Lately whenever I talk to someone connected to my "case" I'm asked the same question: How's the driving going? Yes, we just recently had hand controls installed in our car, after a two-month long process, but there remains one small obstacle–– I don't have a driver's license.
My license was suspended following my injury since I couldn't use my feet. Right now, my temporary learner's permit allows me to go on the road in a hand-controlled vehicle with an instructor on board.
I've had three sessions driving with instructors and feel pretty confident that if the DMV ever decides to schedule a road test for me (I've been waiting ten weeks), I'll do just fine. The only thing I was missing, is the experience of getting behind the wheel of our car. So, yesterday Lisa and I went down to the biggest empty parking lot we know–– at our local horse racing track.
This lot is perfect. It's more than a quarter mile long, an eighth wide and completely empty. It's also right along the bay so Lisa went down to the beach to shoot birds (including this handsome fellow: a surf scoter) while I drove around the parking lot for close to an hour.
We thought it would be best for me to "go it alone" to allow me to get used to the car in the most relaxed way possible. It worked. I just cruised around the parking lot and imagined stop signs and street corners, parallel parking spaces and lane changes.
It's truly remarkable how an activity as familiar, to most of us, as driving can remain easy and automatic even after changing a fundamental aspect of it like the foot-pedal interface.
The car hand control is essentially a handle which protrudes from the left side of the steering column. It allows the driver to accelerate by pushing downward and brake by pushing forward. After ten minutes, it's like second nature. After an hour, you don't even think about using your feet anymore.
Of course it helped that the controls in our car are perfectly tuned and fitted just for me. (Thanks to the folks at Mobility Systems in Berkeley). They feel better than even the instructors' car controls I've used.
It was worth the wait.