So now that I finally have my very first driver’s license, at the age of 56, I’ve started to drive around a bit. And I have to say, it’s exhilarating — and terrifying! I don’t think I am yet an excellent driver: I’m basing this theory on the number of times other drivers honk at me, and also the stern and/or bewildered looks I get from pedestrians. The drivers tend to honk when I’m changing lanes, and those on foot do their glaring/beseeching when I’m turning into what they rightly consider their walking space.
Today, after a young woman gave me a WTF look as I turned into where she was about to cross the street, I told myself, repeatedly: Don’t turn until you are sure that no one is there! The thing is, there are so many things going on at once — cars turning (or not turning), cars behind me waiting to turn (I don’t want to make them impatient!), my bicycling comrades, and then those pesky pedestrians. It’s a lot for a middle-aged brain to process — especially one that has become used to processing things at either walking or cycling speed.
I was driving only a short distance — to have a new radio installed in the 2001 Honda Civic I am buying from some dear friends. The old radio didn’t have a reliable way to play music from my phone or iPod, and having decent sound was always part of my (rare) dreams of someday being a driver. At the auto-sound store, they showed me how I could install a system that would give me better speakers, along with subwoofers, etc. Which seemed like a fantastic idea — until they told me how much even an “introductory” system would cost (more than I’m paying for the car). So I just got the new radio thingie in the front — which can bluetooth-connect with my phone, USB-connect with my iPod, and even tell me the correct time!
On the drive back home, I played some Pixies tracks — with the GPS lady occasionally breaking in to tell me where to turn. I sang (well, “sang”) along with Black Francis and felt like some combination of badass and scaredy-cat. Nobody honked or glared at me the whole way, which was awesome.
Next week I’m planning to have the car “detailed” (which I’d mistakenly thought was getting stuff like racing stripes, but turns out to be more of a cleaning-and-waxing thing). And I’m going to try to keep driving a bit every day or two, in the hope that more and more of what I do behind the wheel will come to feel instinctual, rather than a rapid flurry of jittery, conscious choices.
And I’m going to keep a kind of diary, in this space, of my progress as (if you will) a middle-aged teenage driver — plus, ask you readers who are veteran drivers any questions that occur to me.
So here’s a question:
- I’ve noticed that, even during the day, lots of other cars have their headlights on. I’d assumed that you only put on your headlights at night. What gives? Should I turn on my headlights during the day? And if so, when? (I have a vague memory of hearing about something called “running lights,” but I’m not sure what they are or whether my car has them.)
So that’s my first question. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crank it up to 11.