Can any of you teach me? No one volunteers. What about a professional? Not until Tuesday. Maybe an impromptu lesson from R this afternoon? He has the day off.
Desperation forces me to consider my last resort, but memories from eleven years ago resurface. I cringe. Still, if asked, he who would be eager to teach me. Plus, he could make it happen today. I take a deep breath and find myself uttering the following words: “Dad, would you teach me how to drive?”
We head over to the courts where he once played basketball. It’s not exactly a high school parking lot, but it’ll work; there isn’t much traffic. My instructor advises me that since I already know how to drive, there are only three things I need to learn: operating a stick shift, driving on the left side of the road, and handling a road system that is significantly more dynamic.
I start driving. At first, I’m shaky with the clutch, and I’m forced to restart the car every few feet. Eventually, I make it to an intersection. Turn right, he says. I try to signal, but I end up turning on the windshield wipers. That’s right. Everything is a mirror image. It’s somewhat disorienting.
After a few loops around the court, I gain some confidence. I’m not restarting the car as often, and the windshield wipers stay off. Then I notice a dog in the middle of the street. He’s not moving. I stop and honk my horn to let him move out of the way. The dog stays put. My instructor frowns.
“It doesn’t work that way here,” he tells me. “Just drive. The dog will move.” I move slowly towards the dog, and he finally moves. This happens a few more times before my instructor raises the point again.
“Do you think you’re going to run over the dog? There’s no way. He’s smarter than you.” I laugh, but when I repeat the same mistake, my instructor throws down a challenge. “If you manage to run over a dog today, I’ll give you a thousand dollars.”
You can rest assured that no dogs were harmed in the making of this blog. Within the next few loops, I realize that animals, drivers, and pedestrians automatically adjust to the traffic pattern, and it becomes easier to drive. Once this becomes second nature, my instructor asks me to turn onto the main road. I’m not sure if I’m ready, but I turn.
My car joins a dance that includes other cars along with busses, motorcycles, and auto rikshaws. I am surprised that I am doing this, and that the person seated next to me is comfortable with it.
As if he were reading my thoughts, the instructor asks, “Is this what you were expecting when you asked me to teach you?”
I laugh and wonder aloud, “What’s changed since the last time we did this?”
He responds, “I’ve mellowed a lot. I’m a grandfather now.”
We continue driving until we get a call from home. The lesson comes to an end.