My occasional career as a driving instructor is coming to an end as my youngest child gets ready for his road test. As a result, I once again find myself dealing with a teenager who delights in telling me everything I'm doing wrong behind the wheel.
He's right, of course. The driver preparing for a road test bears almost no resemblance to the one who has been driving for 30 years. The last time I needed to make a three-point turn, a woman with a staccato delivery and a death grip on her clipboard was in the passenger seat making disapproving noises. That also was the last time I checked my mirrors regularly and held my hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2.
But watching this 17-year-old "expert" prepare for his big day made me think that maybe it's time to modify the road test to reflect the way people really drive.
It might go something like this:
Start the engine, please. Put the car in gear and, as you are pulling out, start to put on your seat belt while simultaneously finding a good song on the radio and sipping a coffee. OK, now crank it up and sing along as best you can.
There's a stop sign up ahead. There doesn't seem to be a lot of traffic around, so go ahead and kind of roll through it, but keep a lookout for the cops.
Switch lanes here, but don't turn on your indicator or check your blind spot.
You're coming to a traffic light. It's green now, but we can't assume it's going to stay green, so speed up to make sure you get through. If it turns yellow, really floor it.
OK, that next light just turned red. You're only about 200 feet from it, but there's really no need to brake until you're about 20 feet away. Now might be a good time to check your hair in the rearview mirror.
The car in front of you is going under the speed limit. I want you to drive as close to it as you can, and when you see the driver look back to see why you're so close to him, start gesturing wildly as if to say, "What the heck are you doing up there?"
This song stinks. Start looking through the glove compartment to see if you have any good CDs, but try to keep one hand on the wheel.
This guy behind you is right on your butt. You could switch lanes and let him pass, but better to teach him a lesson. When he gets a little closer, slam on your brakes for just a second to scare him. If he makes a profane gesture, blow him a kiss.
McDonald's on the right. I'm going to need you to get some McNuggets with barbecue sauce. When we get back on the road, you're going to switch lanes without signaling, answer your cellphone and get a good dip going with those McNuggets.
Almost finished. You don't have to parallel park because no one can do that, anyway. Without turning on your indicator, pull to the right until you feel the right front tire go up the curb. Get back in the street, but angle the car to the left so it's sticking out a bit. Be sure to leave the radio blasting as you turn off the ignition so you can scare the bejabbers out of the next person who gets in.
You need to work on your tailgating, and you're going to want to practice honking your horn at drivers who bother you, but you passed.
Here's your new license. And let me be the first to say: Hey, moron, where'd you learn to drive?