May 15, 2013
Article and photos by Steven Bochenek and Simon Hill
The second in a potentially unending scape of anxiety behind the wheel with Steven Bochenek and Simon Hill’s kids and the dads in the passenger/teacher seat. No, Steven and Simon aren’t a couple, just friends. They’re just two urban Canadian dads teaching their kids to drive and themselves to breathe. To catch up, read Part 1 here.
Two Steps Forward, Two Things We’ve Yet to Learn, Steven Bochenek
There I was getting all ‘the kids are alright’ in my inaugural piece, but genuine learning isn’t linear. It’s staggered, coming in great leaps forward and scary slides back downhill. My daughter J has been doing really well on the whole, having completed all her Young Drivers of Canada theoretical instruction and all but two of the follow-up in-car lessons. I, however, have to remember not to drink coffee on the days I’m instructing her on the cross-town commute to school during rush hour. Here are two important things she needs to practice yet and the consequent lessons that I have to learn.
The Teen Driving Chronicles. Click image to enlarge
1) Be more aware of your right flank.
Oncoming traffic has her slightly overcompensating. But when there isn’t much territory to cede, overcompensation can become very costly very fast.
We live in the Annex, a late Victorian neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. Many of the roads were designed before cars existed. So there isn’t much real estate to share in two-way traffic.
During rush hour, people use our streets as a shortcut. ‘People’ might be generous. If you’re one of those millions of Canadians who’s never been to Toronto but hates us all on principal, you can feel exonerated in this instance. When bad drivers die, they go to hell. When bad Torontonian drivers die, they go to the Annex during rush hour. There are some truly world-class ignorant SOBs clogging our streets, weaving some jaw-dropping evil.
So there we were proceeding towards Davenport Road on a north Annex side street. J clung to the right – not incorrectly – and ceded plenty of road to ‘people’ pouring towards us, all of whom have executed an illegal left. So, their consciences guilty, they aggressively ate up more than half the shared space defiantly staring us down.
We brushed within centimeters of the parked door handles. What’s to worry, you’re thinking, she didn’t scrape anything. My head knew that. My dyspeptic guts grumbled their disagreement.
Five minutes later, moving through the centre of Forest Hill Village (where entitled one-percenters in Lulus triple-park their Cayennes while fetching a much deserved no-fatte after spinning class) a river of lawbreakers encroached well into our side of the road. J nearly brushed into the lane on our right. It’s an understandable reaction but one she’ll need to work on.
I too have some learning to do.
1b) Stamping your foot where the brake isn’t doesn’t help anyone.
“Let’s slow it up here. And not so close on your right. Not so close ON YOUR RIGHT. STOP!” Again, she was fine. It was me who was dealing with it poorly. She slowed and proceeded after the parade of hellions passed. I apologized, easing the tension in the car somewhat.
2) Be careful not to swoop too far and too late into a turn.
This recurrent issue begins almost immediately upon quitting our lane for our usually quiet street: J gently pokes her nose out – our view is blocked by a neighbour’s hedge – to see if there’s space. School-day mornings, though, the street’s clogged with many of the aforementioned goodwill ambassadors from Forest Hill, dropping their sons at the private boys’ school down the road. The school staff themselves make excellent neighbours but many of the moms treat our street like the valet parking at Pusateri’s and the dads like the floor of the NYSE.
When the space becomes available, J’s already well into the road. So she’s turning not only a bit late but quickly too because she’s capitalizing on the found space. The fallout is that we’re veering towards cars parked on the other side of the road.
This issue continues wherever she has to crane her neck to search for oncoming traffic before executing a turn. It’s the old saw: you go where you’re looking. Hence, if you’re leaning off to view the left before turning right, it follows that you’ll drift somewhat left unconsciously before proceeding mindfully to the right.
I’ve reminded her several times she needs to turn sharply, but beginning with a light foot. The wording I used was passed down to me by my own father: “Give it gas in the turn.” Hence, my second lesson.
2b) “Give it gas in the turn,” doesn’t sound like what it means.
It’s probably no coincidence that my father and I haven’t spoken to each other in decades.
Let’s re-read the above: the opening phrase, ‘give it gas’, is a command. How to execute this command, any logical young mind would ask? Leaden the foot, surely. Logical. However, you and I are aware that the intent of the idea is to wait until you’re well into a given turn before giving it gas.
Tertiary lesson: deconstructing grammar in rush hour traffic doesn’t cure dyspepsia.