Driven to failure

Think back, if you will, to the glorious spring of 1999. While attempting to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, a lunatic named Buzz Aldrin flew his hot-air balloon too high and accidentally discovered the moon; Limp Bizkit, the greatest rock group since Herman's Hermits, released their seminal album "Significant Other" (featuring the poetic and profound number "Break Stuff," best known for inspiring thousands of Woodstock '99 attendees to spend the final evening of that music festival meditating); and, because the worldwide computer failure that destroyed civilization at midnight on January 1, 2000 was still months away, most people hadn't yet turned to cannibalism.

But the greatest event of those halcyon days didn't make any headlines. I refer, of course, to the State of New York's decision to grant me a driver's license.

Now, my securing a driver's license might not sound momentous to most readers - but consider the similarities between my struggle to earn my license and Odysseus's struggle to get home after the Trojan War in Homer's "The Odyssey." Both my journey and Odysseus's journey took place in New York, mine on the streets of Saranac Lake and Odysseus's on the road from Troy to Ithaca (I-88, primarily). Also, both Odysseus and I left piles of corpses in our wakes as we strove to achieve our goals.

But that's where our stories diverge, because while Odysseus had to overcome countless obstacles to get home, I only had to overcome one obstacle to get my license: my own subpar driving skills. Indeed, so subpar were my driving skills that I failed my first road test.

I could claim that my tester failed me for no good reason (except, perhaps, his own twisted amusement). I could suggest that this man, who had the disheartening habit of clicking his tongue and shaking his head whenever he jotted notes on his clipboard, had grown so bored and jaded after years of circling small Adirondack towns in other people's cars that he got his kicks passing and failing people at random.

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