So my daughter got her driver’s license today after many months of practice. (You can find reflections on that practice in a post from last March here.) In recent weeks, with the basics well in hand, I have placed a heavy emphasis on the finer points of the enterprise, and, considering all the verve and occasional vituperation of her teenagehood, she has been a rather surprisingly dutiful student.
We might consider these last weeks before Exam Day a kind of Dad’s Finishing School To Become a Truly Excellent Driver (and Person).
The other point sinking in here is more for me than for her: that one never learns anything as well as when one has to teach it. And that learning anything in depth always carries within it the seeds of learning about Much Larger Matters.
So herein are the Top 10 Things Dad Learned (or was at least reminded of again) from all his teaching.
1. Pay close, close attention at all times. This rule is the foundation of all the other rules. You can’t perform the others successfully unless you get this one down.
2. Consider everyone around you. Be kind and courteous to all you meet because your life, in many untold ways, is in their hands.
3. Always be deferential to cyclists and pedestrians. They’re small and defenseless against you, so always give them the benefit of every doubt.
4. Expect the unexpected, because it happens all the time, without fail. (Just as you expected…)
5. Be quick to forgive, because others will frequently do stupid things, as will you. Usually because they haven’t attended to Rule # 1, nor, often and unfortunately enough, to Rule #2 either.
6. Don’t go too fast. You won’t really gain much, you won’t have enough time to react if there’s a problem, and you’ll miss all the good scenery along the way.
7. When making a U-Turn, swing wide. Gain the maximum possible latitude at all times, because maneuvering room is precious, and always a good thing.
8. When there’s a stop ahead, get off the gas early and roll into it with ease. Be smooth. Hurrying up to a stop makes no sense at all.
9. When pulling into a parking space, attend closely to subtle turns of the wheel. This is strange, I know, because you’re going very slowly and barely turning your wheel, but it’s amazing how subtle changes in direction—even at the very last moment!—make a huge difference in reaching your goal of a straight and tidy park.
10. When in reverse, recede with caution, and keep it short. Sometimes going backwards is necessary and it can even help get you out of a jam, but it’s unnatural and uncomfortable, and meant only for very short distances. Driving is all about going relentlessly forward.
And, dear daughter, since you did so well in helping me learn these lessons, a bonus 11th lesson for your own consideration through all the rest of the long driving years ahead of you—and even for times when you’re not driving at all:
11. At the end of your drive, consider the places you’ve seen! Take a moment to appreciate where your car has been able to take you. Keep it well-fed and clean, with regular maintenance, and thank it for all it does on your behalf.
And so out you go, into the yonder of all that awaits, all the horizons you have yet to observe and explore—as you were exploring last week when driving me west toward the horizon on Highway 12:
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