(Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

October 5, 1998

Rocky road leads to license

The Tattoo

My story starts at Bill's Driving School on West
Street in Bristol. Last year, I signed up for
driver's ed there.

It was the start of a journey that every
teenager takes, something they look forward to
their whole life. It is the journey necessary to
receive that all-important piece of plastic that
means freedom.

Two years ago, the state of Connecticut took it
upon itself to make freedom a bit tougher to
come by. According to the new law, it is now
necessary to obtain a permit, and wait four to
six months (depending on whether or not you take
a driver's education classes) to take the
license test.

I lived to tell my story, and would like to
share it with you.

A few days after my first class at the driving
school, I took the test for my learner's permit.

Getting a learner's permit is like getting a
fruitcake for Christmas. It is something, but
not what you want.

That little piece of cardboard gave me the right
to drive -- as long as I had a licensed driver
21 years of age or older alongside. Since I was
taking driver's ed through a certified school,
my permit lasted four months.

This is where things got interesting.

One good thing about Bill's Driving School is
that, while you must still attend 15 classes and
8 hours of driving, you can take these
requirements at your leisure. Because of playing
baseball, I couldn't show up at too many classes
-- so it seemed like I'd be in driver's ed

The material isn't exactly riveting, and the
videos that are shown look like they were made
by my little sister, with acting straight from a
bad sitcom.

You could understand that I didn't feel like I
would ever get my license.

As August rolled around, I started to pile on
the classes. Now I was ready to drive. (In other
words, the real fun was starting.)

Every teen feels that he's ready to get behind
the wheel. I know that's how I felt.

However, my mind changed quickly. Really, you
would not believe how mad an instructor gets
when you slam on the brakes.

The driving portion of the course is where you
learn such intricacies as left-hand turns and
80-year-old drivers. Guess which one was harder
to deal with.

After the classes and driving hours are done,
and the permit period is over, it is time to
take the license test.

This can be done one of two ways. You can either
take it through the driving school, which is
more convenient but also costs more, or take it
at the Department of Motor Vehicles, where it's
less expensive, but it's harder to make an
appointment -- probably because they actually
work what must amount to three hours a week.

I showed up to the driving school for the 
driving test,where a few others I knew
awaited the nerve-wracking event. I was the
first to go out for the road test.

Before you go out, you get a checkpoint sheet so
that you can look it over. There are three areas
of grading. In two of the areas, three wrong
moves means that you are making another
appointment with the DMV. In the last part, the
critical driving skills section, one wrong move
means the same thing.

I stepped into the car, greeted by one of those
great DMV instructors. This nice fellow had the
personality of a wet rug, and the kindness of an
executioner (which is probably perfect for the

"How are you?" I asked.

He responded, "Well, my coffee is cold, it took
them too long to serve it to me, and I had to
show up here early this morning. Now get in the
car and start."

Oh, boy.

I stepped into the car, turned on the engine,
and was off. I thought I did pretty good.

However, when I pulled into a parking space to
end the test, there was a long silence.

Breaking the ice, I finally asked, "Well, how
did I do?"

He then gave me that look, the one someone gives
you when you either asked a stupid question or
said something really dumb.

The instructor reached over the wheel, picked up
his red pen, and circled the "FAIL" box over and
over and over.

When the ink finally bled through the pad, he
dismissed me to go across the street to the
driver's school and report the news.

Well, if I ever wanted to step in front of a
speeding car, that was the time. Of course, the
instructor probably would have marked me down
for that, too, so I just waited to cross the

The next time I took the driving test, it went
better than expected until the end, when I had
to pull into a parking space. I misunderstood
the instructor's order, and almost turned into
the wrong space.

"Hey, I don't mean for you to get creative," the
instructor said. "Just pull into the space I
said to."

With an icy cold dread, I pulled in, turned off
the engine, and again prepared for the worst.

After telling me my mistake, the instructor
circled the "pass" box on my test.

I shook his hand repeatedly until he said, "Glad
to be of service, but let go of my hand."

I went into the driving school to share the good
news in my humble way. (Actually, I shouted
"Yes!" and jumped in the air before I walked

Two days later, I went to the New Britain DMV to
get my license.

Now was the easy part. I was going to go up
there, smile, and get a good picture taken.

I sat down in the chair and got ready to pose.
The cameraman interrupted me, saying, "There's a
problem with the camera. Just sit tight."

OK, no problem. I could wait. I just want to be
ready when ....