It’s over. Summer, that is. Across this great land, students are bracing themselves for a new semester while teachers hide bottles of rye in seldom-used AV rooms.
I have to be honest. I never really looked forward to classes. Maybe it had something to do with a French teacher who made me stand, for five minutes in front of a laughing class, with my nose pressed to the blackboard on which I had misspelled the word “vous” or maybe it was being chased home from school by a group of bullies who looked like they had been rejected as extras from the movie The Road for looking too “cannibally.”
Yet, there was one class I couldn’t wait to get into, a class I’d waited 16 years to attend, one that promised a life of freedom and excitement – driving school.
The minute the sun went up on my sixteenth birthday I submitted my application for my “365” and enrolled. I celebrated that night by driving a moped through a forest, binge drinking, taking illicit substances and blacking out (back then, we didn’t know that driving a moped through a forest, binge drinking, taking illicit substances and blacking out were bad for you).
I loved driving school and still remember it fondly. The class consisted of a few other eager teens, some maladjusted adults who for some reason waited until they were 38 to get their licences, and my instructor. He was a seasoned motorist who was passionate about (American) cars and driving and who took his job very seriously.
In my free time I practised with my father, learning on a stick shift. I got a bit nervous pre-exam and decided to take my test on an automatic, thinking it would be easier. Big mistake. I failed my first test (for driving too slowly on a merge) but was back as soon as possible and passed the second, driving manual, with flying colours. It was the beginning of a lifetime of joyous car dependence.
Today, kids are sent to driving school the way we used to pack them off to juvenile detention. Even before they put butt to driver’s seat, they are branded bad motorists and may as well be forced to stick a scarlet “T” on their bumpers to identify them as the devil teen drivers the media reviles. Well, I say, forget the critics, kids. These folks are sore because their dreams have become regrets. They envy your youth and lack of sound judgment.
To assist the impressionable driver-to-be on their way. I herewith offer a helpful list.
What I Learned in Driving School
- A “stoned rat” will keep pressing the lever that gives him drugs and should not be allowed to operate an automobile.
- Never change lanes while driving through an intersection.
- The girl three seats in front of me has nice hair.
- Myself and other members of the Nepean Norsemen should probably not put on our football helmets and play “shoot the gap” on Carling Avenue.
- Leave at least three seconds of space between you and the car in front of you.
- When at a spot check in Hull, Quebec, (circa. 1985) do not be surprised if, after the cops ask you, “Do you have any hash?” they also ask you, “Do you want to buy some?” The safest answer to both questions is “No.”
- If you have to be reincarnated, “stoned rat” is not a bad way to go.
- If you look at something, you will instinctively drive toward it.
- If you can’t parallel park you are worthless and have no future.
- Be light on the brake pedal when braking. Also when accelerating.
- Just because a girl has nice hair doesn’t mean she wants to talk to me or to even make eye contact.
- Always wave after you cut someone off.
-If you are having sex in a car during the winter and the engine is running, make sure that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow or you might die of carbon dioxide poisoning before you finish having sex.
When I went to driving school it was not yet the default method. Many of my friends just learned from their fathers. Today, this practice is maligned by (surprise) driving schools. They say home schooling just leads to bad habits being passed down from generation to generation. The only safe way to learn how to drive is from a complete stranger who is getting paid for it.
Perhaps, but I think there is a place for both methods. After all, who really cares if you live or die but your parents? Can a driving school instructor put his hand on the back of your neck, look you in the eye and say, “Son, if I ever find out you’ve been drinking and driving I will kill you.” Nope. That’s love and you can’t buy it with money, it blossoms over years of primal instinct, frustration and worry.
Come to think of it, maybe I’m due for a little tutoring. Maybe I’ll brush up on my technique. Learning is a lifetime commitment. This fall, I’ll see you in Driver’s Ed. I’ll be the guy three seats from the back sitting next to the stoned rat.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy