I have a friend. Actually, I have several; but the one I’m thinking of recently presented me with an interesting pronouncement. He wants to learn how to drive.
Now mind you, my friend is not under the age of 16. In fact, he’s 6 months older than me. We went to high school together, and were in the same driver’s education class nearly half a century ago. This was the same class I wrote about in my COAL. So he too spent time in the Stimulator as well as behind the wheel on the “range” being yelled at by the helmeted Mr. Freeman.
The difference in 1977 between me and my friend is that at the end of my class I marched down to the MVA, got my license, and it’s been wheels to the ground for me ever since. My friend unenthusiastically took the road test, passed, and then put the resulting license in his wallet…where except for periodic renewals (in multiple states, none involving a driving test) it has stayed unused. He’s never set butt behind the steering wheel again.
But, life brings changes, and now this friend lives in a very large midwestern city where nearly everyone drives (unlike the very large eastern city where he lived for 25 years and hardly anyone seemed to drive). After living 20 years in this very large midwestern city, and now being the parent of a young child who has the transportation needs that all of our nation’s children have, he’s come to the conclusion that it’s time to step up to American adult responsibility and learn how to drive.
How does someone who is closer in age to when people often start thinking about hanging up the keys…versus taking them up fresh…actually learn to master driving? That’s my QOTD.
Of course I am quite aware of all of the practical answers to this question. Yes, he could absolutely go take driving lessons from a driving school.
There are certainly driver’s schools that cater to older students. I in fact suggested that he give a call to Beldar down at Meepzor Precision Discount Driving School. I’m sure there are lots of other places to choose from.
By the way, when I watch that clip, I sort of get the idea that this was their regular car and they might have driven around like that all of the time. With the special driver’s ed shoes and everything.
But frankly, while most of us likely took driver training at some point, I don’t know many people who credit “driving lessons” with actually teaching them how to drive. So might this be a waste of time and expense for my friend? (I think he should do it if only for the shoes – which is essentially my same take on bowling — but I guess you only got those driver’s ed shoes in pre-war Cleveland.) He seems to suspect that taking lessons would be unnecessary. And the thing is, my friend already has a perfectly legal driver’s license. He in all likelihood won’t have to take another road test – beyond the one he took in Maryland at the age of 16 — for the rest of his life.
If that little fact doesn’t scare you the crap out of you next time you’re out on the road, it should…but I digress.
So in fact as far as the law is concerned, my friend could plop himself behind the wheel of the family car (his wife drives, so they have a car) and take off. I’m actually convinced that this is exactly how many drivers on the road around me at any given time learned to drive. Certainly seems so. It’s all trial and error with hopefully not too many errors. But the point is that this guy has been legally licensed for as long as I have. He’s just never driven. Never had a need to. Never lived in a place that did not have highly functional public transportation. Always had someone else to drive on vacations and such. Was just never interested in driving. Until now.
Thankfully, he’s good with the idea that his first forays behind the wheel (in 45 years) will be in an empty parking lot. He’ll find some brave soul to sit next to him on that expedition, just like I did with my then-15 year old not too long ago. But soon enough he’ll need to venture out onto the road, with traffic, because the goal is to be able to do that with the kid and eventually cross roughly half of that very large midwestern city twice a day taking the kid to and from school. If he can accomplish that, he’d be satisfied.
I wonder a lot of things about this whole process. Having recently raised someone with a male adolescent brain, I am fully aware of how that brain typically functions to shut down thoughts of caution, mortality, the financial and moral responsibility of wrecking or damaging a car, etc. But without that “protective” ignorance, what’s the best way to get a 60 year old brain to block out all of the thoughts involving the danger involved in city driving so that one can log the miles, gain the experience, and become an actual (versus just licensed) driver?
I believe that much of my thinking about this whole situation reflects my personal opinion that driving is a craft honed over a lifetime of practice. It’s something like learning to play a musical instrument…except in a crazy kind of band with many other players who are more or less skilled than you, and who could kill you via their playing. Maybe if I can figure out how my friend can learn to drive at our age, I can figure out how to play the mandolin. Finally.
So, CC community, toss out your ideas about learning to drive late in life. Driving school or no driving school? Thoughts about how best to get road experience? Anyone ever tried something like this, or know someone who has? How did that work out?
All photos found on the web, except for my opening picture of a very large midwestern city’s public transportation system.