CouchTeen is taking driving class this summer. He wasn’t all that interested in the idea, as driving a car is not possible from a Couch, but I insisted. I’m not teaching him because I feel I am too naturally cringe-y to not make him feel self-conscious. I remember. My dad took me out to practice ONCE when I was 15, on a completely deserted rural road and even though to my recollection I did nothing godawful, his face gave him away. I just got the impression that he didn’t have any confidence in me, and my excitement to finally become auto-nomous deflated like a dysthymic airbag. I got my license about 20 years later. THANKS, DAD. Well, to be completely fair, being shown that “Faces of Death” movie in high school Driver’s Ed class on the first day was also AN ISSUE FOR ME. The hell was that.

Anyway, what I can do when I am driving CouchTeen around these days is pepper my usual annoying commentary with small pieces of road advice, like the Teaching Moment of having some jackoff in a U-Haul pull out in front of you, causing you to brake with uncomfortable force:


CouchTeen : Yup.

Past that, are five things I know which upon some reflection have more use in life than just in the context of driving.

  1. Look ahead: Always a good idea, but I mean set your eyes to look farther than just the car directly in front of you. If you don’t see what is happening up ahead, you are dependent on the person in front of you to lead and protect you. And what happens is you end up getting lazy and you rear-end him because you haven’t left enough time to react when something happens, and something always does. Moral: See the big picture, and make your own decisions.
  2. Think smooooooth: This seems to be one of the biggest things a new driver has to figure out – how to coordinate brain and body to make your vehicle become ONE with you, a seamless flow of movement and intent. Herky-jerky, over- or under-correction, jumpy acceleration, and screech braking not only can cause you or others to have an accident, but you also look like a tool. Give yourself the time and space whenever possible to flow, zen-like, on the road. Moral: Careful planning and knowledge of what you can and cannot do make you way less of a problem for others, and reduces your personal stress. Save the excitement for poor romantic choices or something.
  3. The Car Goes In The Direction You Turn The Wheel: This extremely basic idea seems to completely be lost when a driver is faced with a skid situation and is struggling to retain control of their vehicle. Panic and wild overcorrection and hard braking lead to crashy crash, higher insurance rates, and your potential removal from the planet. What to do when rain, ice, or snow are trying to own you: gently but resolutely keep turning the steering wheel in the direction of WHERE YOU WISH TO END UP and lay off the brake. Amazingly, this works a lot, and saves you from paying a tow truck driver a lot of money to get your car out of the ditch and you having to keep sheepishly repeating to him “A-heh-heh-heh! MAN! Some weather! Heh!” Moral: Circumstances out of your control may throw you some difficult crap, but how you handle it can make all the difference. You are allowed to spend one nanosecond in fear and shock, but then right your damn ship. No one else will, and no one else can.
  4. Assume everyone on the road is messed up: I understand that this is a distressing thought. We depend on our fellow drivers to control their vehicles in such a way that they don’t kill us a bunch. Yet, when you think about it, the likelihood is high that Missy in the red Corolla has had four beers already this morning, Jason in the silver Tacoma just smoked a doob after leaving work, Carol in the Buick is really really too old to drive anything but a motorized grocery scooter, Al in the semi is distracted thinking about the BP oil spill and how it will affect his local Red Lobster, Lynn in the minivan is completely turned around and yelling at her kids for spilling their Happy Meals, and Chad is rocking out so hard to Iron Maiden on his radio that he’s closing his eyes in rapture. Sorry. Beware. Moral: These folks are just like this when not driving. Sorry. Beware.
  5. Maintain your vehicle to proper specifications: Your car will behave better, look better, maintain its resale value better, and not blow up on you in the middle of a six-lane freeway if you take the time to perform the maintenance outlined in your owner’s manual. Moral: You are your own vehicle. Same rules apply, except you have to purchase an owner’s manual from the bookstore or sage elder of your choice.

Time to get on the road again, as I will do four more times today after this trip. Wiser with every jaunt, I vow to limit my middle-finger expression to U-Haul drivers, zen-like, flowing.