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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Woloschuck's Wisdom

This is a narrative essay that I had to write for English. We had about two weeks to write it, so naturally, I did it all the night before. I rather like how it turned out, so I thought I would post it. This one's for you, Sara. (Only becuase you always get after me for not blogging. haha)

“Mistakes are the joys of life.” In grade 7, I had a Home Economics teacher, Ms. Woloschuck, that would say this to all her students anytime one of them missed a stitch or burned their cookies. My friends and I got such a kick out of this simple sentence. “What?” we thought, “Mistakes are the joys of life? That’s not much to look forward to!” Little did my seventh grade self know how true and real this adage would become for me. I have learned that mistakes further progression. Always striving to constantly evolve and improve are things that bring happiness and fulfillment.
The first time I drove was a disaster! It was mid-October and, typical of Calgary weather, it had already dumped almost a foot of snow a few days before. Monstrous snow ploughs had scraped off the main roads, but the side-roads were still recovering and it was still bitterly cold. The ground was still covered in that perfect snow, the kind that crunches when you walk over it and is the best consistency for snowball fights and snowmen. My parents were out of town. They had left us, their children, to fend for ourselves while they were off gallivanting in Hawaii. (It wasn’t really that bad, but I was bitter.) My eldest brother, Jared, was looking after my 2 other brothers, Tyler and Trevor, and myself. It was a Sunday morning and with no one there to wake us up for Church, as our parents were gone, we all slept in.
During the mad rush of four kids trying to shower, brush our teeth and hair and eat a half-decent breakfast, the phone rang. It was our neighbors. Their parents were also out of town and they wanted to know if we could pick them up on the way. Only they weren’t on the way, not even close. They lived the opposite direction. This meant we had to leave even earlier if we were going to make it on time. The four of us stepped out into the garage and I made to get in the back seat.
“Do you want to drive?” Jared said, surprisingly casually. I must have looked absolutely shocked because he tried to give me a reassuring smile.
“Are you kidding? No way!” I instantly replied. I didn’t even know which pedal was the gas and which was the brake. How in the world did he think that I could operate a vehicle well enough to get us safely to our destination?
“Come on, you’ll do fine,” he coaxed. I was not convinced and looked skeptically back at him. At this, he held up the keys and gave them a little jingle, as though to tempt me. I was immediately reminded of a snake charmer trying to seduce his reptile out of its safe basket.
My youngest brother then piped in. “I don’t want her to drive. She’ll kill us!”
“I will not!” I said indignantly. I grabbed the keys and hopped in the driver seat. It felt strange to be sitting there. It was a whole new angle from which to look at the van I had been in so many times. It felt like someone else’s; this certainly couldn’t have been my little mini van that I knew and loved.
Everyone else piled into the car while I buckled myself in and roared up the engine, surprised by how loud it was. I grabbed the lever to put it in reverse. As I put my hand on that gearshift, a though came to me. “What the heck did I get myself into?!” I looked over at my brother in the passenger seat. “So, the pedal on the right is the brake, right?” I tried to make it sound as though I had merely forgotten, but really, I had no idea.
“No, Amy, the brake is on the left. The right one is the gas,” he said, trying to sound calm. He must have thought I had driven before. Surprise! I hadn’t. As much as I wanted to, it was too late to bail out now. I gave him one last nervous look, shifted carefully to reverse and we were off.
Only not that quick, because first, I had to make it out of the garage.
I slowly released the brake for a moment, but then slammed it down again. The car jerked and various comments came rushing out of the peanut gallery in the back seat. Jared turned and quieted them down. “I just had to fix the mirror,” I said, quickly raising my hand, pretending to adjust the rearview mirror.
Looking in the mirror, I saw my two worst enemies, first, the garage wall on my left, second, my father’s five-month old, bright red Honda Accord on the right. I was afraid; I didn’t know which way to turn or how I could possibly fit through such a small space in this relatively large mini van. Finally, after backing up and pulling forward a number of times and a few close encounters with the basketball hoop in our driveway, I managed to get out of the garage and turned around. Relieved, I drove out onto the road.
I approached the first stop sign slowly, signaling much too far ahead. I turned left carefully and slowly, almost too slowly. Thank goodness there weren’t any other cars in sight. I made my way down the almost dry road, accelerating and braking jerkily, inviting comments from my brothers.
We went straight for a long time. I was doing alright; except for some major over-correcting. Oh, and then there was the part when I got too close to the shoulder and I almost got the car stuck in the ditch, nothing too major. It was hard to get used to being that close to the thin, yellow line separating my family and I from oncoming traffic. Every time a car drove past, which was rare, I braced myself for impact. I always felt like the other cars were so close they would hit us. Thank goodness they never did. By this time, I was starting to gain some confidence and my brother could tell. I looked over at Jared. He seemed to be doing well too. I think this was his first time driving with a first-time driver. In retrospect, I understand why he was holding the armrests so tightly that his knuckles were white, but at the time, I thought it suspicious.
By the time we got to the turn, I was feeling pretty good about my driving skills. I was ready to whip around the corner and pick up the neighbors. Unfortunately, that’s just what I did. I saw the turn that I thought was the one and started to slow down. “It’s the next one,” Jared said calmly. He was getting more comfortable with me driving now after giving me a few tips. As I sped up to get to the next turn, I realized that I was now going a bit faster than is advisable when one is about to turn. I pushed the brake rather hard and hit a patch of snow and ice. It didn’t scare me too much, I still had control of the van, but it did make braking difficult. I almost drove right past the turn. Not knowing what else to do (surely I couldn’t drive past it) I turned the wheel hard right.
This is when the trouble began. Every thing after that moment was oddly slower. I skid a bit and let out a little squeal. I didn’t know what to do. My brother yelled, “Don’t hit the brakes!” I immediately took my foot off the brake and put it, instead, on the gas. Once I realized what I was doing, I let go. My foot hung above the pedals, ready for action, but not knowing where to go. In the confusion of the pedals, I hadn’t finished turning the wheel all the way and instead of a nice right turn I was speeding at a 45-degree angle from the road into the only thing in sight, a fence.
The ditch was filled deep enough with that crunchable snow that, with some slight braking, was enough to stop us before we knocked the fence over. But we definitely hit it.
I turned the car off. There was silence. I took a deep breath and looked sheepishly at my instructor.
“Whoa,” was all he could say. We looked at each other for a moment. Then he, in his suit and dress shoes, stepped out of the car and went to survey the damage.
He came around to my side from behind the car. “Move over,” he said. His sullen tone worried me. It must have been worse than he’d thought. I climbed over into the passenger seat and he started the engine again. It turned on, a good sign, I thought to myself. He put it in reverse and tenderly pressed the gas. I heard the engine rev a little, but nothing happened. He tried again, only harder this time. The van backed up a little, engine revving louder, but rolled back down into the ditch. He tried a third time, almost flooring the gas. It sounded like a gang of Hell’s Angels riding past. The van backed up, giving us hope that we may well get ourselves out of this jam I had gotten us in. The engine worked hard, but it was no use. We slid a final time back into the ditch.
Jared turned off the engine, now a bit edgy. “Start walking,” he said and the three of us obeyed immediately. I opened the car door. That crisp smell of wet snow mixed with the cold that makes your nose run filled my senses. I stepped down with a ‘crunch’ into the two-foot drift that had accumulated near the side of the road and my leg sunk into it. My Sunday shoes didn’t do much to insulate from the cold, so I, in my skirt, climbed quickly over the drift to avoid extreme wintriness.
I stood for a moment and looked at what I had done. I felt awful. I had a pit in my stomach the size of a small raccoon, and my insides felt as though there was one in there, somewhere.
It felt like miles up that long road that led to their house. I was heavy with the burden I was walking away from, but knew I must face again. My brothers and I had left in such a flash; we were not adequately equipped with the necessary clothing to combat the fierce frost that surrounded us. We trudged through the elements until we arrived on the doorstep of our neighbors’ house.
I hung my head in shame as Jared quickly retold the horrific event. They laughed and said, “Well, it looks like we’ll be giving you a ride! It’s too late to dig it out now, but after Church you can come back, and we’ll pull it out with our Land Rover.” Grateful for their understanding, we all piled into their small, white SUV with four of us in the back seat. Needless to say, it was not a comfortable ride. I was squished between my brother and the neighbor; a boy that I am not particularly fond of and on top of it all, I had to listen to everyone making fun of me all the way to Church, especially when we drove past the scene. I was mortified as I saw my little van again; nose down in the ditch, front tires completely devoured by the snow.
I was shaken and distracted all day. When my brother finally brought the van home, I went out to the garage to ‘admire my handiwork,’ as they say. I walked up to the front fender and suddenly felt heavy, like I was full of cement. There, on the front of the van, was a valley of a dent at least a foot long and four inches deep. It was beyond awful. There aren’t words to describe my feelings. All I could do was let out a short, nervous laugh and get away from it as quickly as possible.
Because my parents would be home in a few short days, I thought is best to tell them in person when they got home. Only I didn’t get the chance. Their flight came in late at night and Jared went to pick them up in the injured vehicle. As soon as the walked out to the car, they saw the wound and ordered Jared to tell them what had happened. They were obviously displeased with me upon returning home.
In the end, though, it worked out alright. I did extra jobs around the house to pay for my half of the new bumper. Naturally, I was banned from driving anything but a toboggan for the next 5 months until spring, when there would be no chance of skidding on ice.
This was a good experience, although I did not think it one at the time. Everyone needs mistakes so they can learn from them. I am better for having done this. It taught me a lesson I couldn’t have learned as well any other way. Although I am embarrassed when I think back on this incident, I think Ms. Woloschuck had it right when she said, “Mistakes are the joys of life.” I have yet to meet a perfect person, so why not embrace our faults? We need them; they give us something to aspire towards and they allow us to progress and evolve.