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Way More Fun Than Watching “Red Asphalt”

, , , , , , , , | Related | May 17, 2022

Most people’s first experiences with learning to drive involve an instructor and paid lessons. To fully complete your learner’s Log Book, when I was learning to drive, it was mandatory to have a certain number of hours spent with an official driving instructor and they encouraged you by having those hours count for double — one hour with an instructor became two on paper.

My brother and I, along with two of our extended family friend’s kids had a very different introduction to driver’s education. My parents own forty acres of rural Australian property — bushland, lots of trees, and paddocks. Dad had created a dirt bike track several years prior for us to ride our motorbikes on, and with a little tweaking, he turned it into a decent track a car could run on. It was all dirt and grass winding through trees, zigzagging across the paddocks, and joining into the near-half-kilometer long driveway.

Dad’s old Nimbus was to become our chariot of learning, and I’ll let you know right now that that thing was a beast. It took all the abuse that a young, inexperienced driver can inflict on a car and more. My brother even managed to flip the thing once on accident, and besides a dent in the roof (easily panel-beaten back to normal), the car was unaffected by the ordeal.

Our dad (and our friend’s dad when visiting) were our unofficial instructors, and under their tutorage, we learnt the basic fundamentals of car operation and maintenance.

One day, about two and a half years into this expedition of discovery, our dads decided to give us each a whirl at a “test conditions” run around the track. This was very exciting and a little daunting to us older kids because our real learner’s tests were looming close. They organised amongst themselves a checklist of sorts for what we needed to accomplish during the “test”: reversing, turn signals, parking, and a few other things they set up the course to accommodate.

And because we are Aussies and it was private property, beer was also involved. Not for us kids, of course — oh, no, that would have been a trainwreck of bad decisions! No, our friend’s dad decided to hold a freshly opened bottle of beer for each of our runs and implemented an additional ruling of “if you spill too much beer, you fail.” I’m pretty sure it was to drill into us that how we drive is just as important as following the general rules of the road… or something similar. Looking back, I realise that this strange addition actually added a thin layer of anxiety to the “test” and made us more aware of how our driving affected passengers’ comfort and wellbeing, making it feel a touch more realistic.

I don’t recall the order we went in, but I do remember that the youngest family friend’s kid went last. Let’s call him Callum.

The first three runs went quite well; no trees or safety-cone “people” were struck, and aside from a few minor mistakes with parking and forgetting a turn signal here and there, we were racking up a nice string of “passed” results. We were all in the car for each person’s run (to create a realistic, mildly distracting environment for our years ahead as young drivers) so we were all witness to one another’s successes and failings. Then, it was Callum’s turn.

Callum’s overall run was good, as well, although he did manage to hit a stump at one point that was previously hidden off to the side of the track while taking a turn too wide. Aside from that, he was going great! Soon, the final straight stretch and hairpin turn to the finish line were in sight: we were all going to pass!

But this story wouldn’t be here if everything went as planned.

Instead of slowing down in preparation for the hairpin turn, Callum hit the accelerator. We hurtled into the corner at speed, and in a panic-induced state of decision making, Callum ripped the handbrake in an attempt to slow down, which put the car into a powerslide of epic proportions.

On the outside edge of this turn was a tree. A big tree. This tree was of the weeping willow variety with many long, dangling, whip-like branches with slender leaves dripping down in a beautiful green cascade. As the handbrake was pulled and inertia entered the equation, we were all thrown to the left of the car. Callum’s dad’s window was down and, thanks to the seatbelt, only a small portion of this body was now outside of the car. However, that portion was home to, arguably, one of the most important features of a human being: the face.

Callum was screaming, I was screaming, my little brother was cheering with his hands in the air like a deranged roller coaster rider, Callum’s older brother was being crushed into the door by our combined weight and didn’t have enough air in his lungs to join our crescendo of noise, Callum’s dad’s face is being kickboxed into oblivion by the aforementioned whip-like branches… and the beer is flying in all directions, coating everyone in a thin veneer of foam and yeasty goodness.

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!

After what felt like an eternity, the car came to a shuddering halt and we all peeled ourselves off the door and off each other. Callum’s dad’s head was now back inside the vehicle, peppered with an impressive collection of shallow cuts, blood, and beer, and his majestic mullet was chock a block full of leaves. He was also still holding the, now empty, bottle of beer in a white-knuckled death grip, and that’s an achievement I’m still in awe of!

A couple of seconds of silence permeated the tension-filled interior of the chariot of learning, none of us daring to break it first. Callum’s dad wiped a hand down his face, hissing as the cuts were touched and more beer was introduced to the wounds. He took a deep breath, and in a soft voice, he addressed us kids in the back seat:

“Would you kids step out of the car for a moment? Callum and I need to have a chat.”

We f****** legged it! No need to tell us twice. We. Were. Outta. There!

About 100 or 150 metres away was the verandah where our mums and Callum’s sister were seated with shock etched across their faces at the spectacle they had just witnessed. We had barely reached the concrete when a gods-awful bellowing came from the car, echoing off into all corners of the property and probably sending more than a few birds winging away in fright. Callum was banned from driving for the rest of their week’s stay with us and no more mention of home “tests” was made again. Ever.

Callum is an amazing driver now and doesn’t even have a speeding ticket on record to my knowledge, but that day and our early years of driving on the track will never be forgotten. It was even a story told at his father’s funeral a few years ago and is now a funny memory we can all share and cherish involving the man.

Notes:

  • Everything that occurred during this and all other driving sessions at the property was in full compliance with Australian laws.
  • No minors, drivers, or fatherly instructors were under the influence of alcohol at any given time while the car was running.
  • Despite the ordeal, none of us were traumatised or otherwise harmed, and the injuries sustained by Callum’s dad were minor: head wounds just tend to bleed a lot because of how shallow the skin is.
  • No-one unlicensed to operate a vehicle ever drove on any actual roads outside the property line or endangered another driver in any way.
  • Please don’t attempt to recreate any of these events, and always follow the rules of the road and laws pertaining to your country when it comes to driving and underage individuals. 
  • And, finally, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this story, and if you’re just learning to drive, please don’t use the handbrake for cornering, especially on dirt, as it is very dangerous and serious accidents can occur.

Making Assumptions Can Be Taxing

, , , , , , | Related | May 3, 2022

I am driving with my sister and the song “Neighbors” by J. Cole is on. 

Sister: “Okay, I really relate to this song right now.”

Me: “What are you talking about?”

Sister: “I think the neighbor’s son is selling weed.”

Me: “Why do you think this?”

Sister: “Because ever since he moved back, there has been a ton of cars driving up to their house, staying for like five minutes, and then leaving.”

Me: “You are so stupid right now.”

Sister: “Why?”

Me: “One, he hasn’t moved back in; he’s just helping out his mom at work. And two, it’s tax season, you idiot! All those people are dropping off their tax stuff because she’s a preparer!”

Sister: “How was I supposed to know?”

Me: “She’s been doing our family’s taxes for years!”

I Don’t Work Here… Unless You’ve Got Cash

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: jake-baked-a-cake | May 3, 2022

My girlfriend and I, both in our early twenties, met online, and over the week of the Fourth of July, I go to visit her in California.

We’ve planned a mall date for one day. I’m sitting at the doorstep of the hotel I’m staying in, waiting for my girlfriend to come to pick me up; she is still living in her mom’s apartment, so staying with her is a huge no-no. I’m sitting there, scrolling on my phone, when all of a sudden this older lady pulls up in her SUV, leaves it there — not in a parking spot — and goes inside, presumably to check in. I shrug it off and go back to my phone.

A few minutes later, the lady walks back out.

Lady: “Excuse me, could you be a dear and park my car for me?”

I don’t know if she thinks I’m a valet guy or whatever, but I am the only other person there, so she can’t be talking to anyone else. I figure I don’t have anything better to do while I wait for my girlfriend, so I say:

Me: “Sure, I can do that. That spot over there okay?”

I point to the nearest available parking spot. She hands me her keys.

Lady: “As long as my car’s nice and parked it’s fine by me.”

I get in her car and take it right to that spot without an issue. By the time I get out of the car, my girlfriend has pulled up, most likely wondering why the h*** her boyfriend is getting out of someone else’s car. I give my girlfriend a little wave, walk over to the lady, and hand her keys back over. As I do, she hands me a $20 bill.

Lady: “Thank you for your help!”

Me: “You don’t have to do that!”

Lady: “You didn’t have to park my car, either, but you did so anyway. I insist.”

Me: “Okay. Thank you!”

And then, I step into my girlfriend’s car.

Girlfriend: “What just happened?”

Me: “I’m not quite sure.”

I explained the whole thing to her while we were at the mall later on and we had a good laugh about it.

Road Rage Can Lead To Road Wrecks

, , , , | Legal | May 1, 2022

I’m driving on a two-lane highway — one lane going in each direction. It’s a beautiful day, with no bad weather or other dangerous driving conditions. I get stuck behind a car going about twenty miles per hour UNDER the speed limit, and because of the curves and hills in the road and oncoming traffic in the other lane, I can’t get around them for a while. Soon, there are several cars lined up behind me, all following this slow-moving car.

We finally get to a straight stretch that doesn’t have any oncoming traffic, and I look in the rearview mirror and over my shoulder. There are no other cars coming to pass me, so I pull out into the other lane and speed up to get around the slow-moving car. As I pull into the other lane, another glance in the rearview mirror shows a giant SUV coming up WAY too fast behind me — so fast that he can’t slow in time to stop from rear-ending me before I can get back into my own lane.

I manage to keep control of my car, and when it’s safe to do so, I pull over to the shoulder, stop, and pull my phone out to call the police. The giant SUV stops in front of me, along with a few other cars who I assume witnessed the incident and want to make sure everything is okay. As I’m calling the police, I watch the driver of the SUV get out and start walking toward me with a clear road-rage attitude. I keep my doors locked and my windows up, and I ignore the SUV driver’s shouts and gestures while I’m on the phone with the police and then my insurance agent.

A few other people convince the SUV driver to get back in his SUV, and a state patrol car and local sheriff’s deputy car arrive. The SUV driver sees them and immediately gets out of his car to talk to them. I choose to wait until the officers approach my car before trying to get out or say anything.

Finally, one of the officers comes over, so I roll the window down and acknowledge him and then get out of my car. Both my insurance agent and the SUV driver’s insurance agent have also arrived by now, and they have joined the group after their initial inspections of both my car and the SUV. The police officers tell the witnesses that they can leave unless they want to give an official statement, and then they pull me, the SUV driver, and both insurance agents together for the “official” discussion of what happened.

I let the SUV driver go first, and of course, he rants about how I must not have checked my rearview mirrors, because I pulled out right in front of him, so the whole thing must be my fault. The officers let him rant for a minute or two, and then they tell him to be quiet and let me speak.

Me: “Officers, I did look, both in the mirror and over my shoulder… and my dashcam will show that, because it shows both the interior and exterior views from the windshield. I also have a rear-facing camera on the back window, and that should show that he was nowhere near me when I pulled out to pass, but he caught up to me going way too fast. I can email you the videos from the app on my phone, or I could give you the memory cards if you prefer, as long as I get the cards back when all of this is done.”

As soon as I mentioned the words “dashcam”, the SUV driver went silent, and the color drained from his face. One of the police officers and both insurance agents watched the videos on my phone, and they all agreed that the SUV driver was driving way too fast trying to pass the entire line in one go.

When everything was said and done, the SUV driver’s agent assured me and my agent that all repairs from this incident would be covered by the SUV driver’s insurance, no questions asked. The police officers also gave the SUV driver a reckless driving ticket for trying to pass the entire line of traffic in one go but explained that they couldn’t issue a speeding ticket or any other ticket with only my videos as evidence.

Suddenly, I Have All The Time In The World

, , , , , , , | Friendly | April 28, 2022

I experienced this incident when I was younger and went grocery shopping with my mom. We were a big family, so weekly shopping easily filled a whole cart to the brim. Usually, she’d go with my dad, but this time, he couldn’t go, so I went with her to help carry all the stuff.

The shop was packed. We were lucky to even find a parking space and to top that off, it was a hot day, and none of us enjoyed having to haul all the stuff into the car. I would’ve loved to have an ice cream from the café next to the grocery store, but my mom said there wasn’t time.

While we were packing the car, this huge Mercedes appeared behind us and started honking. The guy inside then rolled down his window and started berating my mom because she wasn’t fast enough for his taste. 

We finally got in the car and my mom started to slowly reverse out of the parking spot when we heard the guy call out of his open window again.

Guy: “Can you go any slower? Geez, women shouldn’t be allowed to drive at all!”

My mom hit the brakes so hard I slammed into my seat, despite us going so slowly. She then pulled back into the spot and signaled for me to roll the window back up.

We got out, and she marched straight toward that guy and shouted in his face.

Mom: “You know what? I definitely won’t drive anywhere now! Good luck finding another spot to park!”

She then marched off and left me scrambling behind her.

I got my ice cream in the end. We both sat in the outside area of the cafe, got a nice, big ice cream each, and watched him driving in circles for quite a while until he found a spot. He gave us the stink-eye whenever he passed us.

It so happened that we just finished and left when he finally had found a spot and just rushed past us when we got up to leave.

I’ll never forget the nasty look he threw us. But he didn’t say another word to my mom, who just grinned at him in passing, since he now knew my mom wasn’t afraid to get in his face if he dared. It was epic.