Learning to drive in St. Anthony is a far cry from learning to drive in Toronto. My son Ryan learned to drive in Toronto, and my daughter Amy, who just got her beginner’s license, is learning to drive in St. Anthony, but regardless of where they learn to drive, the fear-factor of sitting in the passenger seat and yielding control of the car to a teenager takes nerve.
To demonstrate my point, I read in a Toronto newspaper of a teenage girl who traumatized a number of people when she showed up to complete the final portion of her driving test—parking. But, instead of parking, she accelerated and ploughed into four parked cars. The vehicle spun out of control and hit two more. A pedestrian walking nearby was taken to hospital with leg injuries after she was pinned between two cars. Her driving instructor was treated for shock and stress and sent home to recover. The young girl failed her test.
When Amy passed her beginner’s test, she was instructed to put a Novice Driver sign in the back window of the vehicle. That way, other drivers would, hopefully, keep a safe distance, which was not the case in Toronto when Ryan got his beginner’s license. When he took to the streets to drive, he not only had to learn how to read signs along the way, but to read the signals other drivers were giving him with their fingers, their horns, or their mouths, and none of them were nods or winks, I assure you.
But at least, in the city, there were well-marked signs and freshly-painted lines on the roads and intersections. And I have to say, since Amy started driving, I’m seeing the local roads with new eyes.
With her beginner’s license in hand, Amy reviewed the manual, memorized the signs, and settled back into the driver’s seat. It wasn’t until she drove from Ship Cove to St. Anthony that an interesting number of facts came to light. First of all, the Ship Cove road suffers from so many cracks, fissures, and potholes, one can only hope it will receive some major improvements this summer. Then, as she puttered along at 60 km/h, she asked, “Can I drive 80 or 90 km/h like everybody else?”
I took the driver’s seat when we hit Route 430 to St. Anthony and discussed some rules of driving. “When you see the double line on a road, it means nobody can pass on either side.” I said.
“What double line?” she asked. That’s when I realized the traffic lines mentioned in the manual either couldn’t be seen or were barely visible on Route 430, although they had existed in my imagination. It occurred to me it might be wiser to paint the lines on the road at winter’s end, rather than in the fall, or use a more durable paint so they might last more than a season.
As we drove through St. Anthony to the Town Hall, she said, “I think the fog is rolling in, it’s hard to see.”
“It’s not fog, Amy, its salt and dust.” I said, rolling up the windows.
We dropped some books at the Library and turned around to go back to the mall. At the RCMP station she slowed to 30 km/h.
“Okay, Amy, move into the left lane so you can turn into the mall.” Looking into my side view mirror, I noted there were perhaps half a dozen cars behind us, and clearly they wanted to pass in the right lane.
“Where is the left lane?” asked Amy.
“There!” I said, pointing.
“Where?” she cried. “I don’t see it!”
She was right. There were no lines or arrows visible to indicate that there was a left or right lane. To her, there was only one lane.
“See the sand up ahead on the left?” I pointed to dirt and sand in what appeared to be the middle of the road. “That’s the left lane.”
She navigated her way towards the mall parking lot, running right over the large pothole by Tim Horton’s that the town, thankfully, had filled only recently.
“What a harrowing experience!” she sighed. “I like driving, Mom,” she said, “but these roads are not maintained like they were in Toronto!”
Which just goes to show, you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl, at least, not yet.