Learning to Drive - at 26

To celebrate my 10-year anniversary of (licensed) driving, I knew I needed a big car adventure. Like most people in my family, I've always loved to drive—on winding scenic roads, the DC beltway in traffic, over bridges, alongside cement jersey walls on the turnpike, whatever. But since I moved to New York City, not driving has been one of the toughest transitions; there's no decent equivalent to driving around on a grey, rainy day, Interpol or Radiohead weeping from the speakers. Ditto for a car-full of friends screaming along to the B-52s, the warm summer wind sticking the ends our ponytails to our lip gloss.

So for my decade of driving celebration, I needed to reunite with that lost love. It wouldn't be enough to just rent some generic car and noodle around. Especially since driving feels so natural now, I wanted to remember the way it felt back when I'd first started: getting jittery when I'd slide into the seat, spending most of my time staring at where a hood ornament should be instead of the road. I needed that first-timer's rush.

So I got hold of a Volkswagen Eos. It's a hardtop convertible with a roof that retracts, Batmobile-style, in 25 seconds; it's got a navigation system and an iPod dock; it's hunk-of-steel gray; it's a stick shift (did I mention I don't know how to drive stick?). I would recapture the feeling by learning something new about a car and, honestly, by scaring the hell out of myself.

Tonight, I drive. Or try to. Peter, a fellow city kid who's been my friend for two years—and in that time, we've driven together exactly once, in a rented Taurus—agreed to teach me how to drive it. After work, we'll get the car, he'll drive us to a back-alley part of Brooklyn, and I'll feel like the kind of driver, all terror and excitement, who I was 10 years ago.

Stay tuned—tomorrow I'll let you know how my first day on a manual goes.

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