View Full Version : THE DRIVING LESSON - 700 words

Mr. Beanhead
September 26th, 2014, 08:19 PM
This is one in a series of reminiscences intended for my son. All constructive criticism is appreciated. Hope someone gets a smile, or a giggle.

My dad and I were on a deserted highway in northern Arizona. I was driving. The age for a learner's permit was fifteen years and seven months. I think I was closer to fourteen than fifteen.

The lesson was going well, primarily because I didn't have to share the road with anyone else. It might have continued that way if it had not been for my inexperience, my dad's indecision, and what I can only assume is some corollary to Murphy's Law. At a distance there appeared to be a nondescript mass in the middle of the highway. I was naturally concerned, but it was a very long way ahead of us, and your Grandpa Harold seemed totally unconcerned. As we approached, it became apparent that it was a road sign of some sort. That was reassuring, but the fact that it still seemed to have staked out territory in the middle of the road, was not. I had just eased off the accelerator, the instinct for self-preservation being what it is, when Dad said, "Take a right at the sign."

So now I knew that I had been right. It was a sign. But what was it doing in the middle of the road? We were getting close enough now, that this was more than just philosophical musing. Though Dad remained unconcerned, I knew that if the sign didn't make a move soon, I was going to have to. Just then, we topped a little rise, and everything became clear. What I hadn't been able to see earlier, was that the sign was actually in a little clearing just beyond the point where the road split, veering gently leftward toward one destination, and rightward toward another. A quick sideways glance revealed a slightly amused smile on your grandpa's face. I felt much better. "You said, right?" I ventured.


Once again, the world was a friendly place. Another second or two, and I would ease the Plymouth station wagon to the right, and we would be on our way to--"Wait! Go left."

My grip tightened on the wheel, and I recalibrated my decision-making apparatus to left turn mode. "Left, right?


"You said, left." We were getting alarmingly close now, the broken white highway lines blurring past. What I needed was confirmation, or more precisely, direction.

There was no trace of humor on dad's face now. "Yes."

"Right," I said, knowing before it left my lips, that it was the worst possible word in the English language for that situation.

"No! Left!!"

The sign had assumed the looming position now. As if we were locked into some sort of deranged computer loop from which there was no escape, control, alt. or delete. I queried, "Left?"

"RIGHT!" he screamed.

Time now for only one incredulous croak, as it occurred to me that the brake pedal might be an option, "What?"

I remember thinking how interesting it was that we were now close enough to read the small print across the bottom of the sign. Arizona Dept. of Transportation. Then it was gone. Not really gone, but no longer in sight, because it was flattened and a matter of some twenty-five yards behind us as the car finally skidded to a halt ensconced in a cocoon of dust.

We sat silently for some time, then got out to look around. Then he must have asked me if I was all right, or I asked him. We were both fine. This is only conjecture, because I don't remember anything about what happened immediately after impact. The damage to the car was minimal, because we didn't have to be towed, I remember that. And I remember getting back into the car, on the passenger side this time, after looking back at the sign, which now gave directions to the angels. And I remember what my dad said to me just before he turned the ignition back on, and headed us down the road again--I'm pretty sure it was to the left. He looked at me, not angrily, but very seriously, and said, "We won't mention this to your mother."

September 26th, 2014, 08:43 PM
Clean writing. Funny, too. The 'right-left' comedy dilemma very well handled. Funny stuff.

September 27th, 2014, 12:46 AM
Nice story, you captured the panic of making a last minute decision well, adding the drama and urgency well. Thanks for the laugh and the read...Bob

Mr. Beanhead
September 27th, 2014, 05:53 PM
Thanks for the kind words, guys.

September 27th, 2014, 07:01 PM
A most enjoyable tale. Thank you.


September 29th, 2014, 01:15 AM
This was very funny! Great work.

September 29th, 2014, 02:37 AM
excellent. I reread it a second time to see if disagreed with anything, enjoyed it almost as much the second time, and could only find some quibbles with the last two paragraphs, I had to work harder than you wanted me to in order to figure out what was happening.

Also, if you change "your Grandpa Harold" to "Dad", you get more generality.

Really, it was deft, funny, poignant, and well done.

Mr. Beanhead
September 30th, 2014, 09:30 PM

Thanks for the encouragement!

I get what you said about the Grandpa Harold/Dad thing. I changed a couple of things for posting on the forum. That was one of them, and it probably didn't work as well as I would have liked.

Concerning the last two paragraphs: I reread them after your comments, and have the vague feeling that you are right, but I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. I'll put it away, and come back with "fresh eyes" later.

Thanks, again.

October 28th, 2014, 02:35 PM
I found the 'Grandpa' thing off-putting. I appreciate that you've written this for your son, but that makes it jar for anyone else!

Much of the narrative has you in the moment, effectively, albeit with the story as a general reminiscence. However, the last two paragraphs after the accident are peppered with 'I remember' which takes it away from the overall flow and curtails the mood. It would be much better - and probably capture the confusion and shock - if it was still in the moment!

November 10th, 2014, 09:23 AM
I found it fun, easy to read because you write so clean. I love stories whit right or left because I myself don't know exactly which one is which. You can call it disorder. :))) When I drive my dad knows he has to tell me at least 500 meters before where to go. Because I need no think 2 seconds on that.
Take in count what I do, for your story. Allot of people have this kind of disorder :)) .
And I love the part whit : we will not tell your mom about this.... oooo God how many times did I heard that :))).
Very funny...made me remember good stuff.
Keep on wrinting.

November 10th, 2014, 01:29 PM
Really enjoyed it. Light, easy to read and I liked the ending. I can see it being shared over the table at family gatherings.

The paragraph concerning the flattening of the sign was good but I would have found a way around 'because' or just removed it entirely. I might shorten it to:

I remember thinking how interesting it was that we were now close enough to read the small print across the bottom of the sign. Arizona Dept. of Transportation. Then it was gone. Flattened and twenty-five yards behind us as the car finally skidded to a halt ensconced in a cocoon of dust.