The torch — or wheel — is passed

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I’ve spent the last six months teaching my 16-year-old daughter how to drive.  And what I’ve learned is that most people with their licenses don’t know how to drive.

Sitting next to a rookie at the controls makes you so much more sensitive to the idiots who rule the roads.  My biggest pet peeve: tailgaters.  And yes, people even tailgate on side-streets. You can’t be going fast enough for them.  The speed limit on city roads is 30, unless otherwise indicated (school zones, hospitals, etc.)  But for most drivers, 30 means 40 or even 45 or 50.

The biggest offenders, in my anecdotal and non-scientific survey, are SUV owners.  Yes, there seems to be a bullying effect that takes place when people get behind the very big wheels.  And of course when they crash, you will get the brunt of the damage.

Student drivers are understandably slow when stopped at intersections, and for good reason:  They will take fewer chances and thus will wait for  an oncoming vehicle that might be quite a distance away.  And so the idiot behind you will begin honking, repeatedly and loudly.  A few times I wanted to get out of the car and just scream that I was teaching someone “NOT to behave the way you are behaving!”

The past few months have brought back fond memories of my road test, taken in Jamaica a few, ahem, decades ago.  It was bizarre.  Some guy weighing 300 pounds and wearing a 10-gallon hat got into the passenger seat next to me and said, “Well, I guess we bess get going, boy!”  What the hell was an overweight Texan doing in Queens giving me my road test?  I soon found out. “Boy, that was just the worst dang turn I’ve seen in my time behind the wheel. Maybe you can improve on that, or you’ll fail, or worse we’ll be plowing into somebody and we won’t have to worry about the dang road test, cuz we’ll both be going straight to hell in a box, mine bigger than yours, of course.”  In hindsight, it was a pretty good line. But I was not in a joking mood.

I nailed the parallel park and thought I was home free, when Tex decided to make a few extra turns.  “Now son, I want to see you actually make a turn where you don’t put the whole city at risk.”  I froze and took forever to make my move.  “Now I know they say you New Yorkers are always in a big hurry,” Tex whined. “So why on Earth am I stuck with the one who’d lose the race with the tortoise?  Listen, I’d like to get home before the sun goes down ‘cause I get hungry at this time.”

Worried that a missed meal by Tex would mean absolute failure for me, I made the turn and somehow made it back to the test starting point, Tex and I both alive.  He grumbled something and made a fast exit.  I, like virturally everyone else, thought for sure that I was done in by the Southern dude with the 10-gallon drawl. But alas, somehow, I passed.

I must have learned something from Tex because my star student, my daughter, actually passed her test too.

Watch out world.  Another teenager is on the road.