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The Witch from the DMV MAG
Walking into the DMV with my mother, I could only imagine what was in store for me on this chilly November morning. The day I would get my license had been scrolling through my mind forever, and now it was actually happening. We waited in a room with two mothers whose children were both taking their tests at the time, and a father and daughter who were nervously waiting for the girl’s turn behind the wheel.
It was probably only five minutes until one girl returned with a young, kind-looking driving instructor, the kind of person I had hoped would give me my test. Then she glanced at her clipboard to read the name of the next person she was going to take.
“Jennifer Smith, please.”
The girl sitting across from me with her father stood up with a nervous look. She grabbed her papers and followed the instructor. It looked like I wouldn’t have her for my test.
Twenty minutes passed and another instructor and teen returned. This lady looked the opposite of the first one. She must have been at least 50 years older than me, tall and thin, and wore Coke-bottle glasses. Her expression told me that she wasn’t having a good day. The boy she had come in with looked at his mother, and I could tell he didn’t think his test had gone well. She took the driver’s test victim and parent into a separate room, and within a minute, they were back. The mother wrapped her arm around her son as they exited, both wearing frowns.
Knowing I was next, I began to gather up my things and stand up. I can barely remember her calling my name, but I followed her to my mom’s car. Oh my gosh, how can I get my driver’s license when my instructor is a witch? I thought hopelessly.
“Now I want you to get in the car and follow my instructions,” she said, walking to the front. She began reciting a checklist of items. “Turn your headlights on!” Her tone made me sit at attention, my fingers tightening until my knuckles whitened before finally releasing to reach for the knob.
“Left blinker!” she ordered, her voice cutting through the icy air. “Right blinker! Honk the horn!”
She continued to yell out instructions one by one, marking checks on her clipboard. “Now, turn your high beams on!”
Turn your high beams on? If only I could remember how to do that. My mind froze, and I blanked on how to turn the headlights from low to high beams.
“High beams!” she yelled again, louder this time. She must have been getting impatient since it was so windy and cold outside. Frantically, I found the headlight controls.
“Now, back to low beams!” she ordered, but this time in her normal level of bellowing.
I easily finished the rest of her requests. I was naturally relieved when she told me I had completed the pre-inspection list. I joyfully rolled up the window and turned on the heater. Just as I was beginning to enjoy the comforting warmth, the instructor yanked open the passenger door, sending a blast of frigid air inside.
“Now, wait to start the car until I tell you to. There are a few things I need to do before we begin. Let me see your permit. In the meantime, you can adjust the seat and mirrors.” Her voice was calmer now that she was in the car, but every word came out with no enthusiasm.
I handed her my permit. Since I had driven to the DMV, the seat and mirrors didn’t need adjusting, but
I pretended to do as she asked, just to play it safe. Finally she told me to buckle up and start the car.
Here it goes, Dustin. This is it.
The instant I turned the key to start the car, I felt a strange new confidence. The only thing I had to worry about was that lady sitting next to me. I realized it wasn’t what I actually did but what she saw that counted.
“Start by finding your way out of the parking lot, and then make a right-hand turn to head toward town.”
Finding this simple, I began to go through the procedures that need to be followed in a parking lot.
Look in all of the mirrors. Check your blind spot. Shift into reverse. Check everywhere again. Let off the brakes. Steadily turn the wheel. Keep looking back for cars.
All these thoughts raced through my head at once. I had no trouble remembering what I needed to do, but since it all came to me at once, I started to do one thing, and then I would quickly think of another and then another.
I made my way to the end of the driveway, and turned right toward town. Now that I was away from the safety of the DMV, I began to tense up. She must have sensed my fear.
It was only a couple minutes before we got into town, and for that time, my eyes were wandering all 360 degrees around my head. I noticed her long fingers threatening to grab the steering wheel. The claw-like nails surely would have gouged the surface.
She’s a witch! She’s a witch for sure, and I’m stuck here with her!
To lessen the tension, I tried starting a conversation. “It’s been snowing the last few days, but it cleared up nicely today.”
I don’t think she appreciated me trying to chat. I didn’t hear a peep from her until we drove a few more blocks, and then she asked me to make a left at the next block. I was thinking so hard I almost missed the turn, but lucky she repeated herself. During the next 15 minutes I was subject to her every whim.
“Make a right up here ... Parallel park on this street ... Make a U-turn at the end of this road ...”
My brain was concentrating so hard on her directions that my eyes and mind didn’t have a chance to wander from their focus on the road. Periodically I would hear the pencil moving in either a quick motion for a checkmark or a series of scratches as if in Morse code, which must have meant she was writing notes.
She took me through the town’s tricky four-way stop twice before allowing me to head back toward the DMV. Following the same road, I drove eagerly, thinking of my parents, who would both be waiting for me. What had felt like minutes before seemed like seconds now. I could see the DMV building.
I started slowing down, hoping this would be the end of the test. Sure enough, she said in a monotone, “Turn left into the DMV lot and park the car.”
Excited to be back without getting yelled at or having an accident, I quickly swung into the lot and took the spot I had parked in before.
I thought I had done okay. I mean, I had a pretty good parallel park, and I didn’t do anything terribly wrong. What if I actually got my driver’s license?
Back inside the building, I saw my mom and dad waiting. The instructor took us into that private room. I had no clue what was going to happen. While my parents and the instructor looked at the checklist from my test, my eyes and mind wandered as I surveyed the room. I tuned in to the adults’ conversation when I heard my name.
“Dustin is a very good driver and just missed a few things,” the instructor said to my parents. “He missed,” she murmured as she began to review her checklist, “three blind spot checks, and he cut the corner short coming back into the DMV. He was probably just excited to get it over with.” Everyone smiled. Seeing her smile was enough to change my stereotyped opinion of her. She had just been doing her job! Rather than trying to comfort the driver, she simply had taken a neutral approach and let me take the test without input.
Time has passed since that all-important ride with the “witch.” I’ve since become a seasoned, safe driver who now seldom thinks about the responsibilities of being behind the wheel. When my thoughts wander, I sometimes remember that day. It puts a smile on my face knowing that someone I initially perceived as a witch was actually just a normal person who changed my life by giving me my driver’s license.