The Cameron Column #50
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Big Al
Big Al's Budget Driver Training School

Dear Big Al:

      Recently you finished a six week training course with my 15 year old daughter, the result of which is that she now has a "learner's permit." This means by state law she can legally drive an automobile with me sitting next to her, though my cardiologist has strongly warned against it.

      The grade she received was an "A", so I am going to assume that she learned some of her more innovative driving techniques from you. I would therefore be most interested why you taught my "A" student driver the following:

Dangerous Situations

      Dangerous situations, such as a horse trailer parked sideways across the country road in front of you, are best handled by applying pressure to the following (in order:) 1. The radio control button. 2. The horn. If, despite the fact that you have changed radio stations and honked the horn, the horse trailer has not moved out of your way, your choice is to (a) press on the accelerator and aim for the space between the front of the horse trailer and the guardrail, a distance which can not possibly allow more than 4 millimeters clearance on either side, or (b) wait until the last possible moment and hit the brakes, painting deep black marks on the pavement. When your passenger, who happens to be your father, complains that he does not appreciate being so near death that he could hear long dead relatives urging him to "move into the light," point out very reasonably that he was never in any real danger because the vehicle has dual air bags.

The Radio

      Each time a song you enjoy comes on the radio, squeal "this is my favorite" and turn up the volume. Never under any circumstances turn the sound back down when the song is over, until incrementally you have advanced to the very limits of the capacity of the car's speakers to vibrate everything inside the vehicle. At this point, you will not be able to hear your father's terrified screaming anymore, so now you can relax and drive the way you want.

Other Important Accessories

  1. Aside from the radio, the next most important accessory in the automobile is the rear view mirror, which should be checked every few minutes to make sure your makeup is in good condition. The best time to do this is when you are merging traffic, because there might be someone you know in the car you are running off the road, and you want to look your best.

  2. The horn is also important, because as you honk it and wave at the group of boys at the corner it will alert other drivers to the fact that, as far as you are concerned, whatever happens to traffic over the course of the next few seconds is out of your hands. Your father may lunge for the controls and do his irritating over-reacting bit again; but you'll be twisted so far around in your seat to hold the boys in your gaze you won't be affected by his antics.

  3. The ash tray is a good repository for used chewing gum, though your father will go berserk when he sees the size of the rock-hard mass you've accumulated there. Like, would he rather you be smoking? Besides, when the ash tray fills with gum it's time to get a new car.


      While it is not always necessary to run down pedestrians, you should take whatever means at your disposal to avoid stopping for a red light. Normally, this means accelerating aggressively when approaching a stoplight, particularly if the light has been yellow for more than a few moments. Shouting a joyful "hold on" to your father as you mash the accelerator is not really necessary, because his fingers are sunk so far in the dashboard he is practically inside the glove compartment. If you DO find yourself halted at a red light, busy yourself with the radio, searching for the song you've already heard three times in the past ten minutes. Don't worry, the cars behind you will honk in a friendly manner once the light has changed to green, though to be fair you should give everyone a chance to toot their horns before you right yourself and sail past the (now yellow) stoplight. And remember, whatever is the speed limit, you should be moving that fast just as soon as is mechanically possible, even if your father complains of blacking out from the G-forces.

Final Thoughts

      Having a parent sitting next to you while you drive can be most distracting, so be prepared to shut him up with the following responses to his unwarranted exclamations:
Dad: Slow down! You're taking this turn on two wheels!
You: Don't be silly, this car has four wheel drive.
Dad: Look out for that truck!
You: What truck?
Dad: You have to stop, he has right of way. Stop! He has right of way! STOP! Look out! Didn't you see that guy? He had right of way!
You: I know that!
Dad: Look out for that car!
You: What car?
      So, Big Al, while there are other items I may have overlooked (mainly because I have my eyes shut much of the time while she is driving) these are the main ones I'd like to know about. I'll look forward to hearing from you.


W. Bruce Cameron

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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1997
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