Thursday, March 13, 2008

Driving Lessons

When I got back to Eugene I called some driving schools and started scrimping like crazy to save up the $130 dollar tuition (which wasn't exactly peanuts in 1975). I hadn't dared ask Pop for the money when I was in Belize because he would've offered to teach me himself. My siblings thought I was being extravagant, but I forged right ahead. If there was even the slightest chance driving skills could be transmitted genetically, I was determined to head them off at the pass.

The interesting quirk about my father was that in spite of his blissful oblivion to his own driving errors, he was hyper attuned to even the remotest possibility of anyone else's driving errors. As a passenger he would constantly seem to hallucinate some situation of imminent slaughter and would flip into an absolute panic, suddenly grabbing the dashboard with both hands and gasping horrifically. And my mother, or whoever was driving, would say, "What? what?" half expecting to hear a baby carriage crunching under the car, and honestly, you couldn't even find what he was gasping at. There'd be like maybe a pedestrian stepping off the curb half a block ahead, or something... or a car inching forward at a left turn signal, clocking .05 miles an hour. I never understood how someone could panic over a non-event and yet remain oblivious in the face of repeated life-threatening danger. (As the nuns were fond of saying, "It's a mystery.")

The teacher from the yellow pages picked me up at my dwelling in his small yellow standard with Student Driver written all over it. (After the jungle jeep experience, I insisted on stick shift.) He was the calmest man. About Pop's age. His head was tall, hairless, and pointed, and since I don't remember his name I'll call him Mr. Conehead, since the Coneheads are a people close to my heart. Because he was calm, and because I knew he had an extra brake over on his side, I was calm. Having had up until then a limited number of adult male role models in my life, I was utterly fascinated by the spectre of a Man of Calm.

To this day, I remember everything Mr. Conehead said. Like how when you turn, you're supposed to stay in the near lane, not wang out into the far lane where there might be a car already, coming right up on you. "Now, don't get sloppy!" he'd warn as he honed in on the finer points. I still hear him saying that when I execute certain maneuvers. Everywhere I look I see other drivers making these bubus he warned against, without the palest idea they're doing anything wrong, and I think to myself, "There goes another poor soul who didn't have Mr.Conehead."

You can learn to drive, but you don't really know how till you've practiced for about a year. If possible, you need to practice out of view and preferably out of range of the overly civilized world. That's why I thought that Belize would be a good place to do that, and went back down there.

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At 7:25 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Ooh! so the Belize theme returns. Such a tease!


I'm enjoying all this tremendously. thank you.


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