Thursday, August 26, 2010
Thanks very much, Mr. Raymond.
Archie Raymond was my Drivers' Education teacher, and he had this habit of singing "Green Acres" during our behind-the-wheel training. He'd even punctuate the melody with a quick "bomp bomp" on the dashboard. This annoying distraction did nothing to improve the car-handling skills of our trio of would-be Mario Andrettis.
"Okay, time to hit the road ladies," said Mr. Raymond. "Who wants to go first?"
"1-2-3 NOT IT!" called Donny Duncan, bottom-of-the-high-school-food-chain dweeb with the coke-bottle glasses.
"NOT IT!" I echoed.
"Pussies," said Rick Mustain. Rick was a sophomore jock, admired by some, despised by everyone else. But more to the point, since Rick's parents were divorced, and Rick's dad got wrapped up in the whole "gotta show m'boy what a cool father he has" phase, Rick had already been driving for two years. Dear ol' dad had given him access to the Camaro right around the time he'd given him access to the Old Milwaukee.
Mustain got behind the wheel of the 1982 Ford Fairmont, revved the engine a few times, and we screeched out of he Cowtown High parking lot.
"Greeeeeeen Acres is the place to be . . . "
With minimal coaching from Mr. Raymond, Mustain merged into the flow of traffic and cruised the freeway. Although I couldn't see the speedometer from my vantage point in the back seat, it seemed like we had a pretty good chance of qualifying for the pole at Daytona.
" . . . keep Manhattan just give me that countrysiiiide."
As Donny battled car-sickness, Mustain exited the freeway, and pulled into the K-Mart parking lot so we could switch drivers.
"Okay Duncan, you're up," said Mr. Raymond.
"Me? Why do I have to go next?"
"Just get in the driver's seat, Candyass," said Mustain, as he drilled Donny in the chest with the car keys.
"Ow!" Donny rubbed his right nipple as he bent over to get the keys from the pavement.
The poor bastard. Donny was only taking drivers' ed because it was a requirement, not because he had any interest in actually operating a motor vehicle. If Donny had his druthers, he'd happily pedal his Schwinn or ride shotgun in his mom's minivan till he was eligible for Social Security.
Donny immediately drove over the curb as he misjudged the width of the parking lot exit.
"Neeeew York is where I'd ratha stay . . . I get allergic smelling hay . . . "
We proceeded down Palomino Avenue at the breakneck speed of fifteen miles per hour. A kid on a skateboard whizzed by.
Mr. Raymond had Donny enter the freeway. We accelerated to about thirty, completely monopolizing the slow lane. For the next fifteen minutes (two miles) Mustain and I played a game of "Count How Many People Give Us the Finger".
"Right there! The old geezer in the next lane!" called Mustain as a twenty-five foot Buick blew our doors in.
"You sure she wasn't just pointing at us?"
"No, man, she flipped us off. Her arthritis makes it look weird, though."
"There's another one, the guy on the Harley," I said.
"Check it out . . . a double bird from the kid in the back of that station wagon."
". . . darlin' I love ya but give me Park Avenue . . . "
Donny managed to get off the freeway, and we headed into a residential neighborhood to practice parallel parking. We found a reasonably empty side street, and Mr. Raymond set up a couple orange cones.
Which Donny promptly crushed. Repeatedly.
You've heard of a U-turn and a K-turn? Well, Donny Duncan invented what could best be described as the "asterisk turn".
Forward, reverse, forward, reverse, hit the curb, forward . . .
Once he finally got parallel parked, we changed places and I was responsible for getting us back to the high school via surface streets. I did a fair job, kept up with traffic, obeyed all traffic regulations, and to the best of my knowledge avoided getting flipped off by any road-raging grandmothers.
Mustain, though, spent the whole ride back alternately punching Donny in the arm and giving me wet willies in my left ear.
"Mr. Raymond, can you tell Mustain to knock it off?" whined Donny.
"Ah, shut up, ya little fairy," countered Mustain.
"Green Acres we are therrrre . . . Ba dump ba dump bump, BOMP BOMP!"