Piper takes her driving test
|“You ready?” James watches as I fix my hair in the mirror.
“Almost.” I pull out the hair tie and redo the ponytail. Nice and high, just like the handbook suggests. “Argh! It’s not staying in!” I grab the hairspray I usually save for ballet classes and apply it liberally over my head, until he starts coughing and grabs it away from me.
“I’m sure that’s enough,” he chokes out.
“Sorry, I’m nervous. I mean, I remember what you keep saying about getting your license, and how you almost failed.”
“Yo, Sis, chill! I mean, yeah, I almost ruined my foot kicking that tire, but hey, I got it, didn’t I?”
“True. But if the examiner breaks out in song about crying, like yours did with you, I can’t hold a tune, and it’s not like I can just break out into a grand jeté and impress my examiner mid-test. I’m gonna be behind the wheel of a car.”
“Pipes,” James turns me around. “Calm. Down. Your test is gonna be fine.” He shakes his head. “I swear, sometimes you worry more than Riley does.”
We arrive at the DMV, and the lady behind the counter peers down at me. “Name, please.” “Piper. Piper Williams.”
“16. Today’s my birthday.” I indicate on the form.
“Ummm is my school ID okay?”
“Government-issued IDs only,” she points to a sign.
I rummage for my passport, opening it to the ID page. “Here.”
“So you are...” she mutters. “Go sit down and we’ll call your number when it’s your turn.”
It takes forever before my number is called. I checked my phone- 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 58 seconds, to be exact.
“Good luck, Pipes!” James calls from his seat. I give him a fist bump.
Mom gives me a hug. “You got this, sweetie.”
“Piper Williams, please head outside to the car,” an impatient voice comes over the speaker. “I... should go!” I dash out before they have to call me again. “I’m here!”
“Piper?” A lady looks my way.
“That’s me!” I raise my hand.
“Good,” she examines me. “My name is Lydia, and I will be your examiner today. Are you even sixteen? You barely look twelve.”
I sigh. “I turned 16 today. I’m a ballerina. I’m supposed to look small.”
“Whatever. Happy Birthday, if that’s true. And if they passed you inside, I can blame them if the police pull us over,” she rolls her eyes. “First. Kick that tire and tell me, exactly, how much PSI is in that wheel!”
I stare at her. This is like James’s test, all over again.
“You want your license or not? Kick it!”
I tap my toe against the tire.
“I said KICK it. Not touch it.”
I grimace and give it a kick. “OW!” I howl. “How am I supposed to dance or drive with this now?”
“Shoulda thought of that beforehand. Used your left foot,” she retorts. “I’m not the one who designs these tests, trust me. Get in the car!”
I scramble in, adjust the seat to my liking, and buckle up.
She slides in next to me. “Sign this. It affirms you have insurance.” She buckles her seatbelt and ruffles her papers. “Start the car, pull out, and turn left.”
Does she have a death wish? I give a panicked look at the main road and its infinite stream of cars.
“Left, onto the side road.”
I jolt my way out of the lot, realizing I forgot to release the hand brake when the brake light comes on. Lydia makes notes on her clipboard as I fix my error.
The left turn goes smoothly, thank heavens. I take a few breaths to calm myself, only to have Lydia yell at me, and the car on my left sound their horn. I slam the brakes as a jaywalker gives a sheepish “Thank you!” wave and jogs across the street. Of all days, times, and places, I marvel.
Lydia makes more notes. “You know, this isn’t going well. And we’ve barely started,” she remarks.
I blink back tears.
“Oh, come on. You’re not going to cry now, are you? It’s just a driver’s license,” she scoffs.
“It’s my sixteenth birthday,” I whisper.
“Look, if you’re not fit to drive, I can have you U-turn at the next signal and we’ll go straight back to the lot. Otherwise, snap out of it and DRIVE!”
“Fine. I’ll drive.” I refuse to fail like this.
“Turn right at the stop sign.”
Man, she’s not making this easy. I grimace, whip my head to check the blind spot, and switch lanes before someone blocks me, Californian-style.
I spot the stop sign and slow down to an easy stop, indicating my right turn and executing it perfectly, until a squirrel decides to make a run for it as the wheel rights itself. I see Lydia’s disapproval in my peripheral as the car screeches and her writing skids.
“You’re not making a very strong case for yourself, you know. Left at the next signal.” Lydia continues giving commands that I execute textbook-style, including a three-point turn, which only worsens her mood.
“Back to the lot, and park at the curb,” are her final instructions. I sigh, which earns me more notes.
I pull up to a parking spot next to the building, reserved for the parking task at the end of each test, and cut the engine. Lydia peers out her window, makes more notes, and steps out, before declaring, “you failed. You’re three feet from the curb, and all those incidents have convinced me, you’re not a fit driver.”
“But.... the jaywalker and squirrel- they came out of nowhere!”
“Good drivers are ready for any unexpected situations,” she shrugs. “You weren’t. So you failed. Besides, that man you nearly killed is my dad and that squirrel is his pet.”