Thursday, August 9, 2012

We don't need no stinking driving lessons

By Star Lawrence

I am (gulp) a non-driver. Yes, doctor, it goes back to my childhood. Dad teaching Mom to drive. Need I say more?

For most of my life I lived in Washington, where they have a dandy subway system and herds of taxis roam the streets. Life was good. In fact, people used to say, “You’re so smart not to drive.”

When I got to Arizona, that changed to: “You idiot, you need to drive.”

My first driving teacher pulled up in front of my house and told me to get behind the wheel. “Did your boss tell you I have a phobia?” I asked. “Shouldn’t we go to a parking lot?”

“You have fear?” he cried. “If you have fear, you will kill us both!”

My little inner voice was in hysterics. But I persisted.

“What is the first thing you do?” my teacher demanded.

“Fasten my seatbelt?”

“No! Turn on the air conditioner. This is Arizona. You will kill your baby!”

My baby?

Then, the teacher took out a clipboard and a marker and wrote a huge 85 on it in black and circled it in neon green. “What does this say?”


“Yes! Eighty-five percent of the people out there want to kill you! Remember that!”

He then made me drive on the busiest roads in the state for three hours. He pumped the dual controls, snatched at the wheel. He kept pointing out cars: “See that guy? He will kill you!” Every time he said this, he emphasized the word “will.”

I called the school and suggested they send a teacher with fewer…er, issues. The new guy let me circle cones in the parking lot of Dobson High. I was just gaining confidence, when the school fired me for not wanting to wait an extra hour for the instructor.

I called a second driving school. I was tooling around quite smoothly, when I mentioned that I didn’t like making left turns. “Oh, I know what you mean,” exclaimed my gray-haired teacher. “When I retire, I am never turning left again.”

The driving teacher won’t turn left. I took that as a sign and quit.

Brad Holmes, a former cop who has run a driving school for years, laughs at that one. He teaches 100 people a year, mainly teens, with six hours behind the wheel and 10 hours in the classroom.

What is the worst weakness of Arizona drivers, I asked Holmes. “Besides red light running and speeding? It’s the turn signal,” he replies. “I say, ‘See that thing? When you click it up, a light comes on….

What drivers don’t know—it’s sad. For the rest, contact me at

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