Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Exams (07/26/04)
TITLE: Driving Ms. Devlin
By Corinne Smelker
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“Oh yeah. Wanna jump in the hot seat?” I joked nervously.
I was met with a blank stare.
“OOOOK then. I guess that’s a no.”
As I walked towards the test car, the last words my mother said to me reverberated through my mind like a stuck record, “There’s only three things I dread in this life — death, taxes, and you getting a driver’s license.”
“No fair.” I exclaimed at the time, but after meeting Terminator’s look-alike I wasn’t feeling quite so confident. In fact, my knees were having fellowship together, but I hoped Ms. Devlin wouldn’t see that. She looked like a hard cookie.
I got behind the wheel and she grilled me on all the road basics. Duh, like I don’t know what a stop sign is! Well, I got through the interrogation all right, and then — it was my moment to shine!
Confidently, I started the car, and confidently put my foot on the accelerator. Apart from the engine revving, nothing happened.
“Uh, Miss Stevens. You forgot. Your handbrake is on.”
“Who uses a handbrake anyway!” I exclaimed, stealing a look at Ms. Terminator.
She made a note on her clipboard, an omen of things to come I suspected.
I released the handbrake, forgetting that my foot was firmly on the floor, with the gas pedal firmly encased underneath.
“Wow, 0-60 in 5 seconds! This car has great pick up! I’ve gotta get me one of these.” I whooped as I brought the car under control again.
A frosty silence hit me. I glanced over to Ms. Devlin hanging onto to the door handle as if her life depended on it. “Watch your speed!” She shrilled. “Watch the road!”
I took my foot from the gas, applied it to the brakes, admittedly a little hard, because Terminator’s mother abruptly lurched forward in her seat and then snapped her head back.
“Can you please focus on the task at hand,” she exclaimed, bringing her hands together in what looked like a traditional prayer gesture. Then she whipped out the clipboard again, and wrote so furiously, I thought the paper would combust spontaneously. Uh oh – not good, definitely a bad thing, one could say it looked gloomy for me.
“Now. Let’s try going around the course, obeying the posted limits, and all the signs, please.” Was there a hint of pleading? Nah! Just my imagination — I could ace this course, I had just been nervous right?
I slowed down to the posted 25MPH, and even stopped at the stop sign. From the corner of my eye I could see her begin to relax somewhat, although the knuckles around her pen were still a little white.
“This next part is a little tricky. There is a series of hairpin bends, and they come up quickly. Make sure you take it easy.”
I peered ahead of me and saw in the distance the group of bends she mentioned. “Did a sadist lay this track out?” I asked. Someone with too much time and money, and a vendetta against all motor vehicles was definitely responsible for the mess ahead of us.
“Just drive.” She snarled.
For some reason my feet got tangled up, clutch, gas and brake all became a blur, and instead of serenely coasting around the bends as I’d planned, my foot hit and froze on the gas pedal.
“Brake! Brake! Put your foot on the brake!” I could dimly hear her yelling.
“Where is it?” I screamed at her, and instinctively looked down at my feet to figure out the tangle going on.
“AARRGH – we’re going to crash!” She wrenched the wheel from my fingers and tried to correct us, but we went careening off the road, narrowly missing a tree, and a guard rail. By now, my feet had stopped fighting with each other, decided that co-operation was the better part of friendship and suddenly, got themselves on the right pedals. I pressed the brake pedal, and for the first time looked up. We were headed right for a drainage ditch, a deep drainage ditch, a water-filled drainage ditch.
Before the car even came to a complete halt, Ms. Devlin was out and hightailing it back to the sanctity of the buildings. I clambered out slowly, and followed her. I found her bug-eyed and gibbering to another employee. I said the only thing that came to mind, “I guess I didn’t pass the test, huh?”