My confession for today is that I never took driver’s ed. And to that I’ll add that I’ve never even taken a driving test or a written test. I’m not sure why I’ve been so lucky, although I’ll hazard a guess that the driver’s ed teacher at the public high school I attended for a couple years could just sense that I knew which side of the road to drive on and to keep circling the block to avoid having to parallel park.
I’ve held driver’s licenses in Illinois, Ohio, New York, California, and Montana. Not to brag, but each state has failed to test my driving abilities, let alone my knowing what the colors red, yellow, and green might mean.
I was eleven or twelve years old when my family moved to what we jokingly called a farm. All of a sudden, our 53-acre property was littered with a variety of farm implements, as well as a green Ford station wagon and a three-on-the-tree pickup truck. Because all of the vehicle uses were associated with work, I got to learn to drive on my own.
The driver’s ed teacher probably knew this and so he signed off on my license application. I asked him if there was any advice he could offer. “When you turn, brake in and gas out.” I must admit that I frequently repeat that phrase when making turns.
I honestly don’t remember my kids taking driver’s ed, but I’m sure they did.
Courtney was delegated to drive the family, including my mother, to Bozeman for a day of fun activities: lunch, a movie, and an amazing exhibition of the Lipizzaner horses that had come all the way from Vienna to leap in the air with grace and style. Courtney’s driving that morning was an amazing exhibition, not however, of either style or grace. She chose to drive over a pile of roadkill.
“Most people swerve a little out of the way to avoid hitting roadkill,” I said.
“But it made an interesting sound, didn’t it?” Courtney asked.
All I remember of my son’s early driving experiences was when he took my pickup truck for reasons I don’t recall.
“But you’ve never driven a stick,” I noted.
Daniel then told me that he had watched me driving that truck for years.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” he said.
I felt only a little bit defeated. For reasons that escape me, sons are supposed to learn about manual transmissions from their fathers. Although I know how to shift manually, there are fathers out there who know a lot more about the mechanics of automobiles than me. In fact, most men know more about cars than I do. And besides that, there are significant numbers of women who know more about auto mechanics than me.
I think that destroying all the ill-conceived notions of superiority based on sex is a good idea. Show me the correlation between a torque wrench and a penis and I’ll consider changing my tune.
Our grandson is taking driver’s ed this summer. He says the classes are boring and in the couple of times I’ve been his passenger I’ve noticed a certain nonchalance about the whole activity. He’s confident and careful. He doesn’t seem to want to practice for a possible future in Formula One racing on the two-lane blacktop that stretches from home to Yellowstone National Park.
His father is one of those guys who can make anything work. I’m pretty sure that Sean-Liam will spend significant time bent under the open hood of a car or truck, his eyes searching the grease-covered engine for clues to whatever might be wrong. Big Sean will no doubt be by his side, passing down information and instruction gathered in his own lifetime of keeping things in good repair.
I wonder what the future of driver’s ed might be. Currently, there are countless dozens of on-line courses in driving, most of them promising to get future drivers ready to participate in on-road instruction. As of yet, virtual driving experiences must seem like some arcade game from the Seventies that deducts points for hitting pylons, running red lights, or mowing down virtual crowds.
The biggest focus of the automotive industry, other than finding ways to use iceberg lettuce as fuel, is the creation of a network of passageways to accommodate driver-less vehicles. Clearly, if no passenger in the vehicle is needed to drive the vehicle, then there’s no need for driver’s education. I mean, any idiot can get into an automobile and say, “take me to the mall.”
We need to create an educational curriculum that I propose calling Critical Racing Theory (CRT). Unlike The Times’s 1886 Project, which had as its objective to determine the depaint mechanisms of methylene chloride based paint removers for automobiles, CRT has as its focus the unbiased history of car racing beginning with the rum runners and moonshiners during Prohibition and the Great Depression that led to the onslaught of the redneck NASCAR and its impact on social theory and economic policy in post-Vietnam Era America.
And that is what the future of education looks like.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska
Like all Italian pasta sauces, no two recipes are the same. Bolognese is certainly one of them. This is the recipe I served at my Adagio Trattoria. Enjoy!
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 slices of pancetta, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2¼ lb. lean minced beef
2 large glasses of dry red wine
2 15 oz, cans chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. dried tagliatelle
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and sauté the pancetta until golden over a medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic, frying until softened. Increase the heat and add the minced beef. Fry it until it has browned. Pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce the temperature and stir in the tomatoes and celery.
Cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 1-1½ hours until it’s rich and thickened, stirring occasionally.
Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain and divide between plates. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the pasta before adding a good ladleful of the sauce. Finish with a further scattering of cheese and a twist of black pepper.