Really They are Very Loving and Sane People

A friend of mine has just begun his journey toward becoming a liscenced driver. Our discussion about hands on the 10 and 3 (as if the steering wheel were a clock) and the difference between left and right turns flooded my mind with my own memories of learning to drive.

For the most part my uncle Dom taught me to drive--drive stick (aka manual). He is decidedly the worst driver on my Dad's side of the family (this includes my grandfather, who currently drives with a bottle of wine in him, an eye patch on his left eye, and uses both feet on an automatic.)My uncle stands about 5 feet 5 inches tall, thin and will beat you with a torch if you look at him wrong. I've heard stories of my uncle putting a man's head in a sandblaster and chasing another guy with a golf club, and yet he was extremely patient and full of courage while teaching me to drive. Never once did he yell at me. Despite my refusal to stop at red lights and stop signs. I preferred to slowly roll through them. I was learning to drive stick and dreaded having to put the car into first gear. Stopping inevitably lead to starting again which inevitably lead to me stalling the car, restarting the car, stalling again, and then impatient New Jersian's leaning on their horns.

Though, my Uncle Dom was my primary driving instructor my other relatives also volunteered their time so I could attain suburban freedom -- a driver's liscence. My aunt Sue took me out a few times. She is the most conscientious drivers of the Parenta clan. She doesn't speed. She doesn't get tickets. I'm nothing like her. My mom took me out a few times too. She didn't yell either, she bit her lip until it bled and kept a death grip on the passenger door handle. After 2o minutes she'd say, "OK. That's enough. Let's go back to the house now." Uncle Dom's wife took me out a couple of times as well. Even my little cousin Ashley helped me--she was ten years old at the time. She and I would borrow my grandfather's car and practice parrallel parking between two garbage cans. She was much better at it than I was. (Ah the joys of unsupervised youth) In fact the only time I ever parallel parked succesfully was on my driving test--lucky me.

My father never took me out driving. He has temper like Ghangis Kan, and he didn't want DYFUS taking me away, so he figured it best if I found other people to teach me to drive. Fair enough, I rarely am in the mood to listen to him inarticulately explain something and then yell at me for not understanding the nonesense he had just uttered. Here's a non-car related example of this. Once I had a sharp pain in my mid-rib section. My father told me it was due to a lack of vegetables in my diet. "Yeah, see right there where you're holding, that's where the colin makes the turn." WHAT? What does that even mean? My father blamed everything on diet. I'd get a C on geometry test he'd say I should have eaten fish the night before and more vegetables. The C in geomtry would explain the inabilty to parallel park.

The most carefree of all the people who took me driving was my Aunt Annette, my father's youngest sister. This was truly classic. When, you have a permit you can only drive when there is a liscenced driver in the car with you. My aunt had lost her liscence. Actually she had lost several liscences. Each time she had a liscence revoked she'd get another one under a different name--you got to love Jersey. Family folklore had Annette loosing seven different liscences. But when you're 16 you just want to drive. I turned a blind eye to the whole multiple liscence suspensions thing-- who was I to judge? I figured she must have had one of the seven re-instated. I mean, she did drive every day.

Now, a good story would have my aunt and I getting stopped by the cops and me ending up in county lock up while I waited for my parents to pick me up. But that never happened. Instead, my aunt had me drive to the liquor store. She'd run in for a "pack of cigarettes" and come out with tiny bottles of booze which she would drink as I drove us around town. It kept her mellow. As we drove I'd explain how I don't like looking over my shoulder to check my blind spot when switching lanes. She'd tell me, "Don't worry about it. You don't have to. My friend never looks. She doesn't even look in her mirrors. You look in your mirrors you're one step ahead. They'll get out of your way." I'd love to say and then we side swiped a tractor trailer, but no we made it to the movie theatre unscathed. My aunt Annette also had me drive her to the home of some dude who had the prescription pill hook up. I sat in the car in this man's driveway while she dalied in the house. All I could think as the minutes slowly passed, "When I get arrested my father is totally going to kill me. Oh God. Oh God." But I couldn't drive off, I didn't have a liscence. The cops never came. Which made me wonder how my aunt ever lost one liscence never mind seven. She seemed never to get caught.

And here's the thing, despite my aunt Annette's free wheeling life style my uncle Dom is still considered the worst driver in the family. And I can't even really tell you why.