08/09/2010 10:02 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Frank Bruni Details Driver's License Saga For The Times

ONLY three times in my life have I been so scared that I trembled -- legs quivering, hands jittering, heart out of control. The first was at 12, when I watched "The Exorcist" before I should have. The second was at 41, when, on the kind of dare to which middle-aged men seem peculiarly vulnerable, I got into a canvas harness and prepared to jump some 250 feet into a gorge in Zambia.

The third was a few months ago, on Staten Island, when I was asked by an examiner for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to pull out of a parking spot and drive toward a nearby stoplight.

A humdrum task, you say? Undeserving of horror? You've never met the examiner. And you don't yet understand what a crazy-making path I'd traveled to that fraught and climactic point -- to the possibility that, at 45, I just might be able to drive legally again.

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