My first time driving on the turnpike

Essay by dcarmonaCollege, UndergraduateA-, November 2008

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I had recently taken my practical Driver License exam. I had taken it in an empty parking lot, quite different from the crowded expressways, and very comfortable for first time drivers. For the exam, I drove a compact, black, brand-new, rented Toyota Yaris. It was the lightest car I have ever driven. Amazingly, I felt comfortable inside it! I was not nervous at that moment. That day, I was driving on the Turnpike South Extension North, from Homestead to Miami. I learned how to drive with an automatic vehicle, a red Ford Ranger which was heavy and seemed non responsive. The turnpike was only way I knew how to get to Miami. So, in few seconds I made the decision to go there to seek for employment without considering the fact that I did not know how to drive properly.

Naturally, I was nervous, regardless of my boyfriend was guiding me.

Inside the car, he started off by explaining how I have to change lanes, pass a car, and maintain the same speed. Suddenly, I became scared of every driver who passed by. Five seconds after I took the expressway, I showed him my clammy palms, and he kindly handed me a tissue. My entirely body was shaking like a leaf moved by the wind. I could feel the adrenaline circulating by my bloodstream. I was hot, but at the same time a cold sweat had covered me. My heart was beating so quickly that I felt like a thousands race horses were inside of my chest; all of them going in different directions. Also, my shoulders and neck were a bit tight and contracted. For just few seconds I turned my eyes toward the rear-view mirror, and I saw a vivid ghost. My face was pale as a piece of paper, and my eyes wide open. Inside my eyes, my sclera was full of tiny, little, red veins ready to explode at any second. I was going through one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

The entire road had plenty of cars and I was driving like a fool during rush-hours, the worst time for a new driver to go anywhere. I was quite nervous. From my perspective, the car lanes seemed like a big towering mountain on the horizon, one after the other. The yellow lights from the cars and the morning fog created a mist which I found hard to see through. My hands were attached to the wheel and rigid as an iron statue. I must have left fingers marks on the steering wheel from holding it so tight. I heard my boyfriend’s voice telling me what to do, and when to change lane, as a loud noise pounded inside my head. Anything that I heard or saw was a hundred times bigger than normal. The paved road seemed enormous and narrow at the same time. For me, I imagined that I would crash with every big truck passing by. Sometimes, I slip over the right yellow line for a few seconds because I was afraid to have an accident.

Driving on a busy turnpike freeway didn’t exactly reduce my anxiety level. After 15 minutes or so, we had to stop for some diesel fuel. My boyfriend went inside to pay for the fuel, and I took a little 5 minute break from the stressful situation. I sat in the car evaluating how the next part of the trip would be. Meanwhile, that sweat-drenched tissue quickly became a soggy ball of paper mush. It was at that point that I considered taking a pill but I thought I better not because that could impair my driving. I had to overcome my fear of cars. I still hadn’t managed to get accustomed to passing a car or accelerating. In two occasions, I pushed the break instead of the accelerator, and I did it with so much strength that we almost flew through the front glass.

Finally, we arrived in Miami alive. I overcame my first fear of driving on the expressway. However, those 30 minutes were long and endless. But, after having thrown myself into driving, I confronted my fears directly. I’m sure I won’t be as nervous never again.