Angie excelled at any subject she studied and driver's education was no exception. She had that driver's ed manual memorized from front to back. If it were a category on Jeopardy! , she would have been the annoying person in the room answering Alex Trebek in the form of a question before anyone else finished reading the answer. At that point in her life, going to class every week was not easy on her, but she was determined to reach her goal. Earning her driver's license would give her the freedom that her body never did every time she hit the road.
If her written test was a walk in the park, then her behind-the-wheel training and her eventual road test were like swimming in the deep end without her water wings. Standing at a diminutive 4' 9" (though she would claim to be 4'11"), operating any vehicle up to the standards of the DMV was a tall order...pardon the pun. My family gave Angie every opportunity they could to let her drive, but the majority of her hours behind the wheel were at the helm of a late 60's/early 70's banana yellow Buick LeSabre with my mom in the passenger's seat gripping the "holy shit handles" so tightly that her knuckles turned bright white. When the irresistible force that was my sister met this monstrous vehicle affectionately known as "The Dinosaur", something had to give and it sure as hell wasn't going to be Angie.
Angie used everything she could to her advantage. She'd peer over and/or through the steering wheel of the "Tyrannosaurus Wreck', adjusting her mirrors to the perfect angles and shifting her seat to the point where her feet, housed in thick-soled sneakers or 6 inch heels, were barely grazing the pedals. Two fluffy throw pillows cradled her back and rump for optimal driving performance. She looked like she was strapped into a rollercoaster, she had so many pads around her. Her determination to succeed far outweighed the disdain she had for her small stature. She wouldn't let ANYTHING stop her from getting her license!
I wasn't super supportive of Angie's driving, mostly because it was like being in prison. Mom and I had a conversation prior to Angie getting her learner's permit where she asked me to be on my best behavior and that if I couldn't say anything nice to Angie, then I shouldn't say anything at all.
You see, when you took a ride with Angela: Student Driver, there were a few rules:
1. We observed radio silence.
2. I was not allowed to make smart ass comments or laugh at my sister while she was behind the wheel. In fact, not a peep was to be heard from the backseat, as it could cause our demise.
3. If I absolutely HAD to make a sound, only requests for a bathroom break or food stops were tolerated.
You can imagine the hell I was being put through. I'd have rather been punched in the nether regions several times in a row than be a passenger in that car. I was petrified to climb into the belly of that prehistoric beast no matter who was driving, but when my "fun-sized" older sibling was behind the wheel I felt like I was a live crash test dummy. It took every ounce of energy I had, but I followed the rules like a trooper.
Joshland Note: I remember being a trooper, but I wouldn't be surprised if I was a whiny little snot. Anyone with a sibling knows exactly what I'm talking about. "Selective memory" is a magical skill, people. As long as it is used for good, then I suggest you use it whenever possible. :-)
My face turned ghost white when I heard the click of the seat belt and growl of the engine. When Angela turned her head to back out of the driveway, I feigned a pitiful "I'm being supportive" brotherly grin. The scowl that Angie shot back at me said "I hate that you are in the car right now and, for God's sake, brush your teeth before you leave the house!"
We clomped onto the road, swallowing what seemed like a lane and a half as we headed toward the on ramp to the highway.
Oh my God, the highway.
My sister can't see over the steering wheel and we are about to merge with semis and road raging pick ups. I started praying to every god possible as "The Dinosaur" roared onto Hwy 5. When I opened my eyes a few minutes later, I was pleased to notice we were still breathing! Not only that, but Angie was kicking ass! She was changing lanes with ease, never hesitating to honk if needed, and exuding the confidence of an experienced driver. I was very proud of her and took a sigh of relief while we cruised the highway on the way to the mall. (Where else would a sixteen year old girl want to drive to?)
I decided to cash in one of my "get out of jail free" cards and request that my "chauffeur" swing through the nearest fast food drive-thru before we headed to the mall. After all, I was famished from all the praying. It's hard work being a brother. This was a first time experience for Angie, so even though it was my request, she happily obliged anyways.
Pulling into the drive thru lane was simple enough. We placed our order and started to make our way to the pay window. This is where things got a little tricky. You see, driving "The Dinosaur" in a straight line was hard enough, but when your vehicle has the turn radius of a parade float, a drive thru is the last place you should try to navigate your way through. We got stuck a quarter of a way between the building wall and the bright yellow pillar. Angela's calm demeanor had turned to uncontrollable laughter. Red-faced and flustered, she shifted gears back and forth from 'R' to 'D', inching around the corner ever so slighty with every cycle while horns were honking and people were ignorantly yelling out their windows. She even snickered while ordering me to stop giggling in the back seat. I couldn't help myself. We'd been stuck in the drive thru for what seemed like an eternity. Even my mother was holding her sides from busting a gut. A few layers of paint and scraped wheel wells later we made it out alive and pulled over to park and eat our cold burgers and fries while we cranked up the tunes and enjoyed a rare moment of normalcy.
Angie passed her driver's test with flying colors a few months later and it was one of the proudest moments of her short, but memorable life. You should have seen her face light up when she showed me that yellow slip of paper. "Told you I would pass, you dork!" she said as she bolted out of the room with her tongue stuck out in my direction. I was annoyed and proud of her too.
DID YOU HEAR ME, ANGIE?!? I WAS PROUD OF YOU, BUTTHEAD! :-)
This story exemplifies the person Angie was. Full of life and perseverance, Angie tried her best even in the face of adversity. Please remember to appreciate the little things in your life that you might otherwise take for granted. And remember: somewhere out there is a young lady just like Angie, sitting on pillows and beaming with pride because she just got her license.
Heaven help us all.