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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Driver's Ed

Now that I have a kid old enough to start thinking about Driver's Ed, all my own Driver's Ed memories are flooding back to me. Anyone who grew up near my hometown when I did will remember our Driver's Ed teacher, who I will call "Bob" (not his real name.)

The first time I met Bob, we were hanging out at my friend "Amy's" (not her real name) house when her parents weren't home, definitely not inhaling anything or doing anything illegal. I'm sure we were getting a jump start on our homework for junior year! Anyway, while were sitting around getting high on life and talking about economic policy, we heard a honking from the driveway.

"Oh my God! Shit! " yelled Amy, jumping up. "I have to go driving with Bob!" We all thought this was the funniest thing we had ever heard in our lives and rolled around giggling while Amy shoved  gum in her mouth and rooted around under the couch for her purse.

Bob kept honking insistently as Amy looked desperately for her shoes. None of us were in any state to help.

"God damn it, I'm  coming, you f**ing ***hole!" yelled Amy, running down the steps and out the front door.  We looked out the window. Two other kids from school were already in the car, looking anxiously toward the house. Bob leaned out the window and yelled something unintelligible at Amy, who got in the backseat with no shoes on. We heard her and Bob yelling at each other. The car made an  agonizingly slow 67 point turn--we could hear Bob yelling at the unfortunate driver the whole time--  and headed back out the road.

After Amy left, Jill from next door walked home, and Helen left on her bike. I suddenly felt really hungry. Staying there alone and  making a huge batch of mac n' cheese seemed completely logical! After I ate, suddenly occurred to us that I probably shouldn't be here, all alone in Amy's house, cooking, so I bolted down to my bike and headed for home. (I found out later that Amy got in big trouble when her mom came home and found the front door wide open and a huge mess in the kitchen. Amy got grounded for a week. )

The next day I asked Amy how the driving went.

"Oh my, f***ng GOD," she complained, "That m***f**** is completely disgusting! I  don't even want to talk about it!"

My first time driving with Bob was a week later. Amy warned me to a) wear old clothes, b) bring wet wipes, c) bring money, and  c) for god's sake, get some friends to observe at the same time.  I followed her advice. I got in the driver's seat in sweatpants (it was the 80's!) and an old t-shirt. I had ten dollars cash in my pocket. My friends Heather and Josh were in the back seat. (I don't ever remember my twin sister and I ever driving with Bob at the same time for some reason.)

We pulled out of my driveway. Bob started to gesture frantically. I looked back at Heather and Josh, who shrugged.

"Shraba blagahgah," Bob snapped, gesturing straight ahead at the woods.

"Um...what?" I asked nervously.

"Shraga blagagahgah!" yelled Bob, jerking his hands in three different directions. I tried to turn in the direction he seemed to be indicating, but he slammed on his passenger side brakes as hard as he could.

"AAAAAAAHHHH!" screamed Josh and Heather, hurtling forward.

"FRAGGAH MURGA FLEP!" yelled Bob furiously, cranking the wheel the opposite direction. Dandruff and spittel flew around as he shook his head, muttering angrily. 

"Okay, okay!' I yelled, glancing back at my friends, who were hastily putting on their seatbelts.

We drove slowly through town, me trying desperately to learn Bob's dialect and the meanings of his hand gestures.  I felt like I was getting the hang of it. Josh and Heather translated when they thought they knew way saying.

We seemed to be heading for the army base in the next town over.  About a mile from the gate,  Heather poked me--I was concentrating hard on the road to avoid getting yelled at--and I glanced over at Bob. He was sound alseep! Drool was running down his chin onto the seatbelt. Now I understood about the wet wipes. Bless Amy!

"Oh my god, I think I'm going to puke," hissed Josh, gazing at the river drool dripping off the seatbelt onto the seat, "Can you just take me home?"

"No way--it hasn't even been an hour yet!" I hissed back. "And we have to pick someone else up!"

"Can we at least get something to eat?" whispered Josh as we neared  the McDonald's on the rotary. (Again, this was the 80's. We thought McDonald's was awesome!) Now I knew why Amy had told us to bring cash (no one had credit cards in high school then!).

Fortified with fries and McNuggets (which we all thought was delicious), we kept driving around and around the rotary until Bob woke up.

"Mava drava guh," he muttered, shaking his head.  He pointed at the exit for the army base.

"We're going on base?" I asked, pointing at the exit sign as we went by it for the 12th time. Bob nodded and pointed anxiously, looking at his watch. I got on the base entrance road.  I could not wait to get out and let the base kid drive.

We went through the gate--the sentry on duty seemed to be familiar with Bob, as he just waved him through--and pulled up in front of  an apartment building. Bob leaned on the horn, making us all jump. A young man with a buzz cut waved from the window and then came out with a young Asian woman, whom he introduced as he wife, Lin. We all said hello. Lin looked really nervous. The young man gave her a kiss and said, "Good luck, honey!" Then he hopped on a motorcycle and took off.

"Mrrrthp," said Bob, indicating the driver's seat.  I immediately jumped out and squeezed in the back seat with Josh and Heather. Lin looked petrified. She pointed to herself and then the driver's seat and shook her head. Bob shook his head back and pointed at the driver's seat again.  Lin made blocking motions with her hands like, No way am I driving that car, pal! She spoke rapidly in a foreign language, shaking her head.

"Ah graaaabaada!" Bob yelled, stamping his foot. Lin looked at us in terror. We looked back in perhaps more terror, seeing what was about to happen.

"Ah, Bob," said Heather, leaning out the window, "I don't think Lin wants to drive. Why don't we let her observe today and I'll-"

"Glabagondabagaga!!" yelled Bob. He picked up his clipboard, pointed to the list of drivers, and waved it at Lin. He took her arm and steered her into the drivers seat.

"This is a really bad idea," muttered Josh, closing his eyes.

"Um, Lin?" said Heather politely, leaning over the seat, "Can you--ah-- understand what he's saying?" Lin nodded and smiled again, looking petrified.

"Okay, yes," she said nervously.

"Ah--do you speak any English at all?" asked Josh."Have you ever driven a car before?"

Lin smiled and said, "Okay, yes."

"Oh, my god," said Josh.

Bob got in the passenger's side and slammed to door. He began to point out the parts of the car to Lin, who just nodded and smiled.

"Okay, yes," she said. Bob reached over and started the car. Then he pointed at the gas pedal.

Lin slammed her foot down on the gas pedal as hard as she could. We roared out of the parking lot. Heather, Josh and I all grabbed on to one another. Bob leaned over and grabbed the wheel,  shouting angrily. He was so mad we could even make out a few words, like "brake" and "signal!"

Lin then stomped the brake pedal with both feet and we all slammed forward, nearly winded by the seatbelts. Bob was alternately screaming and gagging on his on saliva. He made "slow down" motions with his hands, and Lin seemed to understand. She pushed the pedal down more gently. We rolled toward the front gate, were waved out, and approached the rotary. Bob made fast motions with his hand, indicating that Lin should  speed up to merge into the rotary.  Lin slammed the gas again and we flew forward into the rotary, all of us screaming in terror. We came inches from sideswiping a guy in a pickup who swerved out of the way, waving his middle finger at us. Lin  then slammed the brake again, causing the car behind us to drive right off the road into the grass.

"Oh my god we're going to die," Heather whispered. Josh was trying to hide on the floor in case we saw someone we knew in the rotary, which wasn't unlikely. 

"Ga! GAH!" screamed Bob. "NO STOP!"

"Okay, okay!" gasped poor Lin. She hit the gas again and we shot toward  McDonalds. Now people were leaning out their windows and screaming at us to get the F out of the road.

"Okay, yes!" Lin yelled back.

Bob grabbed the wheel and we screeched around the rotary again--cutting off a large truck in the process --finally exiting onto the road back to town.  Heather and I had our arms wrapped around one another  and Josh had his eyes closed again and looked like he was going to be sick. We all gasped a huge sigh of relief to be out of the rotary Bob pointed straight ahead, staring at his clip board. Lin slowed down to twenty miles an hour. 

Five minutes later we head a snore. Bob was out cold again, probably exhausted from ten minutes of sheer terror.

Heather leaned over the seat motioned for Lin to pull over at a farmstand. We held our fingers to our lips and pointed at Bob. She nodded and, very carefully, got out of the car. Josh got in and slowly parked under a large tree. Then he and Heather quietly got out. Heather turned the radio up a little to keep Bob from waking up. We all carefully closed our car doors. Then we all looked at each other  and all high-fived.

Josh went in the farmstand and called his mom. She said she could drive Lin home. We started walking to his house, which was less than a mile away, so we wouldn't be in sight when Bob woke up.

We never heard what happened when he did wake up. As far as Bob knew, it had all been a bad dream.

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