Licensed to Cry: My Driving Journey


Photo by Ashley Veazey.

I be driving.

Ashley Veazey, Photo Editor

Turning the engine off and allowing the 90 degrees Georgia heat to seep through my windowpane, I sat alone in my Subaru, carefully parked between two orange cones. This was me, four days before turning 18, waiting for my road test evaluator to come out of the back door of the Norcross DMV. As I sat in anticipation, I reminisced about my vehicular-testimony. 

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to driving. It took me eight months after my 15th birthday to muster up the courage to take my permit test. Despite hours of studying, I failed by one question: When is it okay to go backwards on the highway?

Apparently never, but in my mind, I had created some emergency situation in which it would be acceptable. What if a large pine tree falls onto I-85? Or an oil fire leaves a line of flames in your path? Odds are, in a situation similar to either of those, you’ll put your car in reverse. Whatever. I’m not bitter. After two more trips to the DMV, I had passed the test, and I was officially permitted to drive around town with my mom.

Naturally, I waited for months to even sit in the driver’s seat. I had grown up in a carpooling family and constantly relied on other people to get me places. I was perfectly fine with this.  My mom had different ideas, however, and decided to enroll me in Taggart’s Driving School that next summer. (She bought the in-car instruction package, which meant I would be forced to drive after completing the course). 

The class itself was fine, as I spent the majority of my days drawing little faces in the back of my notebook and walking across the street to Starbucks whenever we got a break from instruction time. 

A couple of months later I met Candice, my driving instructor. She pulled up to my house in her tacky Taggart sedan on two separate occasions. Looking back, the six hours I spent with her helped me tremendously, but at the time of the lessons all I remembered feeling was a sense of embarrassment. I mixed up the turn signals, cried while driving on the interstate, and nearly missed a handful of stop signs. But I prevailed, and at the end of our time together, she thanked me for genuinely trying to improve my bad driving. We also discussed Black Panther in length and I’m pretty sure we stopped at RaceTrac so she could buy a soda. Shoutout to Candice.

Anyways, after two years and with 40+ hours of experience under my belt, I arrived at the DMV for the second time that month –The first time I tried to get my license, I forgot certain paperwork and promptly sobbed in the queue. My evaluator finally walked up to the car, took the papers from my hand, and got right to it. 

The evaluator had it out for me from the beginning. I think she hated me for asking so many questions. For example, if she wanted me to turn ‘at the next light’, I would make a big point of asking, “This light?”, to which she replied, “That’s what I said.” I also almost missed a left turn completely and she made some comment about “wanting to stay alive” as I whipped the steering wheel at the last minute.  

I passed my road test by three points. With a final glare, my evaluator closed the passenger door and I walked back into the DMV. My license photo perfectly sums up the experience: I’m staring straight into the camera on the verge of tears. But like I said, I’m not bitter. After years of turmoil and trauma, I am finally licensed and able to drive — at least to school and straight home.