Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

Driver’s Ed

I am not young enough to know everything – Oscar Wilde

In George Orwell’s apocalyptic novel 1984, society is ruled by an insidious, totalitarian government -- known as Big Brother – whose presence cannot be avoided, kind of like Britney Spears. In the story, Big Brother has distorted the English language into Newspeak, a tongue so mind-numbingly devoid of meaning and nuance that those subjected to it have just stopped thinking altogether. Hmmm, again, kind of like Britney.

Anyway, I thought Newspeak was just fictional until I encountered it when I was forced to drive with a teenager under the influence of driver’s education. Now, don’t get me wrong. Driver’s Ed is a very good thing. Bless those people with nerves of steel (and possibly minds of mush) who actually spend their days trying to teach something to creatures who already know everything.

The problem is that Driver’s Ed has been infiltrated by Newspeak, and once your son or daughter has been brainwashed by it, you will never again be considered a competent driver. I found this out the hard way when, with my learner’s-permit-bearing son in the passenger seat, I pulled out of my driveway.

In a hurry that day, I’d decided I was not mentally equipped for one of our white-knuckle trips with him behind the wheel. So I was driving, something I have been able to do for many years without major incident (notwithstanding a few speeding tickets from obviously biased law enforcement officers seeking to unfairly boost their municipal coffers).

Almost immediately, my son began a withering critique of my motoring technique.

“You did that wrong,” he pointed out.

“Huh?” I said irritably, accelerating as I reached for a much-needed sip of my coffee and simultaneously noticing in the rear-view mirror that I was having yet another bad hair day. “All I did was leave the driveway.”

That’s when the first bits of Newspeak came out of his mouth. “Yes, but you didn’t complete an Orderly Visual Search Pattern. And you shouldn’t be drinking coffee or checking your hair in the mirror while driving.”

“Huh?” I said again, with increasing annoyance.

“You didn’t look around good before you started,” he translated, flipping open his Driver’s Ed handbook and pointing to a page with the letters OVSP clearly visible. “See? And right now, you’re violating the IPDE.”

“Huh?” I muttered for a third time.

The car swerved as I fumbled for my sunglasses, which had fallen under the seat. I found myself wishing this kid was still only old enough to drive Fisher-Price vehicles.

He sighed patiently as if he were speaking to a simpleton. “Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. It’s right here in the book.” He began to read, in the same slow, measured tones I’d used when reading Go Dogs Go to the toddler version of the self-righteous teen beside me.

“Here’s an example of the IPDE process,” he read. “You are driving on a rural road. You notice something in the road ahead. You identify it as a cow. You predict that the cow will cause conflict. You decide to slow down. You execute your decision by taking your foot off the accelerator and pressing the brake.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” I said vehemently. “What’s a cow doing in the road anyway?”

Over the next few miles, I managed to violate just about every rule in that blasted book. Back in the good old days, when my son first got his permit and I was his only instructor, I was the expert in the driving department. But once Big Brother got hold of him, I was permanently relegated to Do As The Book Says, Not As Mom Does territory. It’s an uncomfortable place to be.

My boy continually expresses amazement that I’ve made it this far in life without a fatal crash. I tell him that’s because, in my world, bovine beasts have enough brains to stay out of the way.

He gives me another of those semi-patient sighs, the kind of sigh he’ll probably use when he’s trying to help me find my missing dentures at the nursing home.

“That doesn’t make any sense, Mom.”

Probably not. But that’s what I like about it.

If any of the previously mentioned law enforcement officers are reading this and happen to see me out driving, I was just kidding about you being biased and unfair. I don’t at all mind filling up your city coffers. I just wish you’d keep the roads clear of cows.

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2007, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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