I learned my most useful life lessons in the middle of my fifteenth year.
In Indiana, where I grew up, you could get a learner’s permit to drive, with adult supervision, at fifteen and a half. As it happens, I’m a January child, so that benchmark fell in mid-summer. My school didn’t have the funding for a driver’s ed class in summer. Actually, I’m not sure they even had one the rest of the year, but anyway, my father decided I would enroll at the private driving school where he had learned the rules of the road as an adult immigrant: The Indiana Driving School.
The curriculum featured a handful of lectures delivered in a monotone at the facility, which was a one-room walkup near downtown, and a handful of films seemingly made by the same people who made those high school ‘health’ films. The room held about ten or twenty students, and out front, on the street, were two used cars comprising the school’s fleet. We didn’t get to actually sit in those cars for about a week, during which we soaked up valuable driving hints along with the normal rules of the road. It’s these that I find myself returning to time after time as life wisdom.
You will tend to go where your eyes go. The specific application, of course, was in maintaining your lane while driving, but I have found it to be true, at least metaphorically, in general as well.
Get the big picture. Look past the nose on your face to the context. Self-explanatory.
Leave yourself an out. Big one, here, my friends. On rare occasions, I have forgotten this piece of advice, and always regretted it.
After the first week, we got to actually drive a car, three students and an instructor packed into a Nash Rambler. That was when I learned my biggest life lesson.
I was driving and, I thought, doing very well, thanks, when I cut a left turn at a stop light too close and nipped the front bumper of a car waiting at the intersection. I freaked.
“What should I do?” I asked the instructor beside me.
“Step on the gas and don’t stop until I tell you,” he said, sinking down into the seat..