Educator’s Corner: Driver’s ed not for the faint of heart

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Soraya Bilbao, Guest Columnist

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Editor’s note: Educator’s Corner is column space for teachers, counselors, administrators and staff to submit pieces for publication. Just email [email protected] and make your pitch! This column is by ESL teacher Soraya Bilbao.

I recently found out from one of my students that our Library Learning Commons has free study guides for students who are interested in preparing for the driver’s exam.

Seeing his excitement over the prospect of taking this exam, an excitement that I regret to say is not as readily noticeable when I inform him and his peers of one of my own upcoming tests, took me back to when I was a teenager preparing to take the driver’s exam.

Soraya Bilbao

Flashback a few decades. I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of, what I thought to be at the time, the coolest car ever — my family’s station wagon. Who needs an apple-green Ferrari 250 GTO when you can drive a potato-brown Subaru Leone?

For several months, my dad had been teaching me how to drive. Besides giving him the opportunity to spend quality time with his eldest daughter, our driving lessons gave him the opportunity to increase his blood pressure to impressive levels and to produce a sprinkling of gray hair throughout his head.

After numerous near misses of front and rear car bumpers — and a pedestrian or two — my dad finally mustered the courage to teach me one final driving lesson: getting on and off the highway.

The plan was simple; get on the highway, merge with traffic, and then get off at the next exit. That was all.

“I can do this… I can do this…” I muttered to myself as I gripped the steering wheel with both hands as if trying to alter its current geometric shape. I waited until the light turned green and reluctantly made my way up the entrance ramp to I-95.

And just as I was about to merge with traffic, I stopped. Just like that. No stop sign directing me to stop, or vehicular malfunction preventing me to go; just a strong and overwhelming desire to live as I caught sight of the 18-wheelers barreling down the highway toward me.

I began contemplating the benefits that a lifetime of public transportation had to offer when I suddenly tuned into my dad’s frantic, “Go! Go! Why are you stopping?! For heaven’s sake, go!”

Startled back into our present predicament, I pressed down on the accelerator and went.

Surprisingly, I avoided causing a multi-car crash. Predictably, this was the last time my dad took me driving.

In the end, I managed to get us on and off the highway without turning the station wagon into a convertible. Soon after, I convinced the DMV officials assessing my driving skills that I was not a menace to society, and I took a license photo that resembled a really bad selfie on a really bad hair day.

Now, as a teacher, I have the opportunity to stand witness to a new generation of drivers as they prepare to take on the roads.

To all of our students, I wish them nothing, but the best.

And to my dad, thank you.