Lessons Learned After a Year of Driving by Myself

For those of you who do not know, before moving to New Jersey, I have never driven.  Literally never.  I may have started the car once or twice, but that’s about it.  I have owned at least four student permits back in the Philippines, but none of it was put to good use.  Think of it as my personal donation to the government agency each time I renew.  And while I did vow to learn how to drive on my father’s deathbed, I never really got around it.

It’s not just because of lack of desire; it’s lack of motivation.  If you Google right this very second the traffic situation in Manila, you would see why I didn’t bother to learn.  There are too many cars in too little of a road.  That, and the fact that my brothers take turns driving the one car we have for daily use.  Even when one of them got married, my youngest brother took the opportunity to take me to places.

The dependence come with perks.  For example, I never have to worry about drunk driving.  My brother always picked me up.  I never had to worry about parking.  I never had to worry about tired legs in traffic (our car is a stick shift).  And to be frank, I really appreciated the time my brothers took to take care of my needs.

But such is not the case in New Jersey.

While I was thoroughly amazed at NJ Transit’s bus and train schedules, which I utilized exclusively on my first year here, I was also made very aware of how dependent I was on other people, namely The Husband, my cousins, and even my father-in-law.  Although they said they didn’t mind driving me around, I was very aware of the time and effort it took to take me to places on top of the places they had to get to.  So I was left with no choice:  I had to learn to drive.

Needless to say, The Husband taught me how and it was the most challenging month of our married life so far.  My pride got in the way of his teaching, which to this day he won’t admit to not being his forte.  A part of him is eager to make me independent; the other part is fully aware that my carelessness can potentially kill me in an instant.  It wasn’t a healthy balance for us both, but we got through it, and after a month of driving through Route 22, Route 21, Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike, I was able to get my probationary license.  A year later, the probation was taken off, and I am a full fledged driver.

Maybe the title is a lie; it has been more than a year since I started driving.  But I have to say that it has only been a year since I was confidently driving.  That to me makes all the difference.  And that revealed to me the most valuable lessons (so far) I have learned on the road.

  1.  Blinkers are a driver’s best friend.
    The Husband was adamant in teaching me to drive defensively.  He hammered in my head to always let the other drivers know where I am headed and for that, blinkers are my best friends.  I truly loathed drivers that switched lanes so carelessly and without notice.  I can no longer count the times I had to slam my brakes a little forcefully just because this a*hole decided to change his mind without letting everyone else know.  Plus, not turning those blinkers on is an easy recipe for disaster.  So, to quote this wonderful Twitter user:

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    Please. @shittyparty

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  2. If a truck driver hates your driving, your driving most likely really sucks.
    Okay, so they’re not all nice and they’re not all perfect.  But you have to admit, getting a CDL license is much more difficult than getting a regular one.  These men and women practically live on the road, so when they honked at me and The Husband was there, he was like “I told you so.”  Our office is in an industrial complex where truck drivers train to get their licenses.  They really put in the hours, so when you’re driving with or near a truck, respect their space and maybe they’ll respect yours too.

    truck driver meme Fresh Best 25 Truck humor ideas on Pinterest

  3. You can master back up parking when you devote the time to learn it.  The same goes for parallel parking.
    I know this because I did this.  The Husband was so confused why I was leaving the house so early for a 9am clock in at work.  I wanted to come in to a slightly empty parking lot so I can practice my backup parking.  And practice I did.  I left the house at 7 in the morning, got to work at 7:30 and devoted a good 30 to 45 minutes just practicing backup parking.  Then, when I get home, I practice parallel parking too.  I practiced so much that I sometimes took up to 20 minutes and going around our block three or four times to get the parking right.  Our neighbors were so supportive as well.  When they would see me come up, they try to guide me as much as they can.  Of course some were annoyed (yes lady in the office building that rolled her eyes at me because I couldn’t get my wheels straight), but most of them were encouraging.  Three months later, I’d like to think I’m better at doing both.
  4. Officers on the road are capable of being empathetic human beings.
    To this day, I have difficulties looking at the GPS and driving at the same time.  I try to do the quick look and then drive technique, but I’m not as confident as I should be.  So when I first started driving, I made sure my phone volume was all the way up and the phone was tucked away out of my line of sight.  All I need is to hear the directions.  Then, one hot afternoon, I hit a pothole that kicked my phone out of the cup holder to God knows where.For those of you who do not know, I have a very active and anxious imagination.  When I couldn’t hear the directions, I knew I had to pull over and find the phone, not because I didn’t know how to get home, but because I have this overwhelming fear of getting into a car accident and not having my phone with me.  They will have to take me to the hospital without my husband’s contact information and because The Husband can find my phone, he will be like, Oh no she’s at the impound.  He will go to the impound and not at the hospital, where his medical decision is needed to save my life.  It will take him way too long to get to the hospital and I would have died without my husband by my side.  That’s where my imagination went as I was pulled over and searching where the f my phone went.

    Not more than five minutes later, there was someone tapping my window, a state trooper.  I rolled my window down and he asks, “Is there anything the matter, ma’am?  You’re not supposed to pull over here.”  Frantically, I replied, “I just need five minutes to get myself together, okay?!”  I said it a little too loudly and I regretted it immediately, my voice breaking at the end of my sentence.  He took one long look at me and said, “Ma’am, you take all the time you need.”  He walked back to his car, and I took a moment to take a deep breath and look at myself in the mirror.  I was sweaty, my eyes were tearing up and my hair disheveled.  It took another five minutes until I was able to find my phone, which was wedged in that annoying space right under the driver’s seat, that black hole where no hand has ever fit until that moment.  I looked at my rear view mirror, waved at the officer to let him know I was okay, and prepared to merge back in traffic.  He made sure my merge was simple; he cleared a path for me and let me go my way.

    I will never forget that day.

  5. Next to a drunk driver, the most dangerous driver is the one who is running late.  Third on the list are potholes.
    I say this because people who are running late only have one goal in mind:  to get to Point B no matter the cost.  They know the rules and they are purposely breaking them.  They’re trying to beat the red light, switching lanes at the last minute, going 60mph at a residential zone.  They’re aware that they’re not obeying rules… AND THEY’RE OKAY WITH IT SO LONG AS THEY GET TO THEIR DESTINATION.  Heads up, it’s not the rest of us at fault that they woke up late or that they underestimated the travel time to their destination, yet they chose to put the rest of us at risk for their own convenience and lack of time management.  I thoroughly hate it.  I see them everyday, whether it’s a luxury sedan trying to cut the line at the EZ Pass on the way to the Holland Tunnel or an SUV riding the shoulder and then making a sharp merge to exit the Parkway.  You are careless inconsiderate effers.
    Potholes need no other explanation.

I’m sure to learn more as the years come, but looking back now, I think these five things are the ones that contributed to my driving behavior.  Of course, The Husband only compliments my driving now; he’s a truly loving man in that manner.  But I’m sure at the back of his head, he is noting the things I should improve on, like slowing down before a turn or being more mindful of my braking.  There’s so much more room for me to improve, but with just a little over a year tucked under my belt, I’m confident I’m headed in the right direction.

What about you?  What are the first lessons you learned when you first hit the road?

Progress Report on the Tamborine Test

So this is a long overdue progress report.  I actually started writing this in June when life became so busy that I never got to post it.  So forgive me?  Hopefully, this whole writing thing will become more regular in the coming weeks.

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Here’s the breakdown of this challenge.  In hopes of driving a healthier flow of conversation between husband and wife, The Husband has agreed to eliminate some clutter in our communication tools and for a week, decided not to text or call during the day.  This includes no tagging on Facebook, commenting on Instagram or what not.  Just a notification that we’ve each arrived at work and left for the day.  That’s it.

And I have to be honest…. we lasted four days.  Hahahaha.  Halfway through, The Husband came up to me and said literally in my face, “I do not like this challenge because I miss you too much.”

Enter “awwwwww” sounds.

And while we didn’t really complete the challenge, I did notice some changes to our communication pattern.

  1. We don’t text as often anymore.  Before the challenge, it was a constant exchange.  While we both have very forgiving employers who have been very generous in how we exercise our liberties, I will be the first to admit:  it takes me away from work.  I’m sure the same goes for him.  With the non-texting, I’ve become more productive, less distracted, and more efficient in my workday.  It’s a refreshing freeing feeling.
  2. We reserve long conversations at home.  We learned to reserve the important conversations for home.  This is a very valuable lesson learned for me because it stops me from oversharing with my office mates.  I know that there will always be one or two people from the office that end up being part of your ride-or-die crew, but the silence helped me in keeping things to ourselves.
  3. We have better conversations.  It’s not just the “what did you have for lunch” questions.  It’s having a much better answer for the question “how was your day.”  Most of the time, because we talked so much and had very brief pauses,  our day looked like it had a sports announcer feature.  Almost to every breath, we reported what we did, so when we got home, it was merely a repetition of what we already know.  Now, it’s talking about the news we read in the morning, the conversation we had with our coworkers at lunch, providing input for operational efficiency in the office.  We are also getting more creative with our questions!  So yes, the conversations are much better in quality now.
  4. We find the time to just talk.  Not even while eating talk.  It’s simply sitting down (or lying in bed) to just talk.  No distractions, just us two.  When you imagine it, it does seem weird, like coming into an appointment with your spouse to speak.  But for us it also highlighted that there are talks that we need to focus on — finances, moving out plans, career mapping.   It’s insane how that sounds like a conversation you would have with a life coach, but it’s also refreshing because it reveals you don’t just have a spouse:  you have a life partner.

Fine, I do sound preachy and freaking annoying, but the forced offline modes definitely enhanced our conversations, especially in terms of quality.  Do I recommend this to couples and more?  Absolutely.  Does that mean I now shun texting and calling during the day?  Absolutely not.  I’m just saying we could all use a break from it from time to time.

What about you?  Are you interested in trying this out?

 

The Tamborine Test

So, have you seen Chris Rock’s special on Netflix, Tamborine?  It’s a pretty good one.  We had a glimpse of his return when we saw him with Dave Chappelle at Radio City last year.  I have to admit, seeing them perform live sent goosebumps up and down my spine.  It was pretty amazing.

Anyway, that’s not the topic of my story.

In the special, he mentioned something about being constantly connected to his then-spouse because of all this technology.  Compared to the time when his parents married, he claims that his marriage that lasted some 16 years is as long as his parents 40 something.  With all the access afforded to us by modern technology, couples went from having an 8-9 hour gap of no communication to almost an hourly reminder to connect.

He proves a good point.  The Husband and I text each other during the day that there have been instances when we meet at home, and there’s nothing new to talk about.  And of course there are some weird conversations that seemed normal at the time (then I watched this special), like me reminding him that I tagged him on something and he should “like” it.

That being said, I have convinced the Husband to take on a challenge with me:  to not text or call each other until we get home.  This includes no tagging in any social media platform, not even those “look I’m so cute right” snaps I send him from time to time (I can be pretty narcissistic).  However, given that I am a new driver, there are some exceptions.  I am supposed to text him twice:  (1) when I get to the office, and (2) when I am about to go home.  The same applies to him.  Unless it’s an emergency, he will only text me those two times in the day.  And we’ll see if there’s more to talk about at home.

What do we expect to get out of it?  Well, we’re thinking that we’d have more to talk about at home.  Maybe a little bit more freedom while we are in our own separate worlds?  I don’t know yet.  I’m more nervous than curious at the moment, even though technically this was my idea.  We relied so much on technology when we were apart that choosing to not use it now that we’re together sure feels a bit off.  In fact, I’ve had to convince The Husband to take on this challenge.  It took just 10 minutes of convincing, but still, it wasn’t a challenge that he’d willingly do.

That being said, I shall keep you updated of how this challenge goes.  Frankly speaking, I’m a bit nervous to do it.  Between him and I, I am definitely the clingier and needier one.  Oh well.  Let’s see how this goes.  Five days should breeze by fast enough.

 

PS:  Just in case you’re wondering why the word “tamborine” isn’t spelled with a “U.”

MUSIC MONDAY: Stay With Me by P!nk

I haven’t done Music Monday for quite some time now. Now that I have a big load of preoccupation, I have to admit some things have been shoved to the back. But on a quiet afternoon like this weekend, I chanced upon P!nk’s cover.

Pink - Stay With Me

The main thing that attracts me to her music is that her voice is as powerful as her message. Believe me, I love that Sam Smith came out with this song. The melancholy, the blues, it’s all there. I absolutely adore this song. And then P!nk sang it, and I adore it even more.

Admittedly, I teared up when I was listening to it. The sadness in her voice and that strain as if there’s real pain in there…. my oh my. Perfect cover. Perfect P!nk.

The Cleaners

Walking around downtown Summit, the Husband and I stopped by Edible Arrangements to pick up my mother-in-law’s birthday gift.  He saw that it was right next to a dry cleaner and inquired if they can stitch on patches.  The guy said yes.

Me:  *looks at store hours*  You can drop it off before you go to work.
Husband:  Oh yeah.

At home…

Husband:  *lays out gi and patch*  It should go nicely here, right below the stitching at the back.
Me:  I agree.  And they open at 7 too, so you can drop it off in the morning.
Husband:  Yeah, and pick it up on my way home.

This morning…

Me:  *sees gi on couch* Oh you’re attending jiu jitsu tonight?
Husband:  No, I’m having the patch stitched on today.
Me:  Okay.  Drop it off before you go to work, so you can pick it up at lunch or on your way home.
Husband:  Opo (Filipino for yes.)

When I get to the office…

Husband:  Aw man.  The dry cleaner is open at 7!
Me:  I TOLD YOU.
Husband:  I got here early too.  Got breakfast and got to the parking lot 15 minutes early.  I could have dropped it off.
Me:  I KNOW.  I TOLD YOU SO.

Oh my heart.

Face Palm