It’s been just over a month since I started driving lessons, which means I’m about 10 hours into the 30-hour agreement I have with Mr. Wong. (It’s more hours than usual because I don’t have an opportunity to practice outside of our two hours on weekends.) We’ve covered the basics: turning, changing lanes, three-point turns, managing tailgaters (you know who you are). Now I can make the car go wherever I want – only problem is that I don’t know what to do once I get there, aside from pulling over to the side of the road.
“Next week, parallel parking,” says Mr. Wong. In this neighbourhood? Well, that’s something to look forward to.
I’m proud to say it’s been an accident-free stretch of driving instruction. Don’t get me wrong though, it hasn’t been without incident.
The very first time I had to change into the passing lane, I suddenly turned into Derek Zoolander. I couldn’t turn left. Which was absolutely ridiculous because I’ve successfully completed many a left-side shoulder check – every single time I’ve pulled out onto the road or made a turn. Yet this time, I signal, check my mirror and… nothing, my head is suddenly incapable of counter-clockwise rotation. Instead of movement, I see Ben Stiller in his mermaid merman costume taunting me. Moisture is the essence of wetness. Sheesh, next thing you know I’m going to be having a gasoline fight at an Esso.
Good thing Mr. Wong got those round wide-angle mirrors on the side. Having adjusted the side mirrors properly, the extra field of view from the little discs let me see anyone beside me. However, my lack of head movement didn’t go unnoticed.
“You didn’t check your blind spot; you could have killed someone. Killed both of us,” he says in his usual deadpan.
And I would have told him I’m not an ambi-turner, but I don’t think he would have gotten the reference. Honestly, sometimes I walk up to the Civic and I can imagine him telling me, “Wax on. Wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”
Zoolander (Paramount Pictures), The Karate Kid (Columbia Pictures). Click image to enlarge
Another time we somehow picked up a hitchhiker. A yellowjacket wasp, to be precise. I’ve never been stung by a wasp or bee, but I imagine it’s the kind of thing that would qualify as a driver distraction (even if not listed on page 75 of the MTO Driver’s Handbook). If this car were equipped with automatic windows, I might have lowered one for our vespine interloper to make its exit. But we’re bereft of such amenities. So, hands at three and nine, smooth, even voice: “Hey, there’s a bee in the car. Flying your way.”
I say bee because the alternative was, “We’ve got a creature with a venomous sting some describe as liquid fire and it likes you.”
Except Mr. Wong is a no-nonsense kind of fellow, so he took a proactive stance in addressing the threat. Thwump! went the ball of his fist against the window. Thwump! Thwump! Thwump!
Okay, I’m gonna’ pull over. Signal, mirror, blind spot, and – he’s gripped the steering wheel. Out of fear that I’ve lost my wits and am going to wrap the car around a tree and claim victory most pyrrhic against our little insect friend.
“It’s okay, I’m just going to pull over.”
“Don’t worry, just keep going.”
Now, although Mr. Wong bears more than a passing resemblance to Mr. Miyagi, Okinawan karate master he is not. To all the world, I had a passenger who had one hand on the steering wheel, other hand banging against the window. Oh good, this can’t possibly be misinterpreted at all.
After a couple more seconds, he seemed to realize this was not a problem that could be solved with more kiai. So, hand off the steering wheel, hazards, curbside. He opens the door and the wasp buzzes out with nary a “Thanks for not killing me!”
Yep. Driving: surprisingly exciting.