Jayne Behind the Wheel

by Jayne Chobot

It is a long story as to why I didn’t get my first driver’s license until 2 weeks prior to my thirty-third birthday. While I did live in New York City for most of my adult life and certainly didn’t need to drive during that time, I’m not actually from NY so that’s not really an excuse. Mostly I was just too damn busy. I spent the summers of my teen years living in a small beach town where I could walk or bike everywhere, and during the rest of the year I was so involved in school and local theater that I couldn’t be bothered to find the time to learn to drive. We weren’t allowed to have cars on campus at my small university in Pennsylvania anyway, and then I high-tailed it up to the big bad Big Apple as soon as I could.    

I lived in walkable South Beach while in Miami, and while in west midtown in Atlanta for a few months I really never needed to drive as my jobs and social life were all in a small easy radius of my loft. The more time that went by, the more I learned to live without driving a car, and to be honest the more the idea of it frightened me. When you’re older you have had the chance to see the damage that driving can cause, and you’ve probably lost a friend or two in accidents. I was in no hurry to take on that level of responsibility, thank you very much.

But it was always understood that when I moved here to Dallas I would need a car, and a license to drive it. It was usually one of the first remarks made when I brought up the subject of moving; “I guess you’re going to have to learn how to drive then!” I accepted this reality and knew I would have to get over my fear. Friends in NYC graciously offered to watch my daughter while I took a few lessons from the local driving school, but driving in Queens is nothing like driving on Texas highways. Nothing. And my Texan’s shiny black Audi A5 is a little different than the driving school Toyota Corollas. So taking “lessons” from him when I arrived here l was like starting over completely. Not knowing my way around didn’t help. I couldn’t have found Dallas on a map before a year ago.

Luckily, living in West Village has been really wonderful, with multiple boutiques, salons, a Starbucks, yoga studio, grocery store, and restaurants within walking distance, as well as my daughter’s school. It’s been a lot like back home, only cleaner and quieter. The free Uptown Trolley takes us down to the Arts District and everywhere in between, and cabs, my Texan and his family have been sufficient for the rest until now. I’m sure I’ve been quite the sight around here, walking between Albertson’s and the bank and our townhouse carrying groceries and drycleaning in my reusable canvas shopping bags, with the other hand holding a cup of coffee and phone, just like I did in New York.

That aside, it has been nice to get out and learn my neighborhood and I like to think I may have inspired a few other people to leave their cars behind when running local errands.

But with the approaching summer and the beginning of my job search, we knew that it was only a matter of time before a car was a necessity. My Texan has been an incredibly patient instructor over the last eight months, whenever we had the time for him to teach me, which wasn’t often. With every work trip I went weeks without getting behind the wheel, delaying my progress considerably. Still, he would insist that I drive during our weekend pilgrimages up to Allen, giving me the highway experience that I had lacked. I was scared to death, with you people in your big SUVs and trucks speeding down 75 and my daughter singing or sleeping in the back seat. But he coached me and encouraged me, teaching me everything I needed to learn for my test and also the more practical lessons about Texan drivers and roads.

Finally I felt somewhat ready and realized that I wanted to get this thing before my first birthday in Texas. I filled out the necessary paperwork, stood in multiple lines at the DL office in Cedar Hill, and made the soonest possible appointment for the driving test, 2 days before my birthday. If I didn’t pass I wouldn’t make my goal, making me even more determined. The day arrived and, with the loving encouragement from my fiancé and little girl, I got in the car with the stoic man who would decide my fate. I bombed parallel parking (I’m blaming nerves) but aced the rest.

I parked the car and he said “you passed,” and a few tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face. I waited twice as long as most Americans for this milestone and that made it so much more thrilling. And a relief. My birthday was a celebratory occasion for so many reasons this year, but this was the biggest.

Bread Winners was one of the first places I went to in Dallas for brunch. I’d forgotten about that until returning the other evening. My Texan told me even before I moved here that it was a top brunch spot for Dallasites, and after experiencing it I understood why. There were (and are) always lines of people waiting for tables weekend mornings, and deservedly so. But last week, I was invited to a lovely event at the Inwood Village location highlighting their sexy new cocktail menu. As a new girl in town, I am so appreciative the invites that come my way and I was excited to see some of my favorite new people there, and of course any opportunity to sample new cocktails is always welcome. I mean, really.

But attending this event meant driving all by my lonesome for my first driving night out. I would need those cocktails when I arrived as it was. But the day before, while cramming into the back seat of the 2-door car to replace a freshly laundered car seat lining, I heard a thump in the front and turned around in horror to find my 4-year old daughter holding the rear-view mirror, the wires still attached to the windshield. My Texan handled it surprisingly well, and he and I spent the next half hour trying to re-affix the mirror, to no avail. It was clear that we needed professional help but there would be no opportunity for a few days. The more experienced driver of us was fine of course, but I was not happy about this at all. Not one bit.

Determined to make it to the event at Bread Winners out of appreciation for their hospitality and a need to get out of the house (working from home is not always ideal), I kissed my loves goodbye and set out for Inwood Village. With a brand new license, 5-inch heels, and a useless rear-view mirror dangling from the windshield, I made it to Bread Winners and was rewarded generously with good friends, new friends, hummus & pita, Firecracker Chicken, and their multiple new cocktails. I couldn’t drink too many of those, being far too nervous about my ride home, but I sampled quite a few and they are not too shabby. This ain’t just brunch-land anymore.

The cocktails fall into three categories: Hangover Elixirs, The Signatures, and The Skinny. The first category is always my favorite, especially post-30, and I admit to judging restaurants based solely on their Bloody Mary. Bread Winners passed admirably with their bacon and jalapeno garnish. This was the first time I’d had bacon in my drink since eating at Traif in Brooklyn last summer (a brilliant restaurant concept if you’ve never been there), and I liked it. A lot. And it should be noted that my slow assimilation to Texas is indeed progressing, as I managed the jalapeno kick far better than I would have a year ago and even went back for more. The Signatures were wonderful, with the Basil Berry Cooler impressing me the most. I love herbs in my drinks and I abhor anything too sweet, and this one was created for me. It’s perfect for a hot Dallas evening; it’s also pretty.

I admit that I’ve rolled my eyes more than once at the “skinny” cocktails craze. And I haven’t had a cosmopolitan since, well, everyone outside of New York started drinking them. But I was there to sample and I couldn’t avoid an entire category, so I gave them a little try. The Skinny Margarita, the Lemon Drop Martini, and yes, even the Skinny Cosmo were all beautifully presented and refreshing. And at ten dollars and only 125 calories, they’re worth changing my stance for. Especially with those extra Texas pounds I’ve gained.

But all of the sampling aside, it was wonderful to catch up with some friends in the light and airy atmosphere and make some new friends too. I am sure most of the people there had no idea what a monumental evening that was for me. I delayed my exit for a bit because of my nerves, chatting up all of the other fabulous attendees as long as I could, but eventually is was time to get back in the saddle, so to speak. And so I did. I grabbed my bag of Bread Winners cookies and walked solo across the parking lot towards that beautiful shiny black car with the dangling rear-view mirror, opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat and smiled.

I made it home sans incident that night, despite the availability of so many beautiful cocktails. The mirror was fixed the next day. This weekend I had my first opportunity to drive around a borrowed Cadillac Escalade monster to escort my visiting family around town and was reluctant with that too at first but didn’t do too badly. My driver’s license card came in the mail this week and although a few friends tried to bribe me to NOT drive in their neighborhoods for a few months, I am really looking forward to the next invitation and solo night out. And of course the next big step of buying my first car. I will still be walking around my neighborhood a lot regardless; it’s convenient, it’s healthy, and above all I like to do it and it reminds me of my old life. But I admit that it will be so nice, for the first time in my life, to have the option to get in my car and drive.

Jayne is new to Dallas and discovering the city with a voracious appetite. You can follow her discoveries @JaynieMarie on Twitter, Foursquare, and Pinterest, and on her website A Moveable Appetency.


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