Sunday, 23 October 2011

Driver's Ed

Isaiah started driver’s ed classes at AMA last week. The classes consist of 18 hours of in-class instruction and 10 one-on-one hours in the car with a qualified instructor. Considering that it cost us $754 (member price for the basic package), it should also include dinner and a marriage proposal.  However, being a reasonable woman, I will settle for him not killing himself or anyone else when he is finally let loose on our city’s roads.
We tried to teach him ourselves, but ran in to a few major stumbling blocks. Most importantly, we are a busy family, and the rare number of times per week that one of us AND Isaiah are not busy at the same time leaves us with approximately one opportunity every 984 family hours in which to practice driving.
Secondly, Jason does not have the patience to teach. He is all over taking Isaiah out to practice AFTER I teach him the basics, but he has no patience for the endless repetition of circling the closest parking lot. That leaves me as the sole instructor, bringing possible driving time down to once every 54895 family hours.
Lastly, driving practice stresses Isaiah out. On our one outing onto an actual road, Isaiah did beautifully until faced with oncoming traffic, at which point he took his foot off the gas, stomped on the brake, took his hands off the wheel, and refused to move until the other car had passed us. (Luckily, it is a very lightly traveled street, and there weren’t any cars behind us. But the old gal at the bus stop had a nice laugh.) He needs time to recuperate between lessons. Now we are down to one good opportunity every 56395290732 family hours. It’s just not feasible to wait till he’s 86 to teach him to drive, so we decided to pay someone else to do it.
Isaiah is excited about the opportunity to learn to drive, and the ensuing freedom brought on by not having to leave your girlfriend’s house at 10:42 in order to get home by 12 using the transit system. Jason and I are excited about never having to go out to pick up pizza (or Liz) again.
I wonder if every kid who takes driver’s ed goes on to get their license. Do you think the actual lessons ever scare anyone so badly that they just never bothered to take the test? I bet they have. And I bet I know who….
(Disclaimer: Remember. I worked nights. I don’t drive this badly anymore.)
One winter, when Isaiah and Liz were little, I was on the way to the mall, when fate (in the form of stupidity) intervened. For years, I had driven a stick shift. I learned to drive on a stick shift, I taught JASON to drive a stick shift, and there is no earthly reason for me to have forgotten HOW to drive a stick shift.
And yet…..
As I turned the corner from Richardson Way onto Richard Road, while chatting away to the kids in their carseats, I, for no earthly reason I can possibly think of, pulled up on the lever to engage the emergency brake. In the summer months, this would have been followed by my forehead crashing into the steering wheel, a little bit of embarrassment, and a 3 week long headache until the concussion healed. This being winter, however, the results were entirely different.

When I pulled up on the emergency brake (immediately forgetting I had done so, by the way, until I tried to engage it later on, only to find it was already done….), I locked the wheels of the car, which then proceeded to slide on the icy road. I tried tapping the brakes, turning into the skid ,and every other defensive driving move I could think of (none of those moves, however, were designed to correct stupidity and sleep deprivation, so they were essentially futile). I looked up to see where I would end up, and, to my horror, saw a red sedan with the all-too-familiar plastic tent on the roof, indicating a student driver.
I leaned on the horn, trying to alert the driver ahead that I was out of control and on the way into the space they were currently occupying, but I knew it wasn’t going to do any good. No way was a student driver going to realize and react fast enough to get out of the way.
I slid forwards for roughly twenty minutes, unable to alter my course, and finally impacted with the car ahead. I heard that nasty crunching noise I have come to associate with higher insurance premiums, turned off the engine, and turned around to check on the kids, both of whom were cheering in the backseat. They seemed fine.
I got out of the car and started to assess the damage. Luckily, I had been driving our new (to us) Chevy Sprint, and the Driver’s Ed car was a sportier model with a higher back end, so rather than damage the other vehicle, it appeared I had simply slid underneath it, without even scratching their bumper. Sweet. I wouldn’t even have to make a claim.
As I approached the other car to make sure they were ok, since they were taking a little longer to get out than I would have expected (seriously- I had been going less than 30 when I hit them- there was no way they could actually be HURT, could they?),  I walked up to the driver’s window, which was slightly unrolled. I could hear the driving instructor coaching her student.
“OK- this is a perfect lesson. We have just been in a car accident. First we need to make sure we are pulled over to a safe spot (the impact had driven them to the side of the road, so that box was ticked.) Then we will exit the vehicle, assess the car for damage, exchange insurance information and contact information, and call the police if necessary.”
 “Nope.” said the student.
“It’s actually a good thing to learn.” said the instructor.
“Nope.” said the student, her tone changing not one teeny bit.
“Are you hurt?” asked the instructor.
“Nope.” said the student.
“Are you alright?” asked the instructor.
“Nope.” said the student.
I looked at her. There was no freaking way. She had obviously only turned 14 an hour and a half prior to the beginning of the lesson, and she was terrified. She had a shocked, frozen look on her face, and her hands were white-knuckling the wheel like it was the only thing between her and certain death. She wasn’t going anywhere
The instructor got out of the car, and walked around to the back with me. We checked the damage, and, thanks to the high-back-end factor, although I had torn off my own bumper and shattered both headlights, they were good to go. The instructor was sympathetic (I hadn’t told her why the accident had happened, lest her sympathy evaporate), and helped me pick up all my car parts and put them in the hatchback of my car.
As she went to get back into her car with the student, she opened the passenger side door, and we both noticed with surprise that the seat was already occupied. The poor kid was already buckled in, and had both hands braced against the dashboard, as though at any minute I would hop back into my car and continue to batter them with it. I leaned my head into the car and told her how sorry I was, and she nodded back weakly. I noticed she was a little pale. And a little green. Poor kid.
I apologized again, and got back in the car with the kids, who were imitating the sounds of a car accident (Crash! Crunch! No! It was screech!), and headed to my mother in law’s house, as she was the closest place from which I could call my husband.
I called Jason to let him know what had happened, and, as he always did, he asked if the kids were ok. Then he asked about the student driver. Then he asked about the car. Silly man! He was obviously distraught by the news of the accident and not thinking clearly. I’m sure he MEANT to ask about me first….
I would be willing to bet that girl never wanted to drive again. I’m sure she finished her lessons (since they cost so bloody much that if I was her mother, I would have forced her to continue even if she had lost the sight in both eyes), but I bet she thought twice about taking the road test. I would like to think she has fully recovered by now, and is happily driving gaggles of children to kindergarten on a daily basis. It HAS been 10 or 12 tears, so I’m positive she’s gotten over it by now.
I’m sure of it.

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