Saturday, January 26, 2013

On the Road Again, Again

So as to create absolutely no suspense, I'll lead with the good news: yesterday I passed my road test to regain my drivers license!

As I reported last April,  I participated in a driving program through the rehab and had a couple of practice sessions with a AAA driving instructor. Afterwards, I also enrolled in a vocational rehab program managed by the state of Maine, a program designed to provide assistance for disabled people in gaining or retaining employment. With the argument that being able to drive myself would allow for greater flexibility in my work day, the state agreed to pay for modifications necessary for one-handed driving. In December 2012 – with the state approval finally in hand – I did have my car modified with a special knob (yes, Mary Fortune, a special knob, you juvenile) which not only makes one-handed turns possible but also has buttons built in which allow me to control the turn signals and the driver-side window (fortunately, the only critical functions  on the left side of the steering column (though I do have to be sure to adjust my lights before starting out). That said, I have to plan right-side adjustments in advance too, to avoid taking my hand off the wheel as much as possible. My knob can only do so much.

 Prior to having the modifications made, I can't say enough how thankful I am to my most regular ride-sharing partners – Heidi Joy (who in every way lives up to her name) and Mark Hills (who also lives up to his and who has been brave enough to be my designated licensed copilot for the past month as I've practiced driving to work). I could never have made the leap back to full-time work in the office (which I've been doing since last June) without you. As usual, thanks has to go to my wife, as well, since she has taken over the role of chauffeur in my "absence" (just one of the countless positions she's unexpectedly but necessarily filled).

 As momentous as this recent achievement is, it also represents one of the last tangible goals on my totally achievable bucket list. Having return to work and driving dangling as carrots before me has been a good motivator, so I do have  to come up with some more, as much as I'd like to rest on my laurels.

It's actually been interesting  how  invested those around me have been when it comes to my return to driving. I think it was easily the most relatable piece missing from my independence. All the better that everyone can now stop sweating over the idea of being tested on their parallel parking skills (which actually went as smooth as butter during my test).

 While I have been feeling pretty comfortable out on the road, having to go through the scrutiny of a road test was not without its stresses and not something I would generally recommend. I can't say it's the kind of thing that made me feel 17 again, only immature and somewhat incompetent (as if two years as a passenger and a little brain damage should negate nearly 25 years of driving experience).  No, I do not take lightly the responsibility that comes with being a licensed driver; if anything, I'm a more cautious and vigilant driver than I was. The wade through bureaucracy was still  less stressful than the neuropsychological testing I went through to evaluate my readiness for return to work ( whose results I don't believe I reported but which were more disheartening than I'd hoped  – identifying some cognitive deficits I would not have expected). Although along those lines -- after a year of  full-time work -- I can say that I  generally didn't feel like those deficits inhibited my ability to do my job (in fact, I'd say I had a fairly successful professional 2012) . Yes, I'm a little slower on the uptake, but  speed was never really my forte. In a way, The hardest part was living up to my own reputation and proving my new self to myself and others.

My knob and I'll see you on the highways and byways. Anyone up for a road trip?