Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
- Deuteronomy 4:1-2
With a few words changed, could this not be a charge for each person getting a driver’s license? Obey the laws. Do not add or subtract from these commands.
Yesterday, I wrote about Bread, Milk, and other Insanity. It was the age-old insanity of people in a frenzy, having, at least temporarily, lost their minds because a flake or two of snow was falling. They all go to the store to purchase bread and milk and sometimes batteries, afraid that once the six feet of snow is on the ground (not in the forecast), they might starve before the snow melts. My suggestion was to always be prepared and trust God, even when driving around while others are temporarily, or permanently insane.
I want to apologize, however. In the article, I suggested that a woman who almost hit our new SUV was hysterical (true), screaming (true to the point of being ear-splitting), and tearful (true). However, I exaggerated a bit. If she had lost five pounds in water weight due to tears alone, that would be over a half gallon. That was an exaggeration to illustrate how temporarily or permanently this woman had lost it. May I modify that to half a cup of tears? About a quarter pound? And the ample room on the other side of her vehicle would not hold two fully grown water buffalo. Two young ones? Probably, but they would have been scared away by the screaming long before that.
Was she in a snow panic or did she simply have no clue where her vehicle was on the highway? If her eyesight was that bad, she needs to have her driver’s license removed. Then again, I have no evidence that she had a driver’s license. She had a credit card and a membership card at the wholesale warehouse, or she could have not refueled her vehicle.
That thought brought me back over fifty years. I passed my written test to drive with no problem, and I have done so five times since then (moving from one state to another). But I was a slow learner when it came to the driving part. I finally passed, on the second try, within days of my anniversary of passing the written test. In my state at the time, my learner’s permit would expire after one year, and I would have to take the test again – I was almost at that point, within a week.
One of my fondest memories of my Dad, freshly renewed by the incident with the hysterical woman, was driving into town, ten miles away, with a light rain falling. My Dad asked, “Do you think you are in the middle of the lane?” I said that I did. He said, “Look in the rearview mirror and see the tracks of your wheels.” I looked and saw that I was much closer to the center stripe than the shoulder. He said, “Just for fun, since there is no one on the road, see if you can get your driver side wheels on the center stripe.” I did, right on the stripe. “Now, get your passenger side wheels on the warning stripe on the edge of the road.” I did that too. “Now, center the car in the lane.” I did that. “See what that looks like as you gaze over the steering wheel. Get used to it so that you will know exactly where your car is.” With ten miles and no traffic, we repeated the routine a few times.
My Dad was largely an absentee father. He worked for poultry equipment companies, installing equipment in poultry processing plants (or as we said “chicken plucking plants”) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – just rarely home. Having genuine father/son time was rare and this was one of only two times in my memory that he taught me something while I was learning to drive. The other time was driving back from a rare father/son trip in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. I got to tag along on one of his two-week work trips, seeing a few National Parks in both the USA and Canada. On the way home after two weeks in Lethbridge, he let me take the wheel in Montana on a stretch of interstate that had no speed limit. He told me to go as fast as I felt like going. This was before the days when the speed limit was dropped to 55 nationwide, and since reversed. I got up to about 85 miles per hour (137 km per hour), and then I backed off to about 70 miles per hour, the usual speed limit in most states at the time on the interstate system. In the corner of my eye, I saw him smiling. I had learned my lesson without him saying a word. Too much speed rarely gets you there much faster, but it can prevent you from getting there at all. And as a novice behind the wheel, I felt the change in the vibrations, and then measured the possibilities of what could happen, and I drew that conclusion without him saying anything.
But what if the woman in hysterics had never had a father like I had? Maybe most of these people in Pennsylvania who drive down the center of the highway and you have to go into the ditch to avoid hitting them… Maybe they are not demons, just people that were never taught properly. Okay, some may really be demons.
I remember my first time taking the driving test. I was following a truck with the rear roll door open, the bed almost empty. I gave him more than the safe distance, especially with a police officer sitting next to me. When the truck went over some railroad tracks, a four-wheel dolly rolled from the front of the truck bed and out of the truck. But it got hug up on the trailer hitch. I hit the brakes, but after the four-wheel dolly was “secure,” I added a couple of car lengths to my following distance. The police officer who was testing me thought I should have given the guy a few blocks of following distance and flunked me. I even parallel parked properly, but that made no difference. But flunking my driver’s test the first time helped me to focus my skills and improve my safety attitude.
My wife on the other hand is a seasoned driver, but she has never learned how to parallel park. By an odd coincidence, she got her driver’s license in the same state that I did, where if you could not parallel park, you did not pass. She was in the Air Force at the time before I met her. She borrowed a friend’s car and drove herself to the testing office illegally. She wore a miniskirt. And when she got to the parallel parking test, she threw her hands over her eyes and began to cry. Distracted by her legs and uncomfortable with her crying, the officer passed her in spite of “not passing and indeed not completing” the test. How many others out there have gotten an “easy grader” or someone giving the person the benefit of the doubt?
My drivers in India, I was told, were never taught how to drive nor did they ever take a driving test. They were asked if they wanted to drive and, if given the opportunity, they would jump for the job – working while sitting down in an airconditioned space, with the chance of the rich Americans giving tips, tips of well over a week’s wages … Why not?!?! Yet, the only problem I ever had with a driver was the impatience of trying to get me where I was going on time – and passing an ox cart or a truck hauling diesel fuel to the steel mill when there was on-coming traffic. They understood the words “No Macho” to mean they should slow down and pass when there was an opening.
But as for those who “passed” the driving test, one way or the other, the guy the other day who ran a stop sign, then after travelling halfway through the intersection, stopping to curse me for trying to move into his lane after stopping … He was either crazy, a wanton lawbreaker, or he was not from the area and never saw the stop sign that was as wide as his vehicle. You can choose.
The point is that there is a lot of anger out there on the highway. There is a lot of poor driving skills out there. There are a lot of people that were never taught properly. And there are a lot of people that, for whatever reason, never measure their actions based on what damage they might cause too others or even to themselves.
And the idea of loving one another is totally foreign to most folks, even to the point of being an absurd, outdated concept. And sadly, for some, they only get in that mode while driving.
I do not drive aggressively because I want to be a safe driver for my own good, but I never forget that the other vehicles have people inside, people with souls that may or may not be saved. They are important also.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.