Have you ever felt like you were living through a Saturday Day Night Live sketch? I felt that way today as I attended a court-ordered driving improvement class in the Mechanicsville area. I went to help erase my recent speeding ticket (first in my life).
I dreaded going. I figured it was going to be a waste of eight hours. In some ways, it was. I probably could have learned everything in half the time. But then again, those “wasted” moments is what made the entire ordeal worthy of a blog post.
I have changed names to protect the identity of the innocent, notorious and downright unforgettable. But I promise that all the stories are mostly true. I may have not gotten all the dialogue 100% right.
The class started out with Larry telling everyone before the class that he was there because he had fallen asleep behind the wheel. He then proceeded to doze off about six times through the eight-hour course. There was one time that his eyes rolled back in his head while he was sitting straight up. I looked at the older gentleman next to me, Roy, who motioned to his daughter, Connie. We all looked at Larry and rolled our eyes as if to say, “There is no way this guy should be behind the wheel of any vehicle.”
Students started to fill the small classroom. Then, our instructor, Bart, proceeded to give a quick intro to the course and ask each student a few questions. Bart wanted to know our name, why we were there, and our job. One of the first guys he asked to respond was Larry. He responded by telling the class that he had just got out of prison for a six-year term. He then detailed his crimes of writing bad checks, his legal proceedings, a short comment or two about his former career as a tradesman, and then described his recent wreck. The woman sitting next to Larry moved over a bit as soon as he admitted his recent stent in jail.
The rest of the introductions were fairly normal. There were a few family members who attended. One mother/daughter tandem came together. The 17 year-old girl, Lisa, proceeded to rat out her mom (Mary) as a speeder. Lisa admitted that her father had signed them both up for the class to reduce their insurance costs since they had both recently received speeding tickets. Lisa told how her father was just as reckless as them, but he never seemed to get caught by the cops.
Lisa commented how she had been a fairly safe driver all her life. The entire room erupted in laughter when Bart said, “All two years you have been driving… right. I know that seems like a long time. But Roy back there has been driving a lot longer than you have been alive.” Roy was in his late 60s. He said that his last ticket was 30 years ago.
Lisa’s youth and inexperience became a running joke for the group the entire time. She proceeded to explain that she was safer than most of her friends who thought she was a kill joy. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was saying these things because her mother was sitting right next to her. Bart told a few blond jokes through the lesson. She never got em.
Then, there was the film student from Boston College, Julie. She had recently moved downtown. She asked the best question of the day. With a completely straight face, she asked, “Some of my friends told me that the reason the state troopers always put their hats on when they get out of the car is that they can’t write you ticket unless they have their hat on. Isn’t that a strange rule?”
Bart said, “That is a new one. I never heard that before. I can assure that there is no such rule like that. Are you sure that your friends weren’t trying to pull a joke on you?” Julie responded that she had been told that by ten different people and that they were very serious. I asked, “Did these people also ask you to go snipe hunting?” She had never heard of snipe hunting either.
The entire room had a good laugh.
When Bart made fun of my salad for lunch, Julie mentioned that she was a vegan, which completely astounded Bart. He couldn’t understand why somebody would not eat meat. I agreed and said that I like both meat and salads. I especially like salads with meat. Anyway, throughout the class, Bart tried to convert Julie to the dark side of the meat eaters. She stayed a vegan and even talked about eating rice milk flavored icecream substitute. Yuck!
Bart showed a number of videos and did a good job of covering the basics. He even offered to show us his certificates because he knew that somebody as rough looking as him seemed to be an odd character to be teaching a driving school. Bart was funny and kind of raw. He’s the kind of guy that I would picture one day on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.
His stories about the horrors of insurance, stupidest things he had seen in his driving experience and how to talk to cops was worth the price of admission.
Later in the day, Bart allowed us to try on goggles that demonstrated how your vision can be impaired when you are legally drunk. We all marveled at the effect. All expect for Larry. He said, “Wow, that ain’t nothing. You should see what happens with your driving ability when you are lit up on crystal meth!”
To which, Bart said, “What did you just say? No, never mind. I don’t want to hear it.”
Another fond memory occurred when Lisa tried to blame her speeding habit on her parents. She said that she picked it up from them. Bart responded, ” You can’t inherit bad decisions from your parents like you do hair color, facial features or height. Those decision belong to you. Sure, they may not have provided the best example. But you have to take responsibility for your decisions.”
Bart got Lisa to semi admit her guilt. But I still think if she was honest, she would point as much blame back at her folks.
Those were my funny moments from the driving class today. My experience convinced me that there are a lot of characters on the road today.