With Father’s Day rapidly approaching, I’m thinking about my dad, whose 80 years old now but still going strong. When I look back at all of the milestones he took me through, I can’t help but recall the patience he exhibited with me over the years, most notably when he taught me how to drive a car.
Although I consider myself a good driver today at age 50, I had a very rocky start in the world of vehicle operation way back in the summer of 1974, when I turned 16. The school I attended didn’t have a driver’s education behind-the-wheel program, so my father tried to teach me himself, in his old Opel Kadett in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
During our first few lessons, I did the following: I hit the only other car in the enormous stadium parking lot, backing up blindly; I turned the key in the ignition while the car was already running on several different occasions; I ran over a curb, causing minor damage to the front end of our vehicle, and last but not least, I nearly struck a jogger and his dog. The only thing I didn’t come in contact with was a passing bird, but only because it was flying just out of reach. And all of this took place in the course of 30 minutes.
To say things got better after that first driving lesson would be revisionist history. The truth is, the more frustrated I got with my complete lack of driving ability, the more mistakes I made. When I went to go take my actual driving test several months later, it was a disaster. As I was pulling out of the DMV parking lot, the tester grabbed the steering wheel out of my hand and jerked it to the left, screaming as he did so. The poor guy was shaking, claiming that I had almost hit a parked car. Over a three-month period, I failed the driving portion of the test a total of three times. I was the only one in my high school class without a license, which was truly one of the great embarrassments of my life. My girlfriend at the time had to drive us to the junior prom, just to give you an idea of how demeaning the whole thing was.
But, my dad was great throughout the entire ordeal. He kept telling me things like “Keep it up, you’ll get better,” “Concentration, that’s the key” and “Watch out!” He couldn’t have been more patient and understanding, as I played bumper cars with every tree, car and pedestrian in sight. My dad has and always will be an incredible teacher—he was a successful baseball coach in our community for many years and coached a ton of championship teams.
Now that I have a stepdaughter who turns 16 this week, it’s payback time. Will she be as bad a driver as I was back then? Gosh, I sure hope not. I don’t have enough insurance to cover it!
Thanks for being a great father, dad. I haven’t gotten a ticket or been in an accident for over 30 years, and I credit you, the Rose Bowl parking lot and that old Opel Kadett!