By John Matonich
Recently in my travels, I passed a Driver’s Education car. It made me smile to remember my experience with driver’s ed. When I was young, my father and I spent a lot of time in the woods together whether it was fishing or hunting or just enjoying the outdoors. It seemed as soon as I could reach the pedals, he was putting me behind the wheel and teaching me how to drive.
I was in my early teens when I think I became Dad’s chauffeur. He never really liked to drive and I really did, so it worked out great for both of us. My mother didn’t complain much as she knew if something ever happened while we were in the woods, between the 2 of us, we could get back home or wherever we needed to go to take care of any problems. The vast majority of this driving was done in the backcountry here in the west end of Da UP, so other traffic was pretty much non-existent and it was the perfect course to learn on.
Because I also worked at an early age, I earned enough money to buy a car before I had my license. It was only used when dad was able to go with me, but I was ok with that knowing it wouldn’t be long before I had my learners permit and then my license.
The time came to take driver’s education and even though I had been driving for a few years, I knew better than to think I knew it all and paid close attention to the classroom instruction in anticipation of getting behind the wheel of the driver’s ed car.
When the time came for our first road trip, the instructor looked over at me and said, “You don’t think I remember you, do you?” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at until we drove through one of the local neighborhoods and some of the younger kids who were playing all jumped on the ground when they saw the driver’s ed car and hollered, “Driver’s ed…hit the dirt!” The instructor looked over at me and said, “Remember when one of those kids were you?”
I had forgotten that my buddies and I pulled that same stunt when we were much younger. Obviously, the instructor who had been around a while remembered it as well. “And another thing”, he said as he looked at me, “I know you have been driving and that you already have a car. I best not see you in it while you are taking my class or your legal driving days will be a long time in the future.” I simply gulped and nodded. I knew he wasn’t kidding and I really didn’t want to jeopardize my license, so I choose not to push the envelope while taking his class.
It wasn’t that long before I had my permit and could drive with dad once again, this time legally. My full license wasn’t long after that and I have been behind the wheel pretty much ever since. I guess there is always a lesson in about everything we do and no matter how long ago it was, “Driver’s ed, hit the dirt!” wasn’t forgotten easily.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate livin’ amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.