There are few days that shape a young persons life quite like the day you get your license. A freedom achieved where you no longer need to arrange rides to the movies or to a friends house. You don’t even need a destination for the night, you can simply cruise around, if the gas is cheap enough, and see where the night may take you. Achieving that goal does take a considerable amount of work and in my case a tad bit of bad luck and lying.
After procuring your learners permit the first big hurdle is completing your drivers education class. Where I grew up, drivers ed was not part of our school curriculum. There was no Mr. Tuttle scheduled for forth period our Sophmore year who might teach us the ins and outs of the proper three point turn. Instead the mandatory 30 hours of educational instruction was farmed out to local companies. To say that these private “driving schools” were a bit of a joke is a HUGE understatement. It would come out years later that the school was actually an embezzling front, surprising a total of zero people. Summer afternoons were swallowed up by back to back to back classes, where kids would line up outside jostling to make it into the only class #11 taught for two weeks. The goal was always to just bite the bullet and take them straight for about a week and half and get it all done, if things didn’t pan out like that, good luck waiting for the next time you needed that one class.
The instructors of these courses were seemed like fictional characatures of people who seemed ill equipped to drive themselves. You had a ginormous man who seemed as if couldn’t squeeze behind the wheel or see the road behind his coke bottle lenses. A tiny firecracker with a limp that seemed apt to barrel someone off the road for not yielding to his right of way. A real life recreation of the SNL skit It’s Pat, who spent more time wheezing and talking about past athletic accomplishments than how to make a left hand turn. let alone teach a bunch of teenagers how to do so. A variable mix bag of driving excellence is what they told you they were, more like an oddity side show that never took off.
Each class consisted of about 30 minutes of the instructor reading straight out of a binder then a break, then about an hour and a half of some collection of driver safety videos from 1989. A personal favorite would have to be “Stay Out of the No Zones”, where they teach you the importance of keeping out of trucks blind spots, all over a cool and happening hip hop beat, you know relating to us youths and all. The best part about the class was that for those two hours you got a nice little nap in an air conditioned dark room. Or for the more studious of the bunch you could also get your summer reading done.
The other aspect of driver ed is that you have to log 12 hours of in car instruction. The breakdown of those were 6 sessions where the first 30 minutes was you being picked up and dropping off the driver who had the session before you. Followed by an hour of just aimless meandering around before picking up the session following you and dropping you off for the last 30 minutes. This is where it was savy to know which was the best driving instructor and book far in advance. I unfortunately did now know or care who my driving instructor would be and simply picked the earliest availability. Being granted the grace of the “It’s Pat” doppelgänger, who for the sake of the article I’ll refer to as Nancy, I was in for quite the instructional experience.
My first session was an early Saturday morning one. Being the first of the day I had an extra half hour of instruction instead of just dropping someone off. While I took this as a good sign initially, I soon became aware of what the extra time meant as I was instructed to drive two towns away. After about 20 minutes and countless lefts and rights to the point where I lost all bearing of even remotely where I was, Nancy told me to pull into the next driveway. Before me sat an old stone house that time had certainly forgotten. Vines strangled the foundation of the old decrepit mansion as the overgrown trees and bushes squelched out all signs of sunlight. I pulled to a stop infront of a rotting excuse for a garage door that swung out like barn doors. Nancy got out and beckoned the car inside and as I pulled the car into the dank carport my deepest fears manifested in my mind.
TO BE CONTINUED………….