May 5, 2011 by Mariel Gutierrez
A little over 15 years ago, well
actually, 20 years ago, I received my first
license. It's true; I was a
child prodigy driver.
Before you dole out the 'wows,' I wasn't just
any automobile driver prodigy, but a
race car driver prodigy. Sure I couldn't
reach the one pedal in my speedy, roofless race
car ' heck, I still can't reach it without
sitting on the very edge of the seat ' but I was
an awe inspiring wonder behind the wheel. My
mother's laughter and screams of excitement ' or
maybe screams of fright; I couldn't tell the
difference back then ' were clearly sounds of
support and amazement at my maneuvering skills.
My young, eager eyes sparkled
with excitement at every jerk of every crashing
turn during my whopping 7.5mph track drive. The
fact that I could 'control' the tyke-sized
vehicle, without running it off the track,
proved that I was a master of four-wheeled
transportation. I don't recall who won the race,
but I know I definitely made podium status. How
else would I have earned my license? And if
doubters needed proof of my prodigy driving
skills, I need only present the Grand Prix
Speedway License I earned at
Walt Disney World. And guess what, I got
to car surf and drive those racecars for a
living 14 years later.
I acquired my second, and what
used to be my favorite, license a few years
later. Ironically, I didn't have to turn a
steering wheel to earn it. Instead, my
brothers and I were shown and taught the purpose
of the different knobs, buttons, and other
gizmos in the pilot seat. We only had to look
and not touch. After some enthusiastic nodding,
our pilot deemed us
test pilot ready and told us to sit in
our special, co pilot seats.
Through the expansive
windshield, we watched the scenic property pass
by, as our 'futuristic' monorail vehicle sped
ahead at 40mph. Our pilot asked if he should
turn left or right, based on how the track was
turning. We answered and pointed
enthusiastically with 'That Way!' or 'Left! I
mean right!' Once we successfully reached our
destination, our pilot congratulated us with our
Monorail Co-Pilot licenses and told us that we
can have his job in only ten years! If I wasn't
skillful then, I sure was now; I received my
second transportation license years ahead of
reaching the state driving age. Where else in
the world was that even possible? And even years
later, the magic never ceased every time I sat
in that "special co-pilot seat."
2007. My college roommate's
first time as a monorail co-pilot.
Our monorail pilot, who was pretty
stoked that we were his first co-pilots.
My most recent license, and
my new favorite, took up residence in my wallet
only a couple weeks ago. I was appointed
shot-gun this time, while my four-year-old niece
eagerly took her place behind the wheel.
Sitting, yet again, at the very edge of my seat,
I helped out by pushing the pedal. And let me
tell you, that thing is still surprisingly
difficult to keep pressed down. As soon as the
engine in our mini convertible turned over, my
niece's eyes lit up and her mouth went agape.
She couldn't believe she was driving for the
My niece's first ride behind the wheel.
mouse ears awesome?!
During the entire drive, we
both yelled phrases, such as 'Turn! Turn!' or
'Right! Right!' at every track curve. At the end
of every turn, she would yell, 'Look, look!
Let's go straight now!' She laughed brightly at
every mini track crash, believing that's what
happens whenever you turn. At stops behind
stalled cars, her 'Uh oh; they broke again,'
phrase would be followed by, 'We're going! Push
the pedal to the metal!' At the end of the
drive, my niece was presented with her first
Autopia Driver's License. Her smile widened as
she presented the driving rite of passage card
to me. She asked me to keep her license safe for
future drives in
Disneyland together; and I whole