How i learned a driver’s license means more than getting around – it means freedom

Looking out the window, I smile at the familiar sight of my five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter playing in the parked car. Matthew “drives” with my husband’s casual ease, hands resting lightly on the wheel, honking at regular intervals to signal another stop on the itinerary: McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Toys R Us.

“We’re playing Daddy and Mommy,” Karen announces when I come outside. “I’m sitting in your place,” she says, patting the front passenger seat. “Girls don’t drive.”

“No, no, sweetheart,” I say hastily, giving her my girls-can-do-any-thing lecture (“Your pediatrician, Dr. Beth, is a girl, and Jared’s mommy runs a big company and she’s a girl”): “Girls do drive. It’s just that don’t drive.”

It isn’t that I don’t know how to drive. I’m not what an out-of-state friend refers to as “one of those neurotic non-driving New Yorkers.” It’s that I was born with a brand of nearsightedness that even glasses could never correct enough to let me pass the vision test at the DMV.

When my 16-year-old classmates were having their first big gulp of freedom, I was still buckled into the passenger seat. My friends Jill, Pam and Marilyn, rather than my mother and father, became my chauffeurs. I veered between feeling endlessly beholden and eternally babyish.

My parents did what they thought was helpful, suggesting – ophthalmologist’s report to the contrary — that it was nerves rather than nearsightedness that was grounding me. They arranged for private lessons, looked into the feasibility of a daylight-hours-only license, and researched what make of auto provided particularly good visibility. When I got my learner’s permit (no vision exam required), my mother even hustled me into her station wagon for a tutorial.

It was brief. Going at a speed of 25 miles per hour down a suburban road, I misjudged the distance between the car and a long queue of orange cones, knocking them down clean as a strike. “Out,” said Mom. A half-dozen road workers witnessed my humiliation as I dashed out the driver’s side to my old seat.

Twenty years later, I have ample experience at being out of step with a large chunk (bulk) of the population. I often feel left behind when others take off, stuck when I’d like

to be gone.

I’m constantly told by those who wish to be comforting that driving is mostly drudgery: car pools, traffic jams, self-service gas pumps, trips to the airport for an aunt you wish had stayed home. But there’s no talking to me. I’m caught up in the romance of the road, sitting behind the wheel of a convertible on – well, it just has to be the Pacific Coast Highway, the wind blowing through my hair, a Beach Boys song blasting on the radio. I view a set of car keys dangling casually from someone’s hand in much the way, as an adolescent, I viewed a cigarette poised between someone’s fingers: the height of worldliness and sophistication.

After college, I moved to New York, a city that made as much sense for my “condition” as for my career. Journalists sometimes have to go out of town, however, so my first order of business is always to check into the availability of public transportation (frequently nonexistent), car services (often unreliable) and cabs (always expensive). I’m convinced I’ll lose work to colleagues with more dependable vision. On weekends in the country when my husband heads out alone for his cherished hardware store, I stand on the deck and watch the car become a dot in the distance, trying to shake my feeling of abandonment.

My husband is an unstinting and uncomplaining chauffeur, and my son, contemplating his own future as a motorist, has already pledged to take me to my beloved Starbucks. I have transportation. What I’m denied is that ineffable feeling of independence, the sweet awareness that without anyone’s assistance I can light out for the territories or anywhere at all, far beyond what the eye can see.

Answer the questions.

What are children playing and how? Why does the author give her daughter her girl-can-do-anything lecture? Why doesn’t the author drive? Why her classmates were having their first gulp of freedom at 16? What about her at the age of 16? What did her parents do to help? What did her mother do when the author got her learner’s permit? What happened at the first tutorial? How does the author feel twenty years later? What do people say about driving? Why? What does the author dream about? What is author’s profession? What did she do after college to have a career? What is her first order of business when she goes out of town? What usually happens on the weekends? How does the author feel about that? What has her son promised her? What is the author denied?

Vocabulary

Accommodation – размещение bed and breakfast (B&B) – небольшая частная гостиница budget hotel – недорогая гостиница apartment – квартира hostel – общежитие, используемое как гостиница для туристов university residence = university hall of residence – университетское общежитие expensive hotel – дорогая гостиница counterpart – противник, конкурент, двойник quiet close – тихое закрытое место en-suite room – многокомнатный номер в гостинице a wide range on offer – широкий диапазон предложений guest-house – дом для гостей bustling city – суетливый, беспокойный город accessible – доступный suburb – пригород self-catering apartment – квартира без обслуживающего персонала fully-equipped flat – полностью оборудованная квартира available — доступный, имеющийся в наличии waterside restaurant – ресторан на берегу водоема hotel chain – сеть гостиниц superb deal — прекрасная сделка, очень выгодное предложение dormitory bed – кровать в общежитии to include ~- включать facilities – удобства, оборудование, помещение для чего-либо linen – постельное белье laundry – прачечная dry cleaning – химчистка premises – территория, владение, дом с прилегающими к нему постройками и двором amenities – удобства mediterranean – средиземноморский twin room – комната на двоих family room – комната для семьи lounge – гостиная flagship hostel – флагманское общежитие to book online – заказать, забронировать, зарегистрировать через Интернет cooking facilities – кухня, место, где можно готовить, со всеми необходимыми принадлежностями entertainment – развлечение ale-and-pie house – пивная family-run hotel – семейная гостиница accredited to the London Tourist Board – аккредитован лондонским отделом туризма uptown reservations – заказ гостиничного номера в самой престижной части города last but not least – последний по списку, но не по значимости



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How i learned a driver’s license means more than getting around – it means freedom