Wednesday, March 23, 2005

head out on the highway

I just got back from THE LONGEST FIVE HOURS OF MY LIFE, also known as the driver safety course required by the DMV prior to taking your road test. Most of you normal driving-types probably already took said course or something similar when you were, like, 14 or something, but since I had never officially taken Driver's Ed, I had to take it now. In some ways, it was good (there was a section about the internal workings of a car, for instance, which I obviously knew nothing about) but being there was just embarrassing, because come on, I'm an old-ass lady. The girl sitting next to me was drawing pictures of unicorns in her notebook, OK? I was hoping I wouldn't be the only old person there--being that it's New York, I figured I'd have a nice complement of older immigrants and prospective cab drivers to even out the mix--but I guess those people were smarter than me and found a shady school where they just give you your little certificate without actually making you sit through the class.

AND, they didn't even show that movie "Blood on the Asphalt"! Everyone that I tell about the five hour class is like, "Woo! 'Blood on the Asphalt!'" So I figured that everyone was required by law to see this gory filmstrip featuring REAL LIFE ROAD INJURIES with BROKEN BODIES what with the blood and guts and all. But they didn't even show it! They did show four filmstrips in all, but they were boring:

  • "Mister Smith's Guide to Driving." I don't know if this was the real name of the movie, but it was this really old--as in 1960's old--movie featuring this guy Mister Smith who was supposed to be the Grand High Master of Safe Driving or something. I don't know who got to decide that he was, but I suspect it must have been the same person who decided to put him in the movie.

  • "The Final Factor." From the title, I thought this was going to be the blood and guts movie, but it was just a movie about defensive driving, and controlling all the factors that you can so that the "final factor" (the thing that you can't control, like a kid running out in the middle of the street) wouldn't lead you to drive your car off a cliff or something. Also, might I note that this movie said that it was OK for a two year-old child to sit in the front of the car, passenger side, as long as they were "restrained in a carseat," which is actually not cool at all. See, here's the danger in showing totally outdated filmstrips from the 70's.

  • "The Ride of Your Life." I think this was supposed to be the fun, PSA-portion of the class, because it featured a million different NASCAR drivers talking about how everyone should wear seatbelts. They talked about it for quite a long time, how even though people might think you're a wuss, you should always buckle up. Which was a cute little anachronism, in a way, because I think the movie was made before the seatbelt laws were passed, and there were all these John Q. Public sidewalk interviews where people were like, "It's my choice, and I never wear my seatbelt. Why can't they just make safer cars?" And then they get into their little car with stone wheels and jog themselves back to Bedrock.

  • "Don't Drink and Drive." I don't really remember what the title of this movie was, but it was basically a documentary about this Olympic diver who killed and maimed a bunch of teenagers one night because he was DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE. So don't drink and drive.

The most frustrating part about the class was that it could have easily finished in half the time if the instructor didn't keep repeating himself so much. I know that partially it's not his fault, because there's a set curriculum that he has to follow, but...also, partially it was his fault. Because he was just one of these rambling middle-aged-Italian-Dad-from-Canarsie types who just spun out every single story or point to it's maximum length. And for a resident used to receiving all information in bullet form, this was TORTURE.


INSTRUCTOR
(On being the designated driver when people come over to your house for the holidays)
So, let's say that you're inviting people over to your house for the holidays.

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
OK. Guests. Got it.

INSTRUCTOR
You invite your friends. Your family. Your relatives. Your loved ones. Your co-workers. Maybe some neighbors, if relations are good.

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
OK, party, guests, got it.

INSTRUCTOR
They come in, you offer to take their jackets...they take off their shoes...their scarves...their sweaters if your house is warm...

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
OK, I get it. Party at my house. Moving on.

INSTRUCTOR
What's the first thing you're going to offer your guests after they settle in?

UNICORN-DRAWING TEEN
(Tentatively)
A...drink?

INSTRUCTOR
That's right, a drink. Because it's just the social custom, especially during the Christmas holidays, or...(direct glance at Michelle)...whatever you celebrate. You offer them a beer...a bourbon...an egg nog...a hot toddy...whatever.

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
Yes. Booze. Understood. Talk faster, dammit.

INSTRUCTOR
(Continuing)
A Zima...a Long Island Iced Tea...a martini...whatever. Maybe they have some wine with dinner. Maybe a cordial or a port after dinner. Maybe some drinks in between.

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
OK, people are smashed. We get it. Take their keys, drive them home. Moving on.

INSTRUCTOR
You can't let them DRIVE. Because the ALCOHOL, it puts them into a state of ALTERED MENTAL AWARENESS. Things they would do when they're DRUNK, they might not do when they're SOBER. They're ALTERED. They're not THEMSELVES. So they can't DRIVE.

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
You know, this could all have been summed up quite nicely in one sentence.

INSTRUCTOR
Because when they drink a couple of beers...or a few glasses of wine...or some scotch...the alcohol IMPAIRS their ability to THINK STRAIGHT. And DRIVING is THINKING. So you can't let them drive home from your house, even after they put on their sweater...and boots...and scarves...and jackets...and after they finish dessert and everyone opens their Christmas presents...

MICHELLE'S INNER MONOLOGUE
I long for death.


Well, at least that's all over with now. Next up, more driving lessons, and then my road test, hopefully in early May. Let's hope I won't be seeing any "Blood on the Asphalt" before then.

Currently reading: A million back issues of The New Yorker. Did you see the latest cover, with the pregnant lady bunny getting an ultrasound, and the screen is projecting a picture of an Easter egg? Hee.

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