Learning to drive is probably one of the most exciting parts about growing up, if not one of the scariest – suddenly you’re trusted to be in control of this thousand pound metal machine of death? You probably spent a lot of time with your parents, older sibling, or maybe an aunt or uncle learning the basics in a parking lot before taking to the streets like a newborn deer taking its first steps into the meadow.
Between all that practice, driver’s ed, and your actual driving test, you probably thought you had it all figured out by the time you finally got your license. If only it were that simple.
Here are the five things no one told you about driving.
1. People don’t use their blinkers. Like, ever.
One of the most crucial things beaten into our heads when we’re learning to drive is to use our blinkers. Your parents shriek at you in falsetto if you dare take a left turn without signaling. You’ll fail your driver’s test if you forget to use your blinker at the stop sign. We’re taught that it’s a cardinal sin to ever forget to use our holy blinker.
And yet…here in the real world, out on the open road, no one seems to know what a blinker even is, let alone how to use one. People swerve into lanes without warning and slam on their brakes to make a turn at the last second. You end up with scalding hot coffee all over your lap and enough energy to light up the entire power grid of Manhattan with the road rage you’re feeling right now.
2. It’s expensive.
Right out of the gate, getting yourself something to drive around in costs money to begin with. But that’s not the end of it – you still have to pay for insurance, gas, oil changes, and any other kind of maintenance. Not to mention tolls, depending on where you live. I’m not going to single anyone out here, but it would be particularly hard on your wallet if you happened to live in, say, a state that pays one-fifth of all tolls in the country despite being one of the smallest states.
3. No one ever really goes the speed limit.
Even though you spent all of your time learning to drive with Mom and Dad frantically looking between the road and the speedometer to check that you were going the speed limit, the truth is that no one really cares about it.
On the highway, you’ll see people going 20 MPH under the speed limit in the left lane. On residential roads, you’ll find cars zooming by at 40 MPH. If the speed limit is 35 MPH, you know you’re going to be stuck behind that guy who goes 25 MPH. This is especially true if you’re running late for an important appointment, or if you really have to go to the bathroom.
4. Keep it clean, fellas.
Unless you went ahead and bought a real train wreck of a car, chances are you’re going to be reselling it in the future. That means you need to keep it in relatively good shape. Sure, carwashes and oil changes and tire rotations are all great ways to do that, but what about the interior?
It might be smart to invest in some seat covers to protect the original upholstery, especially if your car is prone to messes – kids, dogs, lots of trips to the drive thru. Maybe you just have a serious case of butter fingers and tend to drop your Slurpees. Better for a pair of neoprene seat covers to take some raspberry slush to the face than your real leather seats.
Floor mats are a bright idea too. Not only will they protect your carpet (one point to floor mats, please) but you can even find some styles to match your seat covers if you have the patience for it (and point two). People don’t give much thought to their carpet, but a cigarette burn or coffee stain isn’t pretty and any potential buyer is probably going to try to save a few hundred bucks for that tiny detail that could have been easily prevented. Plus, they’re probably going to be judging you and that’s not fun.
5. Food is the gift that keeps on giving.
We’re all guilty of that midnight trip to the drive thru every now and then. Those greasy fries are delicious, but the smell of them lingering in your car for the next three days? Not so much. Somehow, literally any kind of food that comes into your car will call shotgun and hang around with you for a few days. You can try to fight the smells off with an air freshener, but that will just leave you with fresh cotton mixed with the scent of last night’s pizza delivery. Your best bet is driving with the windows down.
Nudging a parked car and driving away like nothing happened is just part of growing up.