Jacob is taking drivers’ education.
Oh, you’re sweet. Yes, I was very young when he was born.
Jacob is doing great with the whole learn-to-move-3,000-pounds-of-metal-down-the-road thing. I, on the other hand, had a hard time.
Let’s look first at what I had to work with.
In my case, the family truckster was 1980 Volkswagen Vanagon. Affectionately nicknamed The Brady Bunch Getaway Mobile, this thing had no amenities, no luxuries, nothing. It was a shoebox on wheels with a sewing machine engine to propel it forward in space. When we were traveling and got bogged down on a hill (read: slowed until a 4-year-old on a tricycle could have passed us), Dad would holler at my sister and me to get back there and whip the hamsters.
But I begged to drive it. Why? Because this:
was the only other option. Sorry for the lousy picture, but that’s the one, the real truck in which I learned to drive, a 1965 Ford F100 small bed. The people who own it now didn’t answer the door when I knocked and I thought it might be a bit rude (read: I go to jail for no photo) to stand in the yard taking pictures.
That’s Old Blue, so named because it was old, and also blue. We’re a very creative family that way. My dad told me that if I could drive that truck, I would be able to drive anything.
On that point, he was correct. You could put me behind the controls of a locomotive and I wouldn’t be intimidated.
Trains have a steering wheels and clutch, brake, and gas pedals, right? Good.
The first thing my dad (who handled all the driving instruction; my mom sat in the backseat and gasped herself dizzy) taught me to do was start the car. Simple enough. On Sunday mornings I would rush to be ready to go first, then ask my dad for the keys and run out to the driveway to start the van.
That was how I managed to destroy one of the garage doors. I smashed right into it with one of those giant vehicles. My folks bought a new garage door, hung it up, and painted it to match the other one.
I waited almost 24 hours before I smashed the other garage door.
There was much sighing and shaking of parental heads, but they ordered another garage door, hung it up, and painted it.
I waited over a week after the second new door was installed before I smashed the first new garage door. Again with the sighing and shaking of parental heads, but that time my dad went into the garage with a mallet and pounded out the smashed parts the best he could.
At which point I stopped driving into the garage doors.
My parents decided to hand some of my driverly education over to the professionals and signed me up for drivers’ education, which involved some classroom time, several sessions on the driving range, and several hours of street driving.
Our driving range looked like this:
See that little row of boxes? Those are the cars. They were all automatic except one, and I had to drive that one because both of our vehicles had standard transmissions.
Every car had a speaker in it, and the teacher and his assistants in the control tower could talk to us, the drivers. Our first task was to drive forward to the dashed line. In spite of my hands sweating half a quart per minute, I successful completed that skill. One minute, I was in front of the little practice road, and the next minute I was idling in front of an orange cone 20 yards away!
Oh. It seemed we weren’t finished.
The next task was to drive from the dashed line back to where we started. Backwards. I looked over my right shoulder. I looked over my left shoulder. I let up on the clutch a little bit…a tiny bit more…just a bit more…and the car moved a few inches.
Oops! I wasn’t going in a straight line. I slammed on the brakes, corrected my direction, and worked the clutch and the accelerator again.
Oops! I was going in the other wrong direction. Worse? All the other cars were back where they started.
No time to start over! Everyone was staring! Quick; correct the steering! No, wait, the car is about to stall! Give it some gas!
When the cloud of dust started to settle and my dizziness was subsiding (and, I assume, the other driving students had begun to catch their breath), one of the instructor’s assistants came to get in the car with me. That assistant rode in my car the rest of the hour and I still managed to rear end another car and take out half-a-dozen orange cones.
None of this should have surprised anyone. I was always the kid who, when I got into a bumper car at the fair, immediately got stuck in a corner and never managed to get out before the time was up.
All early indications to the contrary, I did eventually learn to drive, and drive well. Since that little fender-bump on the driving range, I’ve never been in an accident that was my fault.
Of course, that might be because I drive like a little old lady. Do you know who first told me I drove like a little old lady?
Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I’m smart enough not to eat my own head.
Jacob is doing great. He would never spin out on the driving range. Or eat his own head.