Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 8, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 8, 2004 – I got my driver’s licence when I was sixteen. I took Driver Training Classes with two of my classmates – Donna Dand and Donna Richards. Our instructor was Mr. Cameron and our vehicle of choice was a 1965 gold coloured Corvair.
We started out with the dull classroom driver education sessions, followed by a couple of multiple choice quizzes. Then we were ready for the serious “behind the wheel” stuff. Mr. Cameron sat up front in the passenger seat. He had his own set of brakes in the event of a potential vehicular, catastrophe. He was very serious about his teaching and he didn’t brook any nonsense from his students. The command was always the same – “Adjust the seat and the mirrors to your liking, sit up straight. Hands on the steering wheel at ten and two. Are we ready? Now look both ways and pull out of the parking spot slowly and carefully”.
Driving classes started at 3:30 sharp and we finished at 5:00 P.M. We each had half an hour of actual driving. At stop lights, I remember Donna Dand had a habit of driving up a little too close to the car in front of her for Mr. Cameron’s liking, and then braking the car very abruptly. One day he facetiously said to her, “See this car up ahead at the red light. I want you to speed up and when we get really close to this car up here – I want you to slam on the brakes as hard as you can”. Donna was a little flustered by his directions and not recognizing his sarcasm, she did exactly as she was told.
There were no seat belts in those days. Donna Richards and I braced ourselves against the back of the front seats. Alas, poor Mr. Cameron careened into the dashboard. His sunglasses flew off his head and his clipboard and papers shot out of his hands. He almost popped a blood vessel yelling at Donna. She pounded the steering wheel and shouted right back at him that it was his own fault, and she was right. Another eight weeks passed by ‘uneventfully’. Mr. Cameron and the little gold Corvair were a good teaching team. All three of us passed the training course and we all got our licenses on the first try.
I still think of Mr. Cameron from time to time, and when I do I’m always thankful that I learned to drive with him. Over the years I’ve driven thousands of miles in a number of different cars. My Mazda RX-7 was my all time favourite car. It was a sexy, sleek, silver-grey sports car and I drove it for eleven years. But regardless of the car, I enjoy the activity of driving. I find it relaxing to get into my car, feel its powerful response as I turn it on, pull out into traffic and head for my destination.
Today was a dull, rainy spring day, but the city streets weren’t busy because of the week-end slow down in traffic. I like the preciseness of driving. Checking my mirrors, making sure that my line of vision is clear before I change lanes and accelerate to pull into the flow of traffic. Windows are up or down, heat on or off, depending on the season. The radio is always on. My car responds to my slightest command, its power never in question. I expect to arrive at my destination, safely and on time. I’m not naive. I understand and respect the power of a car and how easy it is to be irresponsible behind the wheel. Alcohol, drugs, cell phones, human error or neglect and any number of other distractions can make turn a car into a disaster waiting to happen.
I decided early in my driving career to watch out for myself and the other guy. I’m always aware of who is around me and I drive with purpose and assertiveness, not aggression. I’ve been in one accident – not of my doing but an idiot on a cell phone – in thirty-eight years of driving. If you drive safely and carefully, you will arrive at your destination. Maybe the guy in the blue Ford Explorer who passed you driving like a madman will careen through the intersection just as the light turns red, but don’t worry the light will flash green again in about a minute. What’s the hurry anyway?
I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Cameron is, in no small way, responsible for my love of driving and for my sterling driving record. I guess it proves that “Hands on the steering wheel at ten and two” is sound advice. You may want to remember that the next time you get behind the wheel to head out onto the busy city streets, a crowded expressways or a quiet country road on a lazy, sunny afternoon!