Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Learning to Drive

I was only 16 years old for a few days when I went to get my learners permit. Once I had the little yellow card that legally allowed me behind the wheel of a car all I wanted to do was drive. There were no hours-in-training requirements to get a bonafide driver license. I only had to pass the official drivers test and I needed the practice. The restrictions on a permit were that I had to have a licensed driver over the age of 18 in the car with me while I learned behind the wheel.

Most of my siblings that were of the legal teaching age were either off to school or were too busy to teach me. My Godmother’s husband, Uncle Brian, took me out a few times but after I ran the stop sign at the bottom of Hoffman and Karen lanes I don’t think his heart could take it anymore.

The only other alternative to get some driving time was with my dad. The only problem with that was his car. I wanted to learn how to drive in a car that was close, in size and handling, to the type of car I would eventually use take my drivers test. My dad’s car was an old “cargo” van.

The old van was a beat up blue Ford with no windows on the side and no seats in the back. I think at one point it was used for a carpet business. The back of the van had a wooden bench bolted to the driver’s side wall, which is where we kids sat going to and from different places. Actually there was only one legitimate seat in the van and that was the driver’s seat. The front passenger seat was the spare tire. On top of that tire was a seat from a different van that was not mounted or fastened to anything. It was just placed on top of the tire so my mom had a place to sit. Whenever the van made a hard turn the seat would lean and slide in the opposite direction.

With no one to teach me I had to ask my father. I needed his approval to get my license anyway so maybe it would work out okay. He drove me out early on a Sunday morning, to the Jefferson Ward parking lot. On the way there, as I bounced back and forth on the passenger seat tire contraption, he explained that the parking lot would be empty and it would be a great place to drive We made a quick stop at the 7-11 to get a cup of coffee and a newspaper.

He pulled into the expansive empty lot and we got out of the van. He tossed me the keys and I jumped into the drivers seat and he climbed into the loose passenger seat. Before I could start the engine he talked about driving responsible and what not. He also wanted to go over some ground rules.

My dad pointed to some trees. “That is a stop sign.” He said. “That trash can is another stop sign. The speed limit on this side of the lot is 25 and on the other side is 35.”

I nodded.

“I want you follow all the painted lines. If you miss a stop sign you fail. If you go too fast or too slow you fail and we will come back again each week until you get it right.”

“Okay.” I said as I started the engine. “Ready?”

“Yes.” He said as he took off the lid of his coffee cup. “And one more thing. I want to be able to drink my coffee and read the paper. If I spill my coffee or I can’t focus on the paper because I am bouncing around, you fail and we will have to come back until you get it right.”

I looked at the passenger seat sitting on top of the tire and knew I would be coming back many more times. My dad is a very patient man. He took me back at least four times.

26 comments:

Circus Kelli said...

Hee hee... that is a great story!

I know my Mom took me for my 'practicing' and I vividly remember attempting to parallel park with her "instructions." I nearly put the car in park, got out and told her to do it herself.

Julie said...

I knew that was coming...the coffee and newspaper bit. :)

I can just see you and your siglings sitting on a WOODEN bench nailed to the back of a van.

Amazing what one could get away with vehicle-wise back in the day. Now, thankfully, we have SEATS and SEATBELTS. :)

Thanks for the story.

Wendy said...

Only four? You must be a very good driver ... yeah ....

BOSSY said...

Bossy has already taught one of her kids how to drive. This requires a level of patience and bravery not suggested for the Unmedicated.

Susie said...

What a great story. Geez, the things we used to ride around in. And most of us lived to tell the tail.

Andrea said...

that's actually a very creative AND safe way to teach driving. i'm keeping these ideas in mind with for own kids :)

Teri said...

great story, Bill.

I used to live on Davisville, between Terwood and 611 so I know that area in the WG/Horsham area is nuts as far as traffic.

the parking lot is always your best bet.

Bradley Egel said...

Very cute story...The day after I got my license, I got in a car accident. It was the only accident I was ever in (that I caused at least). Turns out I did not know how to stop yet...which is an important part of driving. I learned quickly after that...and after a couple months of being grounded from driving :)


Bradley
The Egel Nest

Kami said...

I knew the coffee and paper bit was coming, too. I love it.

Felicity said...

brings back memories. We lived out in the country, so not a lot of options for big parking lots. There was a looooong hill on the way back home from town, and my dad would make me stop and go the whole way (a 7 minute drive turned into 30+ minutes) only using the clutch and gas... no brakes allowed. By the time I got home I was so frustrated and angry I was shaking. But hey, now I can do it no problem! :) hurrah for patient fathers!

soozieq said...

Who did your Dad buy that van from, Ted Bundy?

Rach the Bach said...

Wow...my MOM taught me to drive. Big mistake. She was so uptight the whole time that I was too scared to drive with her. Good thing your Dad was so patient! Great story!

Chris H said...

Not bad! I had two teachers : My Dad, who just said "Pass everything, go faster!"
and my Mum, who screamed holy blue murder if I went faster than 20 miles an hour and drove me nuts!

Chris H said...

We did not teach our big kids, we hired a driving instructor! That's called KEEPING SANE!

kalki said...

That van sounds freaking awesome.

Harlekwin said...

The car was a 1966 Dodge Dart station wagon and for some reason I'm thinking it was a push button automatic. Power nothing, except for the mouth behind the steering wheel... mine.

Dad, pulled a U-turn at the end of a lonely country road and left the wheels pointing to the center line. I hopped into the driver's seat ready for my first ever driving experience, I'd had my permit for all of 24 hours. I cranked the wheel and cranked the wheel and cranked it some more. I gave it some gas and we discovered I'd cranked those wheels too far. We were rolling at mach 5mph towards the deepest ditch in the known universe.

Calmly Dad said, "Hit the Brakes." In a panic, I hit the gas instead (there was more than one pedal, one more than his blond 15 year old girl could comprehend).

I drove 50' straight into a ditch. I cried and cried and didn't drive again for 8 months. I was two weeks away from my 18th birthday before I got my driver's license.

My father never rode with me again.

Great memories... will you be ready when it's your turn?

Oh, The Joys said...

The wisdom of reading the paper rather than looking is really worth socking away for future reference.

Lowa said...

My MIL taught me to drive. My older brothers wouldn't, my Mum was too nervous and my Dad took me ONCE. I don't remember anything from it, but my Mum claims I came in the house crying and vowing I would never let him take me driving again.

I walked and rode the bus for years. After I got married and moved to this country, my MIL took me driving on the windy roads of SC. To this Canadian Prairie girl, that was scary! LOL But that was how I learned to drive. I am forever grateful to my wonderful MIL.

Our oldest is almost 15 and has no interest in driving. We will enjoy that as long as we can:)

Teri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teri said...

oh yeah, when I was learning to drive living in that area I went to driving school. That really helped, alot. and I would recommend it to anyone. Having relatives teach you to drive makes me nervous. you could pick up their bad habits.

April said...

I learned to drive on an automatic but my first car was a standard. I never went through so many yellow lights, there was no way I was going to stop and be first in line at a light!

Stacie said...

I just saw this tee shirt which i'm sorry if this is so inappropriate, but it made me think of you because I could just SWEAR it was you that calls him this...

http://www.tshirthell.com/store/product.php?productid=457

and it made me laugh..
Stacie

creative-type dad said...

Wow - I would have been back way more than 4 times...

nancy said...

I learned to drive in that same parking lot!

No_Newz said...

Dads are awesome!

Grace said...

I need to marry into this family.