenness and dropped into the street off the curb with a resounding, car-shaking thump. And that's just what we've seen, and it's not like we watch him every minute, or even most minutes. (I will admit that I've thought occasionally that a webcam pointed at the front of his house would be bound to yield interesting results.)

It has reached the point where, if we're anywhere on the street and we see him getting into his car, we retreat at least fifty meters and try to put a solid barrier between him and us. And then we watch, because we know it will be good. (On Sunday, we had a 5.0 Richter scale earthquake. When it started, we were bathing the earthling, and as the house shook we looked at each other and said, "Either it's an earthquake or the neighbor just backed into our house.")

Best Beloved finds this pathetic. He's a nice man, he's successful, he has nice kids and a nice partner and a nice life, but when he goes into reverse, he takes his life and his insurance premiums in his hands. I, on the other hand, am entirely sympathetic, and here's why.

When I took driver's ed, I had never been behind the wheel of a car. I couldn't be covered by my parents' insurance until I had a learner's permit, and I couldn't get that until I had driver's ed, and to my parents, that meant that I could not so much as sit in the driver's seat. Which, fine. I doodled through several boring lectures and averted my eyes through many gruesome movies. And then came my big day. I showed up at the "range," which was an old motocross course the driver's ed people had bought and used to break in their students before they inflicted them on the actual public streets. And I expected I would learn how to drive.

Except. What happened was, we were all put in cars and told to just - go. No instructor in the car; he sat in a little tower and shouted at us through a radio. No instruction in, you know, how to drive. And everyone else was fine with that; they climbed into their cars like old pros and went. So I tried to, and I did fine. Until we were ordered to put our cars in reverse. Everyone else backed neatly and efficiently from one orange cone to another. I backed the car straight into a ditch. And I mean into that ditch. I couldn't get it out. The instructor couldn't get it out. Later, they had to bring a giant crane in to get it out. I am totally not kidding.

As I got out of my butt-down, teetering car and walked in shame back to the waiting area, the instructor yelled at me, "Why didn't you TELL me you didn't know how to drive?" And I didn't know what to say. It was my first range session. Of course I didn't know how to drive. I couldn't figure out how all those other people did. Didn't their parents worry about their insurance?

Anyway. Several years later, I was in college, and I was relating this story to a group of friends, as I have done many many times because it's one of those humiliations I cannot stop replaying in my head (especially, oh god, the jump down from the elevated driver's seat, and the long hot walk while everyone stared at me from their non-ditched cars, and the half-hour miserable wait while everyone else drove), and one of the people in the group sat bolt upright. "That was YOU?" he said. "They told us about you! You're FAMOUS!"

He took driver's ed two years after I did. They were still telling the tale of the girl who didn't know how to drive and backed into a ditch and they had to get a crane to get the car out. For all I know, they're telling it even now. It was yet another time in my life when I got to be the Horrible Example.

So I can relate to our neighbor. I haven't backed into a ditch in many years - really, it was just the once - but I still flinch every time I shift into reverse.

And the thing is, as we were talking about it, Best Beloved disclosed her own reverse shame story - one she had not previously told anyone, not even me, even though we've been married more than fifteen YEARS. I will not relate it here on the extremely off chance that the owner of other car reads this. (Also, she would hurt me.) And I shared with her a story I had never told anyone before, about how I hit the mailbox and knocked the whole thing into the street and didn't notice and a neighbor picked it up and put it on our lawn and my parents thought it was the victim of mailbox baseball (a popular pastime where I grew up) and cursed a little bit and then my father put it back up. And I never told them otherwise.

So we shared these stories, and then I started wondering how many other people have driving shame stories to share. (By "driving shame," I don't mean "I never use my turn signals." I mean, like, "I forgot to put the parking brake on and it rolled into the street and sat there for hours, forcing all our neighbors, as they returned from work, to drive into someone else's driveway to get around it.") I'm hoping it's not just Best Beloved and me and the guy across the street who have these stories. I mean, I can think of five of them right off the bat, including one that scares me more now remembering it than it did when I did it.

And the thing is, these are all more terrifying now, because we have the earthling. It's one thing to look back in shame; it's entirely another thing to be looking ahead in horror.

So: do you have any driving shame stories? I want to hear them! Not only will I feel less like an idiot (I backed into the ditch oh my god); I will also have a great resource to show the earthling in about 16 years, when he asks why he can't get a license.
 
 
 
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tried to eat the safe banana: Adult nowthefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 05:53 am (UTC)
Oh, man. I totally failed my first driver's test through nothing but nerves. And I once couldn't donate bood because I almost got hit in the parking lot on the way in and I couldn't calm down enough to qualify. If I had been ACTUALLY HIT by a Mack truck before taking my driver's test, I probably would still not be a licensed driver today.

(And I once backed into a pillar in the parking structure attached to my place of work, in the space where I'd been parking for two YEARS. Just - WHUMP, and there went my bumper.)
yan_tan_tetheryan_tan_tether on May 19th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
Oh God, I haven't driven in 8 years because shortly after passing my test I 1) backed heavily into a wall and gave my passenger whiplash and 2) crashed into 2 parked cars while trying to drive out of a carpark and then drove off at speed, screaming. I'm just happy I live in a city with a great public transport system!
tried to eat the safe banana: Age of Sailthefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
I so envy you. I could not, in fact, survive without driving, because our public transportation system SUCKS. Every time I visit London, I fall in love with the public transport and try to figure out how we could move there.
Ride me like your Taiwanese bikes.: Don Dudedrlense on May 19th, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
Um. I backed the car out of the garage, but wasn't paying attention, and took the driver's side mirror off. I was 24 and had been driving for six years.

Last summer I was at a stop/yield on an entrance ramp, waiting my turn to merge onto a busy road. I didn't double check the car in front of me, thought I was clear to go, and accelerated right into his trunk.

And I think of myself as a good driver.

Edited at 2009-05-19 07:15 pm (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: All the bees are ded.thefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 05:56 am (UTC)
See, I envy you. After the Ditch Incident, I could never consider myself a good driver; I relive it every time I go into reverse. Seriously. TRAUMA, I am telling you.
(no subject) - drlense on May 20th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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bleedtobluebleedtoblue on May 19th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
I hate backing up. I backed into all manner of things when I was a teenager, including a telephone pole in the middle of an otherwise empty parking lot. My father, who was very patient, said,"Just tell me, how could you not see a telephone pole?" It was invisible until the moment I hit it.

But my most embarrassing moment? Getting off the ferry in New Orleans. I turned too sharply and scraped the entire side of the car, badly. The guys directing traffic were watching, all the other people waiting to get off were watching, and all the people waiting to get on were watching. My sister was in the car with me and had started yelling "STOP!" as I made the turn. So, of course everyone in the entire family has heard the tale. Then I had to go home and explain it to my husband, who to his everlasting credit said, as I started my explanation, "As long as you are alright and we aren't getting sued, it doesn't matter."

I have three sons, all of them took after me in driving ability. I will not regale you with the horror stories, but my advice is to move somewhere with good public transportation.

Edited at 2009-05-19 07:16 pm (UTC)
tried to eat the safe banana: Antiquitythefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
Okay, my non-existent tail curled up tight reading about your ferry experience. Eeeeeeek.

And please let the earthling not take after me when it comes to driving. It is a miracle that I survived my teens, I tell you. (Maybe I should just not let him get his license until he's not a teen anymore? I got a lot saner after that.)
Bonethisisbone on May 19th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
*raises hand*

I wrecked the driver's ed car. Actually, somebody else drove out of their driveway without glancing in either direction and plowed right into me, so it wasn't even close to my fault, but you can imagine the story that went around school.

$1200 worth of damage! In 1982! That's, like, $5000 or something in today's dollars. I whupped that car up but good! *facepalm*

The teacher made me get back behind the wheel and drive to my house, where he got out and explained very nicely to my parents that it was NOT MY FAULT.

And yet the story lives on...

tried to eat the safe banana: Appathefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC)
Oh, god, I totally sympathize. Maybe we could form a club for people still famous - years and years and years after the fact - for damaging the cars in driver's ed? We could have meetings with tea and cookies. And Valium.
frostfirefrostfire_17 on May 19th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
My driving shame is a very short story: I can't. In that I am 23 years old and have never once been behind the wheel of a car. In fact, if I ever do learn how to drive, driver's ed will probably be involved, and then *I* will be the poor person saying, bewildered, "What do you mean, why didn't I say I don't know how to drive? Isn't this supposed to be where you learn?" while a crowd of 16-year-olds stares at me in disgust.
Professor Liddle-Oldmanliddle_oldman on May 19th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
I got my license at 27, if that's any help.
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starfishchick on May 19th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
I was tailing my high school crush's bus (I know) and he lived in a rural area where there were ditches and no sidewalks. I was lost and didn't know how to get home, but the roads are all in a grid, so I checked my compass (on my keychain) and drove into a ditch. I drove right back out again but scratched up the side of the car ... I let my parents think someone had hit them in a parking lot.


OH, and once I drove into my parents' house. (It was a very steep gravel driveway, and you had to pull ALL THE WAY UP in order to get a second car up there... so I pulled ALL THE WAY UP. And hit the house.)

Edited at 2009-05-19 07:18 pm (UTC)
mearamearagrrl on May 20th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
I backed into my house too!!!!

But, see, it was cause we had kind of a 4 shaped driveway? (Er, as some people write a 4, with the top open) And if you had parked the second car in the upper part of the 4 you had to back around the other car and the house/garage. And I was trying VERY HARD to back around the other car....and clipped the house.

Luckily, I was driving verrrrry slowly. So mostly the only damage was that I flattened the drain/downspout thingie. My mom made me try to pound it back into open-ness with a hammer by hand.
(no subject) - starfishchick on May 20th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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the pirate queen of norwayashkitty on May 19th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
...I also cannot understand why they assumed you would be able to drive in DRIVER'S ED. :p

Anyway, I once backed my car into my mom's car whilst trying to leave our driveway. I'm still not sure how it happened considering I was looking right at it, I just didn't see it.
tried to eat the safe banana: Batman in the spotlightthefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
...I also cannot understand why they assumed you would be able to drive in DRIVER'S ED. :p

I know! And yet everyone else DID know how to drive, so. Obviously it was just me that was the problem.
nestra on May 19th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
I have a shame story, and can't quite bring myself to share it. So you can be comforted knowing that I do have a story. But I'm not telling it.
tried to eat the safe banana: Batvinethefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 06:05 am (UTC)
*makes encouraging, hopeful noises*

This is a safe space! Seriously, READ some of these comments. Your shame can't possibly be worse. (And if it is, you win a prize!) Share!
What the Monkey?svilleficrecs on May 19th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
I accidentally backed into a tree in someone's yard. The tree was fine, I think. My car, not so much. I'm still thanking god I didn't manage to back into their house. (A car was coming in my lane when I was backing out of an opposite driveway and I panicked and hit the gas while in reverse and didn't quite get the angle of turning right... what, I'd had my license for a few months then.)
tried to eat the safe banana: Big eyesthefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 06:06 am (UTC)
A car was coming in my lane when I was backing out of an opposite driveway and I panicked and hit the gas while in reverse and didn't quite get the angle of turning right... what, I'd had my license for a few months then.

In high school, I had a friend who was coming out of a Burger King drive-through in her new car, as a very new driver, and she saw a police car turning in. She panicked, afraid she'd hit the police car or somehow do something wrong, and overcorrected. And drove into the Burger King sign.

She got their attention.

So, yeah, I see how that could happen.
Professor Liddle-Oldmanliddle_oldman on May 19th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
A) I've been wondering whatever happened to Mr. Magoo!

B) Your writing makes mine look like chimpanzee vocalizations.

C) I think your driving experience is an indication of how young you are. I find it incredible that the driving school would just assume you knew how to drive, but this is the age when suburban 16-year-olds are automatically bought new cars. It no more occurred to them that you didn't already drive than it would occur to you to show a visitor the computer's on switch.

D) The first time I borrowed my father's 1967 Buick Skylark convertible, I managed to get it so that it's progress was blocked, fore and aft, by a tree.

The second day I owned my first car -- Leviathan, Last Of The Dinosaurs (a '72 Buick Electra) -- as I pulled into the parking space in the insurance company's lot, I stove in the side of another car. Which the owners were driving home from the dealer. It still had the paperwork all stuck to the windows.

Anyone who claims to have no automotive shame stories is lying. ;)
laura: carjacquez on May 20th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC)
D) cracks me up, because the day we took our brand-new car to the DMV for my husband to take his driver's test, the girl in front of him for taking the test crashed into it. While pulling out of the spot next to him, in the very first driving act she made during her test. (As it turns out, they fail you for that.)

My own story: I was stopped at a red light, about the 4th car in line. On the cross street, a bus stopped to let people on/off; everyone in front of me turned right on red.

I processed: stopped vehicle on cross street + cars in front of me moving and did not actually look at the light. That...was the end of that car. And I've always been thankful my husband was working late that day and wasn't in the passenger seat, because I am not sure he would have survived; that side of the car was crushed. (On the other hand, he might've noticed that the light hadn't changed and prevented the accident in the first place. Who knows.)

Edited at 2009-05-20 04:02 am (UTC)
(no subject) - liddle_oldman on May 21st, 2009 02:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(also, i can kill you with my brain.): adrian: ouchskripka on May 19th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
I was in HS, had my license and everything. However, we had a very steep driveway, and you almost had to gun the engine to get up to the street, in addition to looking both ways around the walls and trees. Always a fun time.

Anyway, I was pulling out, and hit the gas a bit too hard. Instead of pulling onto the street gently, as I was expecting, I had turned the wheel too hard, and made a tight circle, backwards, over the wall and the mailbox. (our wall was actually at street grade, as opposed to the neighbor's)

There I was, car half on the street, half dangling over the yard, mailbox crushed somewhere beneath teh undercarriage, and that's not the worst part. The worst part is that our neighbor was the HS principal's mother-in-law, and the grandmother of one of my classmates. Both of whom were visiting that day. Of course they came out to help muscle the car back onto the street while I stood around being mortified.
tried to eat the safe banana: Bra headthefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 06:17 am (UTC)
Oh my god. The automotive shame with witnesses is always the worst.

(And, after I had been driving for many years, my mother bought a house with a terrifying driveway. It wasn't on a hill or anything like that, but it was sort of - jagged. I backed out of it ONCE. It took me half an hour. I sympathize with driveway problems, I tell you what.)
intellectual pepperyeleveninches on May 19th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
I backed over my mailbox. Twice. In a row.
tried to eat the safe banana: Calamity Physicsthefourthvine on May 20th, 2009 06:17 am (UTC)
*applauds you*

It's the encore that makes it, I think.
John Stamos Took It Too Far: road trip by iconspiritbrooklinegirl on May 19th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
I completely totaled my first car a month after I got it, as I was trying to cross two lanes of traffic (one going in each direction) by just kind of - closing my eyes and gunning it and hoping people would stop. HAND TO GOD: that was how my mother TAUGHT me to drive through that intersection.

and last fall, I drove my car into the side of my house. Not into the various and sundry pipes sticking out on either side, which make pulling in and out of it a hazard, but the part where I had to REALLY REALLY TRY to get close enough to just - drive into the house. I've been trying to figure out how I actually managed to do it ever since, and CAN'T. I had to have been REALLY TRYING.

/o\
John Stamos Took It Too Far: spn roadtrip by toxic_cloudbrooklinegirl on May 19th, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
OH. also, in the city where I GREW UP, and LEARNED TO DRIVE, I was trying to get to my mom's house, got confused, and DROVE UP AN ON-RAMP IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. that was fun. It was in the afternoon and only one car was coming towards me and I, you know, swerved, but OH MY GOD YEAH THAT WAS A GOOD TIME.
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penknife: woepenknife on May 19th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
I do not have any idea how to parallel park. At all. It might as well involve landing a spaceship on the moons of Saturn.

I passed a driver's test that included parallel parking by turning the wheel at totally random angles and somehow winding up inside the orange cones, at which point I was totally relieved that I never had to do that again. Sometimes I am looking for a parking space, and there are all these street parking spaces that would probably do me a lot of good if my car suddenly developed the ability to go sideways, and ...

... well. I also have two stories about car wrecks involving me making left turns without looking where I was going, but somehow the parallel parking thing is what makes me doubt whether I really have this "competent adult" thing down.
I'm not fluent in your dialect of crazy: shift - chrismmdine on May 19th, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC)
oh, thank god I'm not the only one! I can only assume that the DMV tester wasn't paying attention, as I got my license at age 17, somehow passing even the parallel-parking bit. maybe he just didn't think it was important - which, points to him, cause I'm 50 now, and *still* can't parallel-park.

like you, I end up passing by lots and lots of perfectly fine spaces that I can't get into - which includes lots of cursing, generally.
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