How I Learned to Drive in Traffic
I was seventeen when I moved to Kansas City three days after I graduated from high school. I learned to drive on the back roads around my home town in which the population was between 6,000 and 8,000. If you saw twenty cars at a time, it was considered heavy traffic.
I had been in Kansas City for about two weeks when my boyfriend was going to drive my roommate and me home for the weekend. He picked us up at our apartment at 12th and Pennsylvania and we headed east. My roommate sat in the back seat embroidering.
Now remember, in 1960, we didn’t have a lot of shopping centers out in the suburbs. If you wanted to shop, you went downtown to Jones’, Macy’s, EBT, etc. so you can imagine the traffic at ten o’clock on Saturday morning.
We stopped at a stop light at the corner of 12th and Main and the bf jumped out of the car, “Here, drive around the block while I run into Jones’ for a minute.” Mind you, I had never even driven his car. I can’t remember what it was, only that it was white. Thank goodness it had an automatic transmission.
If you know anything about Kansas City streets, you know you can’t just drive around one block. You come to a corner and want to turn right and the street is one-way to the left. I ended up going around four blocks in bumper-to-bumper traffic before I got back to 12th and Main. Thankfully, the bf was standing waiting for me.
How I Learned to Drive in Snow
I never drove in snow until December 1966. Either my parents or my husband was always driving when it snowed. Well, this day it started snowing around noon. They said, “little or no accumulation.” (But isn’t that what they almost always say?) I was working at GSA at Bannister and Troost and my husband worked at 21st and Forest – one block east of Troost. I was also six months pregnant with my oldest daughter.
When I got off work at 4:30, I called over to the motor pool to a woman who sometimes rode with me and asked if she needed a ride home because I didn’t want to be in the car alone. She lived a block west of Paseo around 40th street somewhere.
Cars were sliding everywhere. Going up one hill, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. My 1964 Pontiac Catalina was a big heavy car. I never stopped moving. If a light turned red, I just slowed way down and inched along until it turned green. When we got close to the turn for Anna’s street, she told me not to get off of Paseo she would walk the block home. As she got out, I still kept barely moving.
It took three hours to drive the seventy some blocks to my husband’s office. I called Anna to tell her I made it and she said, “I’m so glad you called. I just heard on the radio that a pregnant woman had an accident on the Paseo and I was afraid it was you.”
My husband’s office was one corner of the street. Of the four ways away from there, three were uphill and the fourth was one-way going south. We went north on the one-way street to get out of there.
That was the day I decided you can’t be afraid of snow – you have to respect it, but if you’re afraid, you tense up. Just keep your wits about you and never stop moving.