Skittles and Driver’s Ed

Oh, Driver’s Ed. The summer between middle school and high school, we were required to take a two week class described as “the book portion” of Driver’s Education. I wouldn’t be allowed any hands-on training for another two years, when I turned fifteen. But for some reason they thought studying the rules ahead of time would be helpful.

I can tell you, based on my actual driver’s test, that I did much better with the hands-on, actual driving portion of the exam than the written part. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I hadn’t seen the questions in two years that I came within one question of failing the written portion. I remember the question I missed. It was related to blood alcohol levels and legality. At the time, I couldn’t figure out what that had to do with obtaining a license to drive. Then I was thinking, “Why do I need to know the consequences for something I’m never going to do?” Now I get it.

Our book part of driver’s ed was held at the high school, which would have been a cool introduction into the next level of life, but the high school I was to attend was in the process of being built. Mine was the first class to attend all four years in the new school. My Driver’s Ed class was at the old school, where my grandmother and countless cousins had gone.

The one thing I remember about those two weeks were the breaks. At every break we were given, we made a bee-line for the vending machines, because we had never had vending machines at school before and it was a novel concept. It was adultish and cool. Someone actually trusted us with change and junk food in the near vicinity.

Every day at break, we bought hard candy. I don’t know what everyone else bought, but I bought Skittles. Every day. Crinkly red plastic tubes of M&M shaped sour candies. Taste the rainbow.

Every day with my crinkly red tube of Skittles, I sat on a low brick wall with people I didn’t know and had not grown up going to school with. We talked about what high school might be like. No one could say exactly. We leaned heavily towards those kids with older siblings who were already there. But since we were going to a new school, all the rules were different, and no one could say how it would be different exactly. Even the kids who were already in high school would be new again. We were in a unique position of  avoiding the typical freshman torture. We’d be in a new environment, but so would the upperclassmen.

We sat there eating Skittles, doling out everyone’s favorite colors accordingly, bonding over the sharing of them, taking heart in the fact that we all felt just as lost as the next kid who was claiming the lemons.

Back in class, we had to sit through boring videos about teenage car accidents, and we wondered why they thought we’d be that stupid. I think the class was taught by some coach or P.E. teacher. We all rolled our eyes and suffered through. And we passed strawberry Skittles underneath the desks to our new friends from across town who we’d be spending the next four years with, in what ways we hadn’t yet imagined.

To this day, I can’t eat Skittles without thinking about being 13 and in Driver’s Ed the summer before high school began.


1 Comment

  1. March 25, 2010 at 4:50 am

    I don’t think I took DE until the summer between 9th and 10 grade. And there was some reason I couldn’t go to R-S so I had to go take it at East, where I REALLY didn’t know anyone. Thank goodness for bonding over the boringness of DE.

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