In stark contrast to its reputation as a safe, cost-efficient form of transportation, the school bus was actually a rickety catharsis-mobile on which washed-up bus drivers purged the resentment and anger they felt over shortcomings in life by shouting at innocent, sweet-faced 5th graders. I'm pretty sure that any money my parents saved by making me ride the bus was later spent in therapy, piecing back my obliterated self esteem.
This is the reason young teens yearn for that driver's license like I yearned for Glitter to end. Or maybe I just yawned. I think I yawned first, then I yearned, but the whole process made me want to yak. Anyway, we longed to be 16 more than a 45 year-old after realizing the motorcycle isn't going to put the hair back on his head. However, before obtaining a license, we were required to take a semester of Drivers Education class. Drivers Ed is alot like the five day waiting period for firearms, only it's for a car and you don't receive it from a guy named Wiley Pete. Instead of checking for a criminal record, it checks whether you're incapable of operating a motor vehicle. In all honesty though, if you can't muster the intelligence to pass such an effortless test, you probably shouldn't be operating anything with exhaust.
If you took Driver's Education at a public school, you should easily be able to fill in this next sentence: I had the __________ coach as my teacher. Sports coaches always double as drivers education teachers because high schools often require sports coaches to teach at least one course and because high school sports coaches often require themselves to find some flimsy validation for their own meaningless existence. Driver's Ed happens to be one of only a couple disciplines that do not require licensure to teach. I believe the other three options are Physical Education, Health, and How to Spend the Majority of Your Professional Life in a Boys' Locker Room Without Getting Arrested.
However, having a football coach teach you how to drive was way more fun than having a real teacher. For instance, I now know that should I ever get into a fender-bender, proper procedure requires that I get the name of a witness, exchange pertinent information and then aim for the knees, tackle in a downward motion and follow through with my strong shoulder. Furthermore, his definition of "defensive driving" involved a 4-deep cornerback blitz.
However, endlessly more dangerous to our impressionable minds than the football coach was the Drivers Ed obstacle course. When running the obstacle course, the goal was always to maneuver your car in and out of the orange cones. In retrospect, instructing our kids to weave in and out of traffic cones sets up a pretty dangerous precedent. In fact, if there is a list of things we should not teach teenagers, I'd say the ability to bypass a series of warning cones is about number three number four is arson. And if they are going to keep that on the curriculum, they ought also to teach what precautions to take when plummeting off the edge of an unfinished overpass.
I also never got much out of the drunk driving videos that we were forced to watch. The problem was that I never thought the kids in those videos were dumb for getting in the car with a drunk guy, I just thought they were dumb for getting in the car with a camera guy. If there's one thing I've picked up from after-school specials, public service announcements, and "the more you know" commercials, it's that camera men are bad luck. If your friend arrives to pick you up for a party sloppy drunk and towing a camera crew of six, that's a good indication that your night will not end well. Why would you ever get in that car? Hell, the very best that could come of that situation is gay porn.
However, the Drivers Ed videos don't even cover some of the most baffling car questions. For instance, more perplexing to me than any complicated automotive machinery or combustion science is the mystery of how cookie crumbs keep managing to get into the glove compartment. You can go check your glove compartment right now and if there's not at least a handful of cookie crumbs and hair, I'll personally send you a dollar. And even if there isn't any, we'll both come out winners, having just placed the single wierdest bet ever in history.
Anyway, after a good amount of deliberation (the amount of time it took me to write "deliberation"), I've come to the conclusion that either my registration is written on matzos or the Keebler Elves are breaking in and throwing parties. I'm convinced one of these days I'm going to open my glove compartment and find three miniature party hats and several tiny empty beer cans.
The hardest part of taking drivers ed though was having to memorizing a semester-full of acronyms. Every week the book taught us roughly 400 new acronyms. These were supposed to make it easier to remember proper procedure when in particular driving situations. It's true that memorizing several words is easier if you just memorize a few quick acronyms, for instance "ARA" is easier to remember than Automotive Representational Acronym. "HC" is is more efficient than Humor Columnist, and "PEE" is quicker than recalling Petroleum Extract Emission. However, whoever wrote the Drivers Ed book apparently did not realize that if you give a class an enormous slew of acronyms, they actually become harder to memorize than the real words. By the end of the semester, this HC was so F'ing fed up with memorizing GD ARAs that they started leaking out in his PEE. And even if you can remember the proper acronym in a particular situation, you probably won't be able to remember what it stands for. So, instead of Stopping, Looking both ways, And Proceding with caution (SLAP), you'll likely just end up backhanding the guy directing traffic.
As you might've guessed by now, I didn't learn too much from this teaching method. In fact these days if I am posed with an automotive question, I generally just stop, drop, and roll around for a few seconds. Drivers Ed was a hard several months (and by that I mean ridiculously easy) but it was comforting to know that if we did flunk it miserably, we always had that job waiting for us behind the wheel of a public school bus.
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