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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Student Driver

I grew up in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Winston-Salem. My folks owned 8 acres at the end of a very long, dirt road. When I was 13, my mom started teaching me to drive her straight-drive Volkswagen. She taught me how to change gears and how to use the clutch.

When I hit 15 years old and was taking drivers ed, my mom requested that I take it in a standard car. Frankly, I think she was tired of watching me fighting with the clutch and usually losing.

It was so embarrassing to drive that car with the giant sign on top, screaming to the world - Student Driver, until… The instructor made me stop for a red light, that I could’ve clearly made, because he wanted to teach me how to start off on the steepest hill in town, without rolling back into the car that had pulled ridiculously close to my back bumper.

Flash forward to when Madi got her permit, and I was worried about her learning to drive in the traffic that is Charlotte. In fear for my life, I purchased those magnetic, bright yellow signs that say STUDENT DRIVER. They came in a multipack, and I didn’t hesitate to place all of them on the car. I didn’t want anyone on the road to mistake her for an experienced driver. With that many signs, I will admit, people gave us a wide berth.

I didn’t remove the signs when she was not driving. I can’t imagine how frightened other motorists were when I was aggressively whipping in and out of traffic with the signs that said student driver all over the back of the car.

This past Monday, I was driving to the grocery store at about 10:30 AM, and I was behind a little Honda with several student driver stickers on it. It reminded me of when Madi was learning. It was driving extremely slow, and even though it was an odd time of day for a teen to be out driving – that’s what it had to be because the lack of speed was such, that we could’ve been the tortoise that beat the hare, but then again, maybe not.

Despite the signs, I was getting frustrated but trying to be patient because they had gone to the trouble to warn me that they were new to this driving thing.

When I passed them, I looked over and was absolutely shocked to see two elderly people in the car. I could just imagine this couple's adult children worried that Mom and Dad might get into trouble driving now that they are older so they slapped the Please be patient / Student driver signs all over the car.

I couldn’t help but think what if we all had signs for those things we’re learning or not so good at. Please be patient. Practicing being a good human. Please be patient. Student at non-judging. Please be patient. Beginner at kindness. New to gratitude, etc.

Could we all be a little more patient or tolerant if we realized that very few people are at skilled levels with many of the basics?

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