Tuesday, December 17, 2013


When I was a kid I was so excited for the day I would finally learn to drive.  Driving would give me the freedom to get to where I needed to be on time, with the added benefit of being able to hang out with my friends whenever, and wherever, I wanted.  Oh how the elation and sheer excitement coursed through my body when I was legally able to register for Driver's Ed!

Driver's Ed
Photo copyright:  Ildar Sagdejev

My Driver's Ed course was taught through my high school.  My instructor was the incredibly fabulous and famous, Mr. Pursel.  He had the greatest sense of humor and was, quite honestly, one of the bravest men I've known.  Considering the number of cars he got in which were being driven by scores of horrendously awful and grossly over-eager 15 year olds, the man probably should've received the Medal of Honor. 

Of course, Mr. Pursel did have a chicken break and extra steering wheel, so in the event he started to see his life flash before his eyes, he could retake control and prevent his own premature demise.  He never had to use either of those when I was driving though.  I was a very good driver........ for the most part.  Now the other 2 young ladies I was paired up with (who were also very good friends)...... well, let's just say they gave us memories to cherish for a lifetime, although I think  psychologists would say the clinical definition of these memories are "flashbacks".

I was wishing I had my own chicken brake and steering wheel in the backseat when my friends drove.  One of my friends liked to get to her destination early.............. very, very early.  My other girlfriend and I would be sitting quietly in the backseat with eyes as big as saucers and holding onto anything we could grab hold of as we'd hear Mr. Pursell speak in progressively louder tones "Now, you're going a bit too fast and need to slow down here.  Ok, it's time to slow down.  Slow it down.......SLOW DOWN!!!!!!!!  And that's when Mr. Pursel would pull the chicken brake sending us into a fishtailing slide.

My other friend didn't have a speeding problem, it was more of a directional issue.  She liked to drive straight........... even when the road curved.  Yeah, apologies sent to the many homeowner's yards and landscapes which were rearranged by her great desire to make her own path through the bends in the road.

As for me, well, my problem was always the same:  a manual transmission car at a stoplight.........on a big hill.  I am pretty darn sure Mr. Pursell had a clicker which changed a certain blasted stoplight to red EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I got anywhere near it.  I'm not quite sure how many hours we spent on that hill, but suffice it to say there were many drivers who had to back up and go around us at that blasted stoplight.  Heck, we spent so much time on that hill my friends were asking Mr. Pursel if they could get out and walk over to the Jack in the Box to get us all a soda and walk back.  They were that sure we weren't going anywhere any time soon.

Looking back on these experiences though isn't really much different than what my Great-Grandmother experienced the very first time she got behind the wheel of a car.  She grew up with a horse and buggy and that's what she "drove" for most of her life.  Then one day in the early 1900's, one of my Great Uncles came home with their first car.  He put her behind the wheel and my Grandmother said you could see the excitement all over her face.

She courageously got behind the wheel of the car and they showed her how to make it go.  As she stepped on the gas pedal, she yelled "Giddy-Up!" and wouldn't you know, the horses under that hood got going!  They said you could hear her giggling and laughing all the way down the drive and out onto the street.

What they forgot to show her was how to stop.  As she went down the street and was ready for this contraption to stop, she couldn't figure out what to do.  In a panic she did what she'd been taught to do all her life:  she pulled back hard on that steering wheel and started screaming "WHOA!  WHOA, I SAID!".  After my Great Uncles picked themselves up off the ground from laughing themselves silly, they chased her down and showed her how to stop.  I'm guessing this is when the chicken brake was invented.........

Christie Bielss

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