Exams and tests have been a part of my life ever since I can remember, and yesterday was not an exemption. After almost a month of studying all the theoretical aspects of driving, it was finally time for me to prove that yes, I can still memorize rules and signs and get a pass grade. I was nervous, mostly because literature has taught me that everything is game as long as your argument is solid. In literature, I am allowed to prove whatever my sick mind comes up with. This, however, was more to the point: if you don’t stop when the light is red, you are going to crash. Also, there is no hidden meaning behind every road sign. When the sign tells you to stop, YOU STOP.
The test—30 questions, only one false answer allowed—lasted for approximately thirty minutes. I have a long tradition of always finishing tests earlier than expected, so I kept my remaining minutes staring at the dirty walls. As I was waiting for my results to be printed, my eyes froze on the computer screen: a car was looking back at me, mockingly saying “You’re good in theory, just wait until you need to get your hands dirty. Just because you know all the rules doesn’t mean that you’ll be good at driving”. At this point, I was nervously sweating. “The car is right”, I thought to myself, “I can’t drive! My life is in my books! Also, a car is talking to me, help!”.
I tried to occupy my mind with things that weren’t remotely car-related, so naturally I focused on cars. More precisely, I thought of the presence of cars in literature. The most distinctive car that came to mind was Gatsby’s yellow car. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s car is a symbol of new money and materialism, the fast pace of the life of the 20s, and the sudden collapse of the America Dream—a Dream the novel praised up to the point of the fatal car crash that changed everything. The car—or, to be more precise, Daisy’s bad driving—works as a catalyst: Daisy’s true character is exposed, Myrtle dies and her death causes Gatsby’s murder. The car brings the resolution of the story, and it symbolically drives the roaring crowds towards the end of the glorious 20s.
In E. L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel, an excellent book that plays with the notion of confusing history and fiction, there is a memorable car scene right at the beginning. Daniel drives his car with his young wife sitting next to him. Daniel makes his wife take off her pants, he touches her, and it is implied that he marks her rear end with a lighter. First of all, I’m pretty sure that this sex act violated many driving rules and it’s not fair: I spent a lot of time studying what the proper behaviour of a driver should be, and this guy casually commits a degrading sex act of dubious consent right at the front seat, while the car is still running. I’m pretty sure that he would be fined, show some respect for the road!
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron are mysteriously blocked from entering the Platform 9 ¾ , so instead of waiting for Ron’s parents to return, or even send an owl to Hogwarts, they decide to steal Ron’s family car and fly all the way to Hogwarts. Yes, the car is magically altered, it flies. Where to start? Ron and Harry are both underage, they don’t have a driver’s license, and they forget that a train is always supposed to pass first. Sometimes I wonder if these kids managed to get any proper education at all…
So many cars in literature, so little time to remember them all. They called out my name. I passed the test. No more theory; from now on, it’s time for the practical part. I might hate driving, I might love it. The weirdest part of the day was this: as I walked in the building, ready to prove my knowledge to the world, I saw a loose black chicken walking around the premises. I double checked to make sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. It was indeed a chicken. That’s when I knew I was going to be okay. If a chicken has the nerve to roam freely in a building that is a subdivision of the Greek ministry of Transportation, then I can learn how to drive and make sure that I am a better driver than Daisy or Daniel.