July 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Course Doesn’t Correct Itself

Now that my kids have been getting their driving licenses, I have taken some time to think about my own driving skills, and it turns out that after about 20 years of driving, there are things I’m still bad at. I thought I would have course-corrected by now.

I mean, I thought I was OK. I’ve never actually hit anybody, for example, besides when I’m getting in and out of parking spots. I’ve also never gotten a moving violation except once while making a turn that the three people in front of me also made, and also one time when I made a U-turn that I make all the time on the street that I live on but this time there happened to be a cop.

Apparently, you’re supposed to make a K-turn.

But here’s some stuff I’m not good at:

For example, I’m not great at knowing where the front right corner of my car is. I mean, I know it from outside the car. I can point to it and say, “There’s the front right corner of my car!” But for example, when I’m getting out of a parking spot, I always feel the need to back up way too much in order to get around the car in front of me.

Not that I know where the left front corner of my car is. Let’s put it this way: When I’m sitting at an intersection on a narrow street and a city bus comes barreling around the corner from my left, aiming to get into the lane just next to me but definitely being way way too much directly in front of my car, I’m always 100% sure he’s not going to make it. Every time. Though that doesn’t seem to bother him.

And I’m thinking, “Should I back up? He didn’t ask me to. And there are too many people behind me. Can I get all of them to back up? Do they care if I get smashed? Maybe. If I do, they’ll probably end up late wherever they’re going.

So in desperation, I turn the nose of my car to the right. Like that will work. And the bus somehow makes it anyway.

He must know what he’s doing, right? He does this every day. He knows where his front left corner is. He’s sitting on it. Or maybe he always relies on people to get out his way. I don’t know. I don’t understand how a bus even has a turning radius that can clear a small intersection. It’s like getting a couch around a corner on a tight stairway.

Let’s see… What else am I bad at?

Ooh, here’s one: I’m not good enough at parallel parking that I can actually talk my son through learning how to do it.

My son had to take a driving test recently, and the one thing he had left to learn toward the end was parallel parking, and that’s actually the one thing they test you on in New Jersey, apparently. Other than that, the only way to fail the test is if you attempt to drive from the wrong seat. So my son asked, “Can you teach me?” And I said, “No!” And he asked, “Why are you being like that?” as if I hadn’t risked my life numerous times getting into the car with him before he knew what he was doing at all. And I said, “I’m not being like that; I literally can’t talk you through parallel parking. When I myself do it, it’s guesswork. I’m going to tell you my guesses from the passenger seat?”

I don’t know what I do. I actually have to do it myself. It’s kind of like tying a tie. The only thing I’m good for, in teaching parallel parking, is to stand outside the car and say, “Further, further, further … STOP!” and let you know that you’ve just hit the car behind you. And then when you’ve hit the car in front of you.

I have no tricks. I’ve definitely done a great job a few times, and then stuck around afterward to admire it (“There’s the front right corner of my car! See it?”), but I have no idea how. It was just random that it happened. So for me, a driver’s test is just, “Will you randomly pass it this time, or will you have to take it again?”

And forget parallel parking on the left side of the street.

My wife has some critiques about my driving, too.

For example, my wife doesn’t like that I’m always getting lost. Which is part of why she doesn’t like me to drive when she’s in the car. And I’m like, “I don’t get lost when you’re not in the car. It’s your fault.”

And she asks, “How can it be my fault?”

And I say, “I don’t know, maybe I’m distracted? Maybe I’m schmoozing?”

And she says, “You can’t talk and drive at the same time?”

And I say, “Well, here’s the thing: When I drive with the kids in the passenger seat, I can absolutely talk and drive at the same time. The difference is that I have to put a certain amount of concentration in when you talk, because there’s going to be a test later.”

And she says, “You just missed a turn.”

And I say, “I know.”

I’ll admit it: I’m not a professional driver.

But what is a professional driver? A professional driver is someone who drives all day for a living. A professional driver is someone who says, “I’m going to be able to turn this massive bus onto this narrow busy street.” In order to know exactly where your right front corner is, you have to one time say, “I’m not sure I’m going to make it, but I’m going to try this turn anyway.” And then you say, “All right, I made it! Next time I’m going to try closer.”

And that’s how the best drivers do it. They know. This bus driver knows that if he tries it once, he can shave a good hour and a half off his workday, so he goes for it.

Think about it: The people you consider the best drivers are the ones who throw caution to the wind and get to their destinations in record time. Meanwhile, I don’t even know that the bus is not going to hit me because I’ve never not turned my nose out of the way. So I’m a cautious driver. Does that make me a bad driver?

Maybe.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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