Learning to Drive

So, this whole ordeal started out with a very bad idea. It wasn’t my idea, so I am, for a change, innocent on this one.

This was Dad’s idea, and, to his defense, it was done for a practical reason; finances.

Rob and I have both related how tight finances were as kids with Dad working three jobs at times. Well, when it came time for me to get my drivers license, Dad had “the not so great idea” of teaching me himself rather than spending the money on driving school. Good intentions: bad results.

First of all, as you should know from many other entries, Dad was not the most patient guy in the universe. As you also know, I was not the quickest “learner” in the world. A very bad combination.

A few other factors that made this a “not so great” idea.

1. If Dad was going to teach me, I would have to learn using his car. The fact that we even had a car was a big deal. It was a huge sacrifice for Dad to afford one, and quite understandably, he was very, very protective of the car. He took great care of it; washing it regularly and keeping a sharp eye out for anything that could potentially cause a dreaded scratch on the paint. Having someone who didn’t know what they were doing (me) behind the wheel created, shall we say, high-stress levels for him?

2. If he was going to teach me… he would have to teach me on the streets of New York… enough said there, right?

3. Add to this the fact that Mom was certain that every time we went out I would cause a catastrophic wreck which would kill half the population of New York including Dad and me.

4. Rob, on the other hand, thought it was the funniest thing ever. Damn Him.
I believe you can see that there were a few factors working against the success of this venture?

I, of course, was a nervous wreck every time we went out. Much of that was fueled by noticing that Dad was hyperventilating and looking pale every time he got into the passenger seat. The rest of it was fueled by me not being a very confident kid to begin with.

So, off we would go on another “driving lesson”. Mom would say goodbye to us, Rosary in hand, telling us to be careful and reminding me that I didn’t really need to learn drive. Rob would ask if he could have my baseball glove if I were killed. Great confidence builders they were.

Into the car we would go, only after  Dad walked around the vehicle six times ensuring he didn’t see any scratches.

Dads first comment once in the car;

“Now TAKE IT EASY!… don’t go too fast!!!” ( I had not even turned the ignition key yet)

Once the car started and I began to slowly (very slowly) pull out of the parking space into the street…

Dad; “LOOK BOTH WAYS!!! Make sure No one in coming. ( it was a one-way street)

Once actually into traffic and moving at a snail’s pace…

Dad: STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE!!!!! ( it was a one-way street)

Dad: GIVE IT SOME GAS!!! You’re holding up traffic!!!!!” (but, you told me to “take it easy”)

Approaching a red light was very interesting…

Dad; “PUMP THE BREAKS!!!!!! (what the hell did that mean?)

Dad would then “show me” what pumping the breaks was but slamming his right foot up and down unto an imaginary brake pedal. I would then do that on the real break pedal and jerk the car back and forth, almost causing snapped necks)

Dad: YOU’RE PUMPING TOO HARD!!!!!!  (what?) 


When we got back to the apartment Mom would thank all the saints in Heaven and ask how it went.


Rob, of course, was zero help, literally rolling the floor laughing then giving me the “Dufass” look. ( see “Escaping Dad “ entry for more on the “Dufass look “.

I’ll relay one last incident.

This took place on our way to the bungalow in Lake Hopatcong. All four of us were in dads car. Dad and I in the front, Rob and mom in the back. When we were no more than a quarter of a mile from our destination, Dad thought he would let me drive the rest of the way. We were out of the city, with no other cars on the narrow road. There was only one easy right turn for me to make and then the driveway was straight ahead. What could go wrong?

So, Dad stops the car, we exchange seats, dad taking the passenger seat, me behind the wheel.

Mom pulls out her rosary in the back seat.

After being told to “ TAKE IT EASY “, I start the ignition and begin to move down the road.

I pick up a little speed as we near the easy right-hand turn, but, I didn’t slow quite enough and didn’t account for the loose gravel on the side of the road. I “APPLY MY BREAKS”, as per Dads wide-eyed instructions, but the wheels and I freeze. Instead of making the easy turn, I drive us straight across the road into a thankfully empty field on the other side. No harm/ no foul, right? Wrong. You would have thought I purposely rammed the Titanic into that iceberg.

( I thought he told me to “apply breaks”, not PUMP THEM!)

Mom: Rosary near her heart: “JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH!!!!! PROTECT US!!!

(We were stopped and all safe??

Rob; Uncontrollable laughter: literally holding his side in pain from laughing so hard. I turn around and glare at him.

He gives me the “Dufass look”…….. 


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