Interesting that just when we’re about to head back to Saudi Arabia, Hning and I are learning how to drive. What could it mean? Mind you that this is not meant to portray either of us a significant Saudi female, on the contrary, we’re pretty late compared to many Saudi girls who acquired their driving license much earlier; a couple of months after they’ve arrived to their foreign/scholarship destination.
Many of my mother’s generation who were sent out in scholarship programs just as we are now, had also acquired their license regardless of their religiousness or ideological stance. Another argument as to why the issue of “women driving” inside Saudi is non-religious, non-ideological, but rather a battle point between liberal and conservative parties within the country to prove which one has dominance and authority over the society, a battle which gained an exaggerated importance merely because the gov’t has not stepped in much earlier to resolve it. Now, any immediate resolution by the gov’t, if not played tactfully, will indicate “taking sides”.
When I was 17, I had a rather unsuccessful attempt at driving. My dad took me on the road in Canada. I will spare you the details and just say, we arrived at the building from which we started with my dad’s temper as burnt as the breaks.
When he asked me to open my door I freaked, “Ha, what, how?!"
It was the straw for both of us.
“The door. The! Door! Can’t you even open a door?!”
I quit on driving right there and then.
This might be why I postponed driving thus far. Other reasons are sharing the same car with hubby, driving almost everywhere together, and TriMet being amazingly convenient and accessible almost anywhere I need to go. But boy, do I regret waiting out on the experience of OWNING the wheel!
Please don’t think of yourselves when you were 17 or even 19 and learning how to drive. There’s something different to learning at 25. Something not cute, but rather serious and self changing. Being in charge of the thicker key chain. Enabling and disabling the family's access to the car. Sitting up front-on the left. Leading others to a destination, with you playing the active role. Eyeing cars on the street with a sense of equality; a sense of authority; of being responsible for your own safety as well as theirs.
Something about the way I walk changes once I step out of a driving session. I begin to perceive myself in mechanical terms such as: start, stop, yield, turn right, turn left, slow down, make haste. My eyes start spotting life at a higher level; the level on which signs exist. Yellow, red, orange, white, numbers, little cautionary notes. People, streets, traffic, thoughts, ideas, images, fall into organized and coherent categories.
My chest feels much stronger as it takes in the air around me and releases it. My inner muscles slowly expand, like they’re being called by name and raising head to identify themselves in response.
I was lucky to get a good instructor. Found him via Oregon Driver Education Center. Despite all the crappy signs I received at first, with the center drawing the tuition from my bank three times. Despite the delay between registeration, and scheduling, I am happy with the instructor I got (another reason as to why you should NEVER rely on marketing in the US as an accurate measure for product).
He says he trains cops, car racers, and I believe him! He’s also training other instructors; one has joined our driving session this week. Along with the scratch in the face and the cool blues of his eyes, you can immedialty spot how he owns the car to the extent that he doesn’t need to micromanage the student- I am too conspicuous to him with all my awkwardness and probable moves that he smoothly steers me in the direction of learning.
Hubby is playing an amazing role as well. He’s not melting in his seat as I drive nor holding to the edge of it. He's pretty mellow and cool. Today, he took me in my first highway ride EVER! He has me understood so well, that he’s got the right formula for where to compliment and where to suggest.
I hope to be able to get my license before returning home. I also hope that it will be more useful than a card in a wallet.
And I wonder what the streets of Saudi would be like if women shared the right and responsibility of way…
Yepppyyyyy, I got my License! Passed with a border line of 75/100 :P