(Photo by Chuck Hansen)
After getting her driver’s license a week earlier, senior Sonja Hansen checks out the features of her new car before pulling away from the dealership in August.

“I’m going to get you an electric dog collar, and every time you drive over the line, I’ll zap you,” my driving instructor said, chuckling.

I was not laughing. I was sweating. And it wasn’t just because it was early August and I was too nervous to adjust the AC on the driver’s side.

I had driven too far into the crosswalk at a stoplight for the nth time, and my instructor had had enough.

He later said that every time I changed lanes without looking over my shoulder, he’d poke my thigh with his pen. (He said that he’d told some other girl the same thing.)

At that point, I should have casually started a spiel about how my dad is some macho cop who cleans his pistol every night, picks his teeth with a knife and has a hankering for bringing creeps to justice.

Or I could have brought up how my last driving instructor was so rip-roaringly funny that neither of us noticed the oncoming 18-wheeler. At least he’s recovering nicely in the hospital. The doctors say only six more months!

Or I could have slowly turned to him, cross-eyed, and whispered, “Would you like to disappear?”

Any of those statements would have quieted him down, but I was focusing on signaling my turns and keeping us alive. I instead chose to scootch away from him.

It was no use. I was stuck with him for another 45 minutes to fulfill one of three mandatory driving lessons needed for a license.

No matter. I’ve been stuck plenty of times. Take, for instance, the bus ride back from the class trip to Ashland in my junior year.

I was sitting next to senior Smita Sikaria and wanted something in my backpack, which had rolled under her seat. Instead of asking for help, I decided to reach through the center of our seats with my right arm, grab my backpack and pull it up. I then realized my spindly arms weren’t quite long enough.

“Well, nice try,” I thought.

(Photo by Esmeralda Bruce-Romo)
Seniors Sonja Hansen and Smita Sikaria travel home after the annual class trip to Ashland in their junior year. A while later, Hansen’s arm would get stuck in between the seats.

Then I tried to pull out and couldn’t. My right armpit began to sweat. (Only my right armpit sweats when I’m in high-intensity situations.)

I tried to keep from notifying my friends since I knew they’d draw attention to the situation.

I pictured what would happen. We’d pull over, the teachers would call 911, and the firefighters would mount the bus and say “Where is she – the one who got her arm stuck in a chair?”

After filming footage of paramedics taking my vitals and rescuers tearing apart the chair, news reporters would question me on how the harrowing event came to pass.

Later news anchors would lead with “Sacramentan skirmishes with seat – and loses! Ten tips on how to keep your child safe from buses tonight at 7.”

I couldn’t let that happen.

I tried to maintain a bored, disinterested countenance as I pulled and pushed my arm. And then Smita noticed.

“Waaaait,” she said, smiling. “Are you stuck?”

“No, I’m fine,” I muttered.

Immediately senior Nico Burns, who was in the row behind me, announced that I was, in fact, stuck.

I shushed them.

Senior Carlos Nunez from across the aisle then became inquisitive and asked what was going on.

It took several minutes, but I finally got loose by standing up a little bit while Nico pushed and Smita pulled.

At least I didn’t cry like my little sister, fourth grader Morgan, did when she got stuck when she was 2 years old.

My family was in line for Dole Whip near the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland.

A couple minutes into our wait, we heard crying. We had been standing next to a wall decorated with tiki masks. Morgan had decided to pick a tiki mask’s nose and stuck her tiny pointer finger in it.

My mom yanked it out, and we moved on.

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