Another adolescent milestone has reared its head, prematurely in my opinion, as my eldest son is in the process of getting his driver’s license and took his very first outing on the road this week, accompanied by his instructor.
“How was it?” I asked.
“Scary but really cool,” he responded, echoing the sentiment I still feel when I get behind the wheel decades after my first lesson.
In the informal, entirely subjective, and cherry-picked research that goes into these weekly columns, it turns out almost everyone I spoke with has vivid memories of learning how to drive. And the first universally-accepted rule is not to learn how to drive from a spouse. I could elaborate but I’ll opt not to.
My driving instructor, by comparison, was calm and patient, qualities probably buttressed by the fact that he had his own brake pedal. Despite his serene manner, I learned a number of life lessons from him like places in the West Island where police were usually set up for speed traps, how to time the lights on St. John’s Boulevard to get all the greens, and – oddly – how to get a free meal before going out on the town by crashing a wedding reception.
“It’s easy,” he said. “Just sit with the photographer.”
Our graphic artist went to the same driving school and we both remember one of the owners, a blond woman with a friendly smile who drove a motorcycle and spoke really, really quickly.
“Ican’thelpit,” she often said. “Comesfromyearsofdrivingaroundwithteenagers.”
Our art director’s experience at a different school was less enjoyable.
“He was a perv,” he deadpanned, of the instructor’s wandering eye on the lookout for high school girls rather than paying attention to his students’ driving skills.
It was my husband who won the lottery in driving instructors with a retired RCMP officer who wore an eye-patch and spoke in a raspy voice, punctuated with a sharp intake of breath at the end of each sentence.
“Each and every one of you is going to have an accident at some point,” he wheezed to the room full of silent, wide-eyed teenagers, his prediction likely highly accurate.
Fixing his students with a one-eyed steely glare, he recounted how he would ‘lock’ his steering wheel into place each day as he traversed the Champlain Bridge, taking the opportunity to sneak in a catnap. Until the day he didn’t wake up in time, resulting in the accident that cost him his eye and punctured his lung.
“I don’t care if he was lying,” said my husband. “It was a great story.”
I’m happy to report my son’s teachers seem to be more conscientious. Learning to drive today is a more comprehensive endeavour than it was for my generation and my son reports a thorough but relaxed atmosphere at school. It helps the mood that a regular in the classroom is Brovko, the owner’s dog.
Springtime sees more student drivers on the road and much like anyone who’s ever waited tables is a good tipper, it’s with memories of being honked at and cut off on the Ville Marie that I make an extra effort to cut students some slack as they navigate the world of driving.
At the end of the day we’re all going to be on the road together.