I got my driver's license when I was 17. That did not mean I started driving at 17. Unlike most of my friends and classmates, who could not wait to experience the new-gained freedom, I put off driving for as long as I could.
I was not scared of driving. I just did not see a need for it. My mom was more than willing to drive me to school, our local library, and my job whenever I needed to. She thought I was clumsy and was worried that I might run myself into an accident. Insurance rates were high for teenagers anyway, if I did not want to drive, well, more money to pocket for my parents.
I was content. I had no need to venture out of my comfort zone. It was not until my second semester in college, when I had different schedules daily, that it became too confusing for my mom to keep track. My mom told me I had to put my driver's license to use.
My father got me a green Corolla in my second year of college. It was his way of telling me that I had no excuse not to drive myself. I had a driver license, a car, and a car insurance policy. My father wanted me to be independent. He told me that he had to learn to navigate L.A. traffic within a couple of weeks of arriving in the States. He said the only way to get comfortable with driving was to do it.
My Corolla and I ended up going to many places together... my junior college that was 8 miles away, my 4-year university that was 40 miles away, my optometry school that was 5 states away, the different cities I did my internships at, and eventually Texas.
I had the habit of taking the same routes to places. If my parents told me there was road construction and I should take another way, I would quietly leave early, just so I could take my usual route. I was not afraid of
getting lost. By the time I got to college, I had gotten over my
shyness and was not afraid to ask for directions. I just did not like to change my routines.
I remember one time, I stayed up late at home to finish my homework. I had an early class in my 4-year college the next morning so at 1 am, I made the 40 miles drive back. Unfortunately, there was construction going on, forcing me take a detour a few exits away from my apartment. The roadside detour instructions were vague and I got confused. I ended up in downtown L.A. at 2 am, driving around to find my way to my apartment. After 30 or 40 minutes of fruitless driving in circles, I spotted two police cars in front of a convenience store.
I was very excited to see them. I was tired from studying and the extra driving. I knew it was safe for me to get out of my car and approach them for help. I ran up to them with such enthusiasm that could only be found in a cheesy chick flick. Flashing a big smile, I said, "Excuse me....," in a high pitched happy tone, the officers probably thought I was going to hug them. Then I noticed one of the officers froze his motion of sipping a cup of coffee, eyebrows raised, with a quizzical look.
Because of his bewildered look, I realized I had to compose myself. I stopped, leaned my body away from them a bit, then politely asked, in a much more serious voice, "Can you tell me where UCLA is?" The officer, still hadn't sipped his coffee, looked at my beige sweatshirt with the big bright golden UCLA logo written across it. The two officers then looked at each other, trying to hold in their laughter, politely gave me instructions on how to get back to Wilshire Boulevard. I was back in my apartment in 10 minutes.