The Star-Herald

Wanted: license to drive

After yet another white-knuckle trip to work, something has become clear: I need to go to driving school.

Apparently you don’t have to stop at stop signs or red lights anymore. Rules like signaling to turn and avoiding driving in front of another car have also gone by the wayside. Maybe they’re like some of those wacky blue laws, such as “You may not step out of a plane in flight.” (Yes, this is a real Maine law. According to dumblaws.com, it’s also illegal to hock a clam from a second-story window in Freeport.)

Back in driver training, when we sat in those simulated car seats with screens that were as helpful as a bowl of rice pudding, we couldn’t wait to obtain a driver’s permit, and then were anxious to ditch that embarrassing permit for the “real” license.  To pass that test, you had to know the Maine driving rules.

I remember feverishly trying to commit to memory who has the right of way at an intersection, what to do at a “yield” sign, how far ahead of a turn should I signal and when to change lanes. But one directive has remained with me since I first studied that booklet: “NEVER pass directly into the path of an oncoming car.” I remember it, uppercase and all, because I thought, “Duh! Who would do that?”

Newsflash: drivers no longer follow this rule. I know this, because nearly every day, drivers hurtle in front of me with an apparent intent to obliterate everyone else on the road. Some of them don’t even look at the road. I actually noticed a driver one day holding a slice of pizza in one hand and a cellphone in the other, elbows on the steering wheel.  

A large parking lot is a free-for-all. Vehicles speed in every direction, dart in and out of parking spaces and cut other drivers off constantly.  

Brakes are good friends to have (maybe along with spare underwear).

With all the technology that goes into automobiles today — things like smart headlights, heated cup holders, rear backup cameras and lane assist — it astounds me that most vehicles apparently no longer have directional lights. 

Remember those? You turned on the blinking beacons before (yes, before) you turned or changed lanes. This gave other drivers a clue as to what your plans were. What a helpful concept.

When I first started driving, I felt so grown-up using those blinkers, flicking the lever like an old pro, hearing that satisfying tinka-tinka and feeling like I had “arrived” as a motorist. 

I’m sad blinkers have fallen out of use. So are my brakes.  

I guess I need to buckle down and learn some of these new rules. I’ll start with just a few until I escape death about a dozen times, then I’ll try for more.

First: Do not look where you’re going. Pull out into traffic at will. Those other drivers shouldn’t be on your road anyway.

Second: Signal, schmignal. Those light bulbs will burn out, so conserve them. Besides, you know where you’re going. Why should you let other folks in on your plans?

Third: Behave at an intersection like you would at a poker game: bluff. Fool the other drivers into thinking you’re going one way, and then do something completely different to scare the crap out of them.  Take charge of the road.

 It’s going to take a long time to unlearn some of my old driver sensibilities, but I’m up for a challenge. So, if you see me out and about, take cover. That road is mine.

Paula Brewer is the assistant editor for weeklies, TheCounty.ME and FiddleheadFocus.com at Northeast Publishing, a division of Bangor Daily News. She can be reached at pbrewer@bangordailynews.com or (207) 764-4471.

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