The Driver's Test

The Saturday morning after I turned 16, I drove my Dad to the State Patrol post in Albany (pronounced Aww Benny) to take my driving test. After waiting for several nervous minutes, a mountain of a man in a trooper's uniform and Smokey bear hat walked out carrying a clipboard and a Styrofoam cup of coffee. He paused, looked around and called my name. I could feel my heart race.

We crawled in my El Camino. He set a cup of coffee on the dash, pulled his hat down to his nose and said, "lets go". I looked over at him and said, "Not until you fasten your seat belt." Seat belts were not mandatory in those days, but they were in my automobile. He grumbled, fumbled around, found the seat belt, fastened it, and pulled his hat back down. I started the car, and the trooper explained the rules, "Spill my coffee and you flunk." No pressure.

He directed me out onto the four-lane highway then to a turn lane to change directions. I drove south carefully maintaining my speed and lane position until he directed me to make a turn on a side road and a few more turns. He raised his hat briefly, pointed to a house and said, "That's my house".

A few more turns, back onto the four-lane highway, and we returned to the State Patrol post. I carefully pulled to the curb and shut off the ignition. I could feel my pulse racing. Not a drop of coffee spilled. I had signalled all my turns, stopped at all of the stop signs, had not exceeded the posted speed limits, and parked between the white lines.

The trooper raised his hat, sipped his coffee, and began scribbling on his clipboard. He quietly unbuckled his seat belt and got out. I got out and followed him. He stopped in front of my Dad and said, "He passed". he tore a card off his clipboard, handed it to me, and told me to carry it inside to have my license made.

After 30 years, I do not remember the trooper's name or exactly which house was his, but I still remember the route we took for the exam and how relieved I was that I had not spilled that cup of coffee.

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