Chapter 2—Plan B
My dad went out and booked the most affordable driving instructor he could find. He went cheap—super cheap. When my mom questioned his decision, his response was “power steering belts DON’T grow on trees!” It wasn’t the most solid, or air-tight, logic you’ll ever see, but it seemed to shut my mom right up. She looked at me and shrugged as if to say “you’re on your own kid—good luck”, and then, she bravely ran away, away.
One bright and sunny morning a weathered little Chevette Scooter coughed and sputtered its way up our driveway. Its driver, a tall, sturdy gentleman stepped out and wandered up to our door and rang the bell. He introduced himself to his shiny new student in a way that reminded me of every politically incorrect stand up routine I had ever seen about taxi drivers: “Hello, my name is Habboo and I am here to help you learn how to drive <head wobble>”. For a split second I considered the possibility that I might be getting pranked. I looked around and checked to see if there were any hidden cameras, but Habboo was the real deal. He learned how to drive in New Dehli, and since his immigration to Canada, he ran three businesses: a driving school, a taxi, and a corner convenience store. He was the real deal and a tribute to all politically incorrect stereo-types currently in play.
Habboo was a jolly breath of spring for me. He loved teaching people how to drive, and he never called his car “her” or “she”. In fact, he concerned himself solely with my learning how to safely operate a vehicle. He diplomatically corrected some lapses in my dad’s instruction. He worked tirelessly to deprogram me of my gentle geriatric acceleration, “When you start to go into to traffic, you press down de gas and you go! Do not worry, you will not break my car—now press down de gas pedal very hard—very hard! That is very good—very good!”
Deprogramming me of my phobias regarding breaking his car was, perhaps, Habboo’s greatest challenge. My dad had instilled in me a healthy anxiety, and whole-hearted belief that I was very adept at causing vehicles expensive repairs. Whenever I panicked about times when I drove over a curb, or backed into garbage cans, Habboo laughed at my concerns regarding my breaking is his car, “my dear, if you can break my car, you will be doing me a huge favor! <head wobble>”
I liked Habboo because he was very nice and remarkably patient. His car was an automatic, so I did not have to worry about shifting. Even though shifting was no longer a concern anymore, driving an automatic did seem to help me master the other elements of driving. However, I was so comfortable with shifting that driving an automatic made me nervous and paranoid that I might be missing or forgetting something. This little personality quirk made Habboo laugh even more than I thought was possible, “I swear to cow, you Canadians are always looking for worries!”
Habboo promised me if I continued in my progress, he would take me to get my road test. His promise seemed like a gift straight from the angels. I jubilantly shared this information with my dad. It was a validation for me: a validation, I desperately needed from my dad. My dad did not share my perspective. He phoned Habboo, graciously thanked him for his offer, stopped talking long enough to allow Habboo the illusion of being heard, and then informed my sweet and kind driving instructor that his services were no longer required. My dad was absolute in his standards for driving, and there was no room for debate. The only car I’d be taking my road test in would be a car with a standard transmission. End. Of. Story.
The only thing in known history to sink more tragically than my hopes was possibly the Titanic. I was stricken and livid beyond words. It looked like I would have to suffer my road test in my evil ‘step-sister’ car. It seemed like a nightmare spitefully custom designed to torture me. I got my pout on, and defiantly crossed my arms in front of me. I trotted out my best teenage vernacular and muttered inaudibly to myself, “This totally sucks ass!” It turns out, though, I was too quick to judge. My dad was not letting me back into his car before he could prove I was worthy of driving her. That’s right, I would have to pass his test before I could even try to pass the road test.
My dad started calling around to his friends and family. Everybody was willing to let me practice driving in their car the only problem was that everyone we know had automatics. It would seem my dad was the only man in the city still driving a stick shift. Call after call he would slam down the phone and mutter words like “freaks!” and “bloody sheep!” My mom could see him wearing thin, and like any good lioness, launched a plan of attack that was brilliant in both stealth and cunning. At first she slathered on the empathy and encouragement, “Awww Honey! Hey, have you called John and Vernie—I think their Honda was a standard”. But then, gradually, and slowly she started to work her magic:
“If I remember right, the road test only takes thirty minutes—an hour tops.”
“Once she gets her license, she won’t have to drive your car at all—we could fix up Ol’Bruiser’ and let her drive that!”
“Start fixing up Ol’Bruiser, so that it is ready to insure in time for school next fall, and that way you both have all summer—you for fixing up the Bruiser, and her for getting her license. Be reasonable—she needs her license!”
My mom was brilliant and relentless. Her powers of persuasion were enviable, and likely extended to places where my naïve and fragile psyche dare not tread. Nevertheless, Thanks to her, I had a road test scheduled and things had the illusion of finally coming together.