Friday, October 9, 2015

Learning the Streets

Tabitha has started taking Drivers Ed classes.

I know.

This is one of those Parental Moments where you think to yourself, “Wait, how did she get that old?”  And then immediately afterward you think to yourself, “Wait, how did *I* get that old?”  Because they’re related questions.  I don’t feel all that different from how I felt when I was thirty-five – I’m slightly rounder and rather balder but otherwise not much has changed.  But she has changed a great deal, and therefore I must have too.

Time.  It’s a harsh mistress.

So far, it has to be said, the classes don’t seem to be impressing her much.  She missed last night’s class due to the continuing Fall Crud that seems to have laid her low this month, and Tuesday was the only other class so far. 

Kim picked her up after that first class was over and asked, “How was it?”

“It exudes smoke and despair,” Tabitha replied.

“And spiders.”

So there’s an uphill climb, shall we say.

I think Drivers Ed is just like that.  Certainly my own experience in with that subject did not leave me particularly inspired or educated.  It did save my parents a great deal on auto insurance, as I recall, so it was certainly worth a few Saturday mornings in a basement classroom that way.

There were a lot of us in that room.  Some people were there for the first time.  Others, including at least one friend of mine, were there because they had already managed to screw up their legal status to drive and had to recertify themselves.  The class started at some horrifically early hour, when 16-year-olds were pretty much comatose, and went all morning.  We sat at these long tables in horizontal lines and tried to stay awake for the presentations.

My instructor was probably not drunk at that hour, though he had the shambling presence of someone who probably wished he were.  And confronted with a couple dozen bored teenagers for exactly as long as we were confronted with him, I suppose I can’t really blame the man.  To keep himself entertained he would pretend he was Bill Cosby, back when that was still a respectable thing to be.  He would stand up in front of the room and introduce the various videos that they mandate you show in Drivers Ed classes and which have not changed since the 1950s (“DEATH ON THE HIGHWAY!  How One Moment of Carelessness Slaughtered an Entire Town!”  In Technicolor!) and then go on long tangents about them, usually involving sound effects and flailing motions with his arms.

Eventually there would be a break.

We’d go outside and troop, en masse, across the busy four-lane road to the little shopping plaza and buy snacks and drinks to keep us afloat until lunchtime, when we could all go home.

To this day, film footage of traffic accidents makes me think of Welch’s Strawberry soda.

The class also came with on-street practice sessions, where a portly man in a tan Dodge Omni would take us out individually on the streets of suburban Philadelphia.  He had a hard life, that man.  Those streets were narrow and twisty, until we got to the Schuylkill Expressway, whereupon they became wide and filled with maniacs.  I guess the thinking was that if we could survive that, we could drive anywhere.  It seems to have been true – I have successfully driven in more places than I ever thought I would, so who am I to judge?

Eventually they declared me Wise in the ways of automobiles and their safe care and handling, and let me loose. 

Now the wheel comes full circle.


Ilya said...

I think I saw an entire curriculum of those frightening videos one night at the Parents Driver's Ed Info Session when my eldest was in that class. Now my second is taking Driver's Ed - I am so looking forward to that horror show again...

David said...

I feel for you, brother. I have the awful feeling that something like that is in store for me too.

Janiece said...

The REALLY fun part is when the child in question has their first accident. And they will, no matter how careful they are - their lack of experience combined with proximity to hundreds of other drivers with a lack of experience guarantees it.

In my own case, I found the best way to manage that is to expect that outcome and try to take it in stride unless something really egregious has happened. Texting and driving, for example.

Where should I send the Jameson's?

David said...

To the usual place, thanks. :)

I actually didn't have my first accident for a decade after I got my license. After ten years of driving in major cities (including six months where driving in Philadelphia was my job) I finally changed the shape of another car in a parking lot in Iowa. It never seemed that hard to me, and most of the time it still doesn't.

I'm not worried about accidents unless someone gets hurt. Cars I can replace.

LucyInDisguise said...

Okay, I gotta call ya on the Technicolor thing.

Wasn't really even black and white, more like green and white.

And, much like your Pink Panther, the color of carnage had to be taken on faith.


David said...

Huh - I just made up a title based on my recollection of dozens of those videos all bleeding together (pun fully intended). I should have known there was an actual one by that title!