When I was sixteen, I took a driver’s education course at the local community college. Two times a week I sat in a classroom with thirty other kids, listening to lectures and watching videos about driving safely. Once per week we met in pairs with a driving instructor in one of those special cars with a brake pedal in front of the passenger’s seat and “CAUTION: STUDENT DRIVER” emblazoned all over the outside.
I don’t remember much about the classroom learning, except for vague recollections of the videos and the fact that I spent most of the time pretending to pay attention when I was actually writing love notes to my boyfriend. I do remember the driving lessons. The rest of the class had various different driving instructors, but somehow my stoic partner Jordan and I ended up with the lecturer as our driving instructor.
We learned how to drive on the interstate (which did not prepare me in any way for driving on a real interstate in a real city, like Denver), how to parallel park downtown (which I still hate doing), and the appropriate time to pass someone (if they are going slower than you but as long as you don’t exceed the speed limit; which I have learned since is completely wrong. The correct time to pass someone is when they’re in your way).
But the thing I remember most about driver’s ed was when our teacher was trying to make sure we really looked at an intersection before going through it. To make sure that the driver was taking this precaution, the kid in the backseat who was waiting their turn to drive was given a job: make a noise if the driver didn’t look before going through an intersection. Our driving instructor told me to say “beep” if Jordan’s head didn’t turn sufficiently, but being the sassy teenager that I was, I jokingly asked if I could meow instead.
The instructor said he didn’t care, so I meowed several times at Jordan’s lack of neck movement as he drove us through a residential area. Then it was my turn to drive. The instructor wanted a very exaggerated “look both ways before you cross the street,” and I tried to make sure I was doing a good job, knowing how often I had caught Jordan not doing his best.
Then, the first time I went through an intersection without really looking, what I expected to hear was the “beep” our instructor told me to use in the first place. Instead, the noise that came from the backseat was a tiny “mew!”