I Warned You Not to Touch That

Tag: traffic ticket

Hire Education

by on Feb.07, 2010, under Essays

I noticed my educational opportunities had diminished in recent years and considered ways to correct the problem.  I thought about studying medical school billing but I hate paperwork.  Massage school had some appeal except I knew, eventually, I’d have to stop getting them and start rubbing my classmates. 

Medical school seemed like an excellent option except for two minor points.  Well, three.  I hate blood.  I don’t know what it is about the sight of someone’s brains splattered all over a gurney but I’ve always shied away from such things.  Two, I don’t fit the profile for medical school admissions.  I suppose I could lie about being close to retirement age.  Those convictions for racketeering and influence peddling?  They could be a plus if I got into hospital administration.  The big problem I have with a career in medicine is the paperwork.  I might as well be in medical billing. 

What other new and exciting possibilities were there?  Shepherding?  Yeah right.  Try getting in to one of their schools.  What area of learning would accept someone with my obvious deficiencies and allow me to gain some sense of purpose late in life?  After searching my soul and asking for inspiration from my letter carrier, it came to me.  Driving school.  What an opportunity to get back in the academic saddle.  I imagined firing up those atrophied brain cells and connecting with others like myself interested in advancing their educations. 

I hadn’t given driving schools much thought until I started hearing from them in the mail.  Much like my daughter’s many interested colleges, these schools were looking for students just like me.  Unlike the solicitations sent to my daughter, I’d never heard of the schools contacting me.  It had been a while since my student days and, perhaps this was academia’s new breed.  They had names like Iwannasavepointsonmyinsurance.com and safedriversrus.com.

I sensed the chance to build some lifelong friendships and wondered if financial aid was available.  Thirty dollars isn’t that much money but every penny counts.  I hoped I might qualify for either the aid or a scholarship.  I considered their online learning center but how would I get to know any of my classmates that way? 

I worried how much I’d learn about driving in four hours.  What kind of campus would there be?  I thought any selective school would have a wide assortment of arcade driving games where I could refine my skills.  Besides my fellow classmates, I wondered about my professors.  Would they be ivy-tower types or corporate bigwigs adding an impressive notch to their resume belt?  Is bringing an apple passé?  How competitive was their athletic program?  I always wanted to try fencing. 

After reviewing the many postcard options, it came down to what you’d expect.  The package.  Without grant money, it was difficult to justify the higher priced schools.  Eight or nine dollars, while not much monetarily, represents a significant percentage to save.  Location was important too.  Did I want to attend a school up north or closer to home?  What kind of meal plans did they offer?  What about used textbooks?

I called my first choice and, instead of reaching their admissions department, they prompted me to select from one of the following options:

          Press One for Basic Driver Improvement Class

          Press Two for Defensive Driving class to satisfy a ticket or court order

          Press Three for bail money

          Press Four to repeat these options or to hear them in Sanskrit

I merely wanted to verify the school’s address but the Sanskrit option spoke to me.  I pressed four.  Suddenly, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying and started randomly pressing other numbers, hoping to return to English.  I never dialed the right combination and, after twenty minutes, hung up.  I hoped I hadn’t made a bad first impression. 

To my amazement, someone from the school called me back.  Here was my chance to redeem myself.  I didn’t want to be forced to attend my fallback school.  A Peruvian woman confirmed the address and told me I’d been accepted.  No standardized test.  No costly application fee.  No essay or teacher recommendations.  I was in.  They didn’t offer financial aid but, since this was my first choice, I felt compelled to enroll. 

Think back to your first day of school.  New shoes, new clothes, and writing instruments.  Remember how scared you were climbing onto the bus for the first time?  Letting go of your mother’s hand and waving goodbye to those days of innocence.  What would my driving school professor be like?  Would I know any of the other students?  I was so excited, I lost track of the time.  I had to speed to get to campus for my six o’clock class.  What was more important, bending the traffic laws a little or getting to school on time for the first day of class? 

I looked for the campus.  Keiser University?  That’s not it.  Kiddie Country Achievement Center?  I wish.  There had to be an ivy-walled castle of learning just ahead.  Imagine my surprise when I missed the school completely as I drove by.  I circled around and took another stab at finding it.  I discovered it in the back of a small plaza with Betty’s Bail Bond, The Racer’s Edge Pub and Dominos in the front.  What a perfect location. 

Once in the main administration building Rick, the Dean of the school, greeted me.  He was also my professor.  I discreetly left him an apple.  Only one student preceded me in the registration line.  Barbara.  She worked as a hydrologist, had a boyfriend for three weeks but would consider trading up.  She seemed earnest about finding ways to keep her truck from rolling through stop signs. 

Rick was a smoker.  That was a good sign.  I knew there would be frequent breaks to help keep my mind sharp.  I gave him my license information and ticket number.  These tickets are hard to come by.  Mine was for doing sixty-nine in a forty-five zone.  Well, I was going downhill.  When I entered the classroom, I was disappointed to find only two other students besides Barbara.  Mike was an Egyptian management consultant nabbed for going fifteen over the limit.  He said this was his first offense and he was just helping a sick friend.  With lines like that, I could see how he’d do well as a consultant.  Ramon was a short Hispanic guy from Michigan via New Jersey.  He drove a semi and got caught going too fast.  That was my class.  Except for Barbara, I couldn’t imagine any of my classmates joining me for fencing.

Our professor was a regular guy.  Before he got into the driving school business, he was a retired air force pilot.  He liked going fast too.  He said he’d driven his ‘67 Shelby Mustang 165mph.  I felt honored to be learning from such a speed merchant.  The stories Rick told were the best part of class.  We might as easily have been sitting around a campfire as a dry erase board. 

To illustrate the dangers of unsecured items flying around in a crash, our professor told of one man whose ballpoint pen lodged in his carotid artery.  Rick said, “He bled out in three minutes.”  Perhaps he was a forger getting karmic payback.  You know your time is up when a ballpoint pen does you in.  Then there was the infant with her head severed by the “Baby on Board” sign.  Wow.  Sometimes, you just can’t win. 

I loved the story of the woman who refused to pay for tolls.  She’d rung up $115 worth and showed no sign of slowing down.  She told the judge she wouldn’t pay the tolls.  He gave her a week in jail.  She told him she didn’t care and still wouldn’t pay.  That’s the ticket.  You go girl.  Who is he to tell you what to do?  After hearing her refuse again, he gave her a month in the clink.  Apparently, jail didn’t agree with her because, after that, she seemed fine with the whole toll paying concept.

I learned a lot about Blood Alcohol Content.  It’s hard to believe police have been tipped off by drivers hugging one side of the lane or driving slowly with their brake lights on.  Reaction time amazed me too.  While DUI offenders react three times slower than normal drivers, cell phone users are much slower than the tipplers.  I hoped Florida would adopt California’s innovative approach to deterring drunk driving.  After the first offense, they crush your car and drop the metal cube in your driveway.  I think they let the driver hop out first.

Despite my disappointment with some aspects of school, like their athletic program, others more than exceeded my expectations.  By the end of the four hours, I felt a real connection with my professor and classmates.  We had a brief graduation ceremony, which made me swell with pride.  I did get two beautiful documents, on a high quality velum, commemorating my academic achievement.  Sadly, the original needed to be sent to the Clerk of Court.  Things went so well we all decided to knock back a few drinks at the bar next door before heading home.  I’m looking forward to future class reunions.

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