March 10, 2021

Road Rage

“Slow down, Jason, you have to relax and ease it in.”

“Sorry,” he said, pausing to look at me. “I’m just anxious. I never seem to get it right.”

“I know, but if you don’t take it slowly you’ll never get it in. Just remember it’s not about going back and forth. You have to do it in three.”

I watched him turn the wheel sharply to the right, too sharp. “Pull it back to the left a bit. You’re almost in.”

But he didn’t. I jammed my foot on the passenger brake before he could run my car into the Jeep beside us.

“Darn it,” he said.

“You’ll get it,” I said. “Lots of my students struggle with parallel parking, just be patient.”

“Ya, right. And I suppose all your students fail their test six times too?”

“Don’t be defeatist Jason. We’ve talked about this. It takes as long as it takes. Come on, drive up a bit and we’ll try it again.”

He was right of course; I had never had a student fail their driver’s test that many times. In the eleven months, I had known him, helping Jason get his license had gone beyond the usual student/teacher relationship, his had become a personal quest to me. Each time he failed, so did I. And after six failed attempts, even I had begun to despair.

…no sooner had she proffered her assurances to him than he had driven the car like a linebacker up onto the curb and used it to crush a row of unsuspecting garbage cans. She was traumatized by the experience. He had failed and I was back to the drawing board.

I kept telling myself the usual claptrap about there being no bad students only bad teachers, but I had begun to think that whoever had uttered that insipid maxim had never had a student like Jason.

It wasn’t that he was stupid, in that non-politically correct sense of the word; more like he seemed to crumble under the pressure of the test itself. Truthfully, it would have been easier if he was stupid, since I had a pretty strong track record for dealing with the galactically idiotic; those special men and women who, despite having a complete lack of both coordination and brains, still insisted that they should be able to join the rest of us on the roads every morning. 

But Jason was different. I hadn’t noticed it during our first lesson. At the time he had seemed like any of my other students, shy and nervous. But several lessons later, his insecurity had only grown larger, while his confidence had shrunk like a wet dog after a thunderstorm. He had become fragile, always in danger of falling apart.

I had initially dismissed Jason as nothing more than a timid soul with whom I had little in common, someone who I would do my best to help but who I felt certain would quit once it became clear he didn’t have the confidence to drive. I had seen a lot of “Jasons” in my short time as a teacher, and I had long ago learned that confidence was something I couldn’t teach, a student either had it or they didn’t. And while I could occasionally detect a hint of quiet confidence in Jason, it was always fleeting and overshadowed by the sight of scared pedestrians dodging out of the way as he roared past in my car. The last license examiner had confided in me that in the midst of his test, she had hinted to Jason that he was doing well and that at long last, he was certain to pass this time out. Well, no sooner had she proffered her assurances to him than he had driven the car like a linebacker up onto the curb and used it to crush a row of unsuspecting garbage cans. She was traumatized by the experience. He had failed and I was back to the drawing board.

After he failed the test twice, I assumed he would give up and was surprised when he called to book another lesson. I tried to dissuade him; tried to explain to him that I really had nothing more I could teach him, but he pleaded his case, and insisted that he felt comfortable with me and that he didn’t think he could start over with someone else.

I relented and agreed to pick him up for his next lesson at the University where he lectured. Although it wasn’t unusual for me wait for someone to get off work, I had never made any attempt to venture into their workplace to observe them in action. But something about Jason’s situation made me curious. How could a guy as shy and timid as Jason ever lecture to a group of students, those piranhas and princesses of academia?

So, driven by curiosity, I had ventured into the corridors in search of Jason’s class. I had only the vaguest notion where it was, gleaned from our casual discussions while driving, but as it turned out almost every student I spoke to seemed to know who Jason was and what room he was in. In fact, the deeper I got into the building, the greater the reaction to my request – a mixture of awe, reverence, giggles or blushing depending on the age or gender of the student.

I eventually found the room I had been directed to and sat quietly at the back of the darkened auditorium. Standing, at the front, under the glare of the lights, Jason was the focus of everyone’s attention. As I sat watching him, I quickly understood the reactions from the students in the corridor. He was mesmerizing. Poised, confident, funny, self-assured, the guy teaching in that room was not the same guy who got into my car to take lessons.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *