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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.

Just Can’t Put Your Finger On It

, , , , , , | Learning | May 11, 2022

When I was in sixth grade, I played the flute in band. We didn’t have lockers at the school, but the band room did have cubbies, so we’d usually leave our instruments in our cubbies and get them after school so it was one less thing to cart around.

One day, a friend and I stayed after for a club and we stopped in the band room on the way out to get our instruments. We ended up running into another friend and started a conversation. Then, he got a message that his mom was waiting outside.

Friend: “Hey, [My Name], my mom’s outside. We gotta go.”

Me: “Okay, just let me get my flute.”

I went back to my cubby and my flute was missing.

Me: “Hey, [Friend], have you seen my flute?”

Friend: “…[My Name]?”

Me: “No, seriously, we’ve got to find my flute.” *Starting to panic* “Oh, my God, if it got stolen… It’s not even mine yet!”

Friend: “[My Name].”

Me: “Crap. Where’s my flute? Where’s [Teacher]?”

Friend: “[My Name].”

Me: “No, I’m serious! My parents are still paying this off! It’s not my flute yet! If it got stolen, I’m—”

Friend: *Grabbing my arm* “[My Name]!”

Me: “What?”

Friend: *Lifts my hand* “Is this what you were looking for?”

Yes, I had in fact been holding my flute the entire time. Both my friends were laughing at me; I kind of started to laugh at it, too.

Friend: “I was surprised it took you so long. You looked right at it like five times.”

Me: “Let’s just go. Never tell anyone about this.”

Of course, being the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds that we were, it kind of became a running joke for him to remind me to make sure I had my flute.

All These Assumptions

, , , , | Related | April 26, 2022

I am in late middle school or early high school. A (female) friend of mine invites me (also female) to her house one day for a gaming hangout; between my figure and my clothing and hairstyle choices at the time, I’m the first to admit that I look very androgynous, but my voice is very obviously female.

When we get to her place, her father comes up to us in the entryway. As soon as he sets his eyes on me, he immediately and loudly yells my friend’s full name in the you-f***ed-up tone that parents tend to use.

Friend: “Dad, you and Mom already said I could invite a friend over!”

Her Dad: “You should know better than to lie to me to get your dates in the house, missy! I’ve told you several times that you are not to bring boys home!”

Me: “I’m a girl.”

Her Dad: “Oh, uh…”

Friend: “And it’s kind of rude of you to assume that me bringing a boy home automatically means he’s my date or vice versa!”

Her Dad: “What the h*** is the ‘vice versa’ in that situation?”

Friend: “If I did bring a date home, what makes you so sure that it would be a boy?”

Her father gets very red in the face but retreats into the kitchen. One afternoon of gaming later, I’m preparing to leave when her mother gets home, and the three of us end up meeting in the entryway where — surprise, surprise — she ends up thinking I’m a guy, too.

Her Mom: “Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.”

Me: “Hey, at least you didn’t blow up at [Friend] for bringing a guy home, thinking he was a date.”

Her Mom: “I… What?”

Friend: “Yeah, Dad started yelling at me all angry. ‘I told you not to bring dates home! Why did you lie to me to bring a boy here?!’”

Her Mom: “Did he, now?”

You know that tone someone uses when they’re angry, but they’re not angry at YOU? Her mother bid me a good day, asked [Friend] where her dad was, and warned me not to forget my jacket when I was halfway out the door without it, all in THAT tone.

The next school day, my friend told me that her father’s “you are not allowed to bring boys home” rule turned out to NOT be a collective decision that her mom was involved with, and her father had spent the weekend on the couch.

For what it’s worth, my friend and I both eventually realized we were bi, though we’ve never dated.

He Needs An Injection Of Brain Cells

, , , , , , | Healthy | April 14, 2022

My friend is a bit of a moron. He’s not a bad person, and he’s not an anti-vaxxer, but he legitimately didn’t seem to think that getting vaccinated was important until all his coworkers started getting sick with the latest variant of a particular contagious illness.

As soon as the third coworker where he works caught [illness], [Coworker] scheduled an appointment to get vaccinated, but he could only find one three and a half weeks out.

Sadly, he tested positive himself four days before the appointment. This absolute moron of a man decided to go and get vaccinated while currently sick with the illness, despite my efforts to convince him to wait, because, and I quote:

Friend: “I ain’t waiting another three and a half weeks. I’m ready to do it now, and I’m gonna get ‘er done.”

He was in the emergency room the next day; the vaccine had made his symptoms worse. He spent two weeks in the hospital.

About two weeks after that, he tested negative for the illness. He’d been testing every two or three days. He told me:

Friend: “Oh, good thing. I got my second dose of the vaccine yesterday.”

Cat Is To Human As Wand Is To Wizard

, , , , , | Friendly | April 12, 2022

A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend had this foster cat who needed a place. He was an old boy who was unlikely to get a real new home without a favour being called in. He was an orange floof called Goldie who was around eleven or so, and he gave me a special year before the rainbow bridge called him.

After two or three months of missing him, I went to my local SPCA to just sit in the cat room and have cat-love around me. They were running a “meet your Valentine” event, so I expected few cats and a busy time. There were quite a few kittens. The adult cat room seemed far emptier than usual but still comforting.

I went with a friend to make sure I didn’t get too caught up in the cuteness so that any decision I made would have someone not tempered by lost-cat feels. We sat, we pet, we played, and I felt better.

Then, a fuzzy monster snuck out from where he’d been watching and came to savage the toy I offered. He played for a few minutes before exhausting himself. I expected him to run back to his hiding place now that he’d defeated his foe, but he didn’t.

Quickly, he scrambled up the couch, and in a fine move of fluid cattidity, he wedged himself between me and the cushions where he promptly fell asleep. Startled, I looked at my friend.

Friend: “You weren’t aiming to get a cat today, right?”

Me: “No.”

We both looked at the sleeping cat.

One of the staff members walked by.

Staff Member: “Awww! That’s adorable. He hasn’t done that with anyone else. He has been playing with people, but no one’s really been allowed to touch him.”

No prizes for guessing who is sleeping nearby as I write this ten years later. How could I not? He just knew he had the right human. Even now, his favourite place to sleep is right near me, as close as he can.