By Taylor Broomall (Whetstone Contributor)
I pulled into the middle lane marked Waiting Bay 2. I pushed down on the parking brake in my mom’s Mercedes and pulled out the smooth black key. I waited patiently, stewing in my own palpable tension.
The girl on my left accentuated my nervousness. She had placed her forehead against the steering wheel. Her chest heaved with muted sobs as the instructor exited her car. She had failed before the car even moved.
I never knew I’d be so nervous while getting my driver’s license.
I’ve always had a love for cars. Probably stemming from my father’s enthusiasm, I learned the basics of the automobile early.
The day I received my license was special, in the sense that I now achieved the freedom I strived for, special because I was one step closer to that feeling that auto racer Petter Solberg gets when his knuckles turn white, fingers wrapped around the carbon fiber steering wheel.
The day I got my license, my love for cars flourished.
“I’ve never seen anyone take their test in a Mercedes before,” my instructor said.
He asked me to pull across the street and into the testing area. I did everything well. I pulled forward and back in a straight line, did a three-point turn while keeping both hands on the wheel, and I parallel-parked within two minutes without hitting the curb. I walked away with an almost perfect score.
Every six months or so, I look back on my involvement with cars and realize how much I’ve learned. And then another six months go by and I realize how little I knew.
I’ve learned since my driver’s test, for example, how the internal functions of a rear shock works. Before I got my license, I didn’t know what camber (the angle made by the wheels on a car) was or how to ‘stance’ a car (use the wheel offset and tire fitment to make the wheels flush with the fender). I also couldn’t have told you what a spark plug did (ignites compressed fuel in the cylinder).
I’ve done hours of research on the way turbochargers, engines, transmissions, suspension, and wheels work.
I care a lot about performance and the uniqueness that comes along with it. Going fast is a lot more than just adding a lot of power to a car, it’s about how you can make a Honda go faster around the track than a Ferrari. It’s about the relationship with a car and how you treat it.
I had been behind the wheel 100 times before my test, but starting the car by myself felt like the first time.
I drove nervously up my street, looking back to see my dad walking up the driveway smiling to himself. I was lethargic and sleepy but drove cautiously. My brother’s Cavalier was slow and rattled like every other 7-year-old Chevy, but it didn’t matter. Behind the wheel of a car felt honorable and irreplaceable.
The blanket of dry heat pumping from the broken air conditioning blew across my skin as I made my way back to my friend’s.
I made my way to his basement and quickly fell asleep on his couch dreaming about the next time I could go for a drive.