Monday, December 19, 2005

My son is at driving school as I write this; he decided he wanted to use his first three days of winter break to learn the rules of the road. The class runs from 8:30-4:30; it's just classroom instruction, not behind-the-wheel time. He won't be able to get his license for a while--he just turned 15 in October--but he wanted to take the class with his friends. I'm sure his next birthday will be here before we know it. So hard to believe he's old enough to even think about driving.

Matt dropped Arin off at the school this morning on his way to work. I emailed him to ask how it felt; he wrote back with this:

"It wasn’t confidence inspiring to find out

That the place is called TRD driving school

Turd school? How good could it be?"

I laughed so hard, tea shot out of my nose. Even with the name of the school, I imagine Arin will have a much better drivers' ed experience than I did. I signed up with one of my friends, but on the first day of behind-the-instruction (which, strangely, came before the in-class instruction), she was sick, so it was just me and the creepy teacher in the stuffy yellow car. I had only driven once before in my life--and that time, I drove onto someone's lawn when I tried to make a turn--but this guy led me onto Green Bay Road, which was not only the busiest, fastest street in town, but also featured twisty curves through a ravine. I was feeling shaken and dizzy afterwards, so the teacher directed me into an empty parking lot at a school.

We sat there in silence for a while as I caught my breath. Then he leaned toward me and said, "Lick my finger." This request put me into a panic, but I was feeling vulnerable and trapped, and I couldn't bring myself to say no. I opened my mouth. I did what he asked me to do. His finger tasted like metal. I had no idea what he'd ask me to do next; I was terrified. I had never even kissed a boy before. He reached his finger towards my face. "You have something in the corner of your eye," he said, and wiped it slowly off with my saliva, grinning lasciviously the whole while. It makes me sad that I didn't feel like I could speak up, deny his request, say "this is weird". It makes me sad, too, that I didn't feel like I could tell anyone about it later; it was years before I mentioned it to my parents, who, of course, were horrified. This guy should not have been teaching teenagers. In further behind-the-wheel lessons, with my friend in tow, he would often ask us to speed up because he thought a woman in a car up ahead wasn't wearing a shirt. He did this several times, and we didn't even think to report him. Once the classroom instruction started, I heard several girls refer to him as "Chester the Molester," so it was pretty clear my experience was not unusual. I wish I could go back to my younger self in that car and tell her to stand up for herself, tell her to trust her instincts, tell her that she is strong and autonomous and doesn't have to put up with that kind of manipulation. Of course I can't do that; I can just try to teach my kids to stand up for themselves so they won't have similar stories to share in the future. I am eager to hear Arin's drivers' ed stories when he comes home...


Rachel said...


Your stories bring me right back to my own driver's ed back in '92. Nothing unusual about my driver's ed - all I remember is that I got stuck with one nerdy Toyota after another, while all my classmates drove sexier Hondas.

The story of your driver's ed instructor is terrifying though. There are some people who should never be anywhere near teenage girls. I've had my share of such perverts, though that was well into my 20s - it seemed that my gender only turned them on further. Just thinking of them creeps me out.

I do wish Arin a very safe driver's ed experience. I hope that he'll be a safe driver.

gayle said...

Thanks, Rachel! I'm sorry to hear that you've had to deal with creepy perverts, too. I wish self-defense (both emotional and physical) was a required course for girls and young women. I want to give Hannah more tools to protect herself against such predators.

I think that Arin will be a safe driver; he has a good head on his shoulders. Then again, this video is serving as his latest inspiration, so we shall see...