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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane

In a Just Shoot Me sitcom episode, Dennis Finch (played by David Spade) moonlights as a drivers ed classroom teacher whose students have been court-ordered to take his class. Spade depicts Finch as a dedicated, MV law-savvy teacher with a dark secret: He doesn't know how to drive.

This amusing take on the maxim "Those who can't, teach," reminds me of my own humiliating start in the driving arena. I was one of the very few students in my high school class to graduate without so much as a learner's permit. I hasten to add that I now actually know how to drive.

I did pursue the standard high school try-to-learn-to-drive route: I signed up for drivers ed and coaxed my parents to take me out to practice. But things didn't go well. After one aborted lesson my mom said, "From now on you'd better do this with your father. Unfortunately, my dad's lessons mostly featured my father yelling "You're killing the clutch!" To make matters even worse, the school's car was clutch-free -- unless you count what the teacher was doing with his controls.

So, can a techno-challenged person with nervous parents learn to drive while practicing on standard shift and automatic transmission cars? This person couldn't, and I soon gave up trying to learn to drive.

Fast forward four years to my senior year of college in Los Angeles, California (also known as the "What, Me Walk?" state).

Now I don't know what LA's like these days, but back when I was in college the principle governing its public buses apparently was "Let Them Take Cabs." One experience with LA's alleged transit system was all it took to persuade me to try once again to learn to drive.

This time I opted for private lessons, suspecting that my talents (or lack thereof) required a personal touch. Fortunately, things went much more smoothly the second time around. In fact, my lessons were completely uneventful except for the time my teacher accused me of being psychic.

It happened during my first attempt to navigate one of LA's infamous freeways. Suddenly I found myself exiting, in direct contravention of my teacher's order to stay the course. And just as suddenly I found myself parked in the middle of the exit ramp.

As you can imagine, my instructor wasn't pleased. But when I announced the car wouldn't budge, he stopped yelling long enough to check out the car. He soon discovered that the fuel gauge was faulty and the car was out of gas. "How did you know," he asked, as he left me stranded mid-ramp to trudge off in search of a service station.

I don't know what possessed me to get off the freeway at precisely the right moment. Nor do I know how I managed to pass my California driver's test the first time after only eight lessons. Trust me -- that says a lot more about California's standards than it does about my driving skills.

You may be wondering why someone with my checkered history would write car humor. Perhaps it's because my life often feels like a sitcom. And because I'm almost always Driven Mad.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
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