A few weeks ago, a cop pulled me over for turning right on red. You are inevitably asking, “But aren’t you allowed to do that?” And yes, ladies and gentlemen, you can turn right on red – unless there is a sign on the stoplight saying, “Don’t do it.”
Honestly, the cop must have thought I was drunk. It was 11 PM at night. I prayed he would just let me off with a warning, but as each minute ticked by in my car, I was like, Crap, I am going to get a ticket for committing a crime I didn’t even know I committed. Where is the fun in that?
When the cop returned to my window – a sweet 20 minutes later – he told me he didn’t think the ticket would cost much and suggested I ask the judge for driving school if I didn’t pay the ticket.
Me: Or you could give me a warning.
Anyhow, I am type A and decided I did not want to wait a month and a half to find out whether I indeed could go to driving school instead, so I signed myself up for an evening driving improvement clinic. Worst case scenario, I got some of my driving points back.
So two weeks later, I am in a parking lot about to go into driving school and wondering who is going to be in this class. I took the class in Mechanicsville, VA, which I mean, just look at the name. Mechanics-ville.
Beside me, a tattooed man with gauges emerged from a work van. From the van’s logo, it was clear he was a cable installer.
Inside I found a mom and son (by son, he was still my age), a juvenile whose mother asked loud enough for the entire suite to hear if she needed to sign anything for her son (I would have been so embarrassed at his age, poor thing!), a construction worker father (I guessed he was a construction worker the first night and confirmed on the second; one point for Cazey), and a handful of other older men. Oh, and two high schoolers who would end up joking about road head. I sat with them in the back.
The room was the size of Harry’s closet under the stairwell and meant to seat 14 people. Plastered to the walls were various posters that just screamed DRIVING IMPROVEMENT CLINIC:
Your car can kill.
And you don’t buckle up because?
Yes, even if you see more cows than cops, you can still get a ticket.
Three seconds is all it takes for one crash.
Well, I thought a crash only took one second. I guess I can send shorter texts from behind the wheel.
I planned on saying minimal during this class; I did not expect to meet anyone worth retaining in my social circle, and if I did, I might as well present myself as the ~*mysterious*~ stranger.
Meanwhile, the mom in the room asked, “Is this the course you have to take if you get a DUI?”
I certainly hope not because I turned right on red, and I don’t think we’re in the same circle of hell.
Finally, the instructor walked in, a Chatty Kathy here to break the ice.
Kathy: “Let’s go around the room, introduce ourselves, and say why we’re here.”
What is this, The Breakfast Club? Or worse, Catholic confession?
The room consisted of seven speeders, two rear-enders (“following too close” as the cops like to say), one rolling stop, and another right on red (“failure to obey highway sign”).
Wait, me too.
Except this felon adds, “I thought I had enough room to turn, but I side-swiped the other car.”
Um, that’s a bit different than just turning right on red.
Everyone in the class had been court-ordered or requested to attend (nicely) by the DMV. Except me. No, folks, I volunteered as tribute. God rest my soul.
JK, another man arrived late, and so we got to hear his story. First he says, “I’m back. Do you remember me, Kathy?”
Me: Did he fail this class???
Apparently, this dude had a bazillion speeding tickets and wanted his points back. “I’ll be back in two more years,” he grinned. Another volunteer like myself. Two peas in a pod.
Class hadn’t started yet, so I amused myself by Snapchatting the classroom walls to my friends. My friend responded with a video. I thought my phone was on silent, but suddenly the room filled with snorting laughter. People turned.
The class consisted of 30-minute monologue from Kathy followed by watching an hour and a half of video interspersed with dialogue that, by law, needed to be extended to fill eight hours. We also had a workbook we could fill out; Kathy didn’t care. The video posed vital questions about our safety like, “Why should we wear seat belts?” The workbook asked, “Do most drivers a.) overestimate, b.) underestimate, or c.) accurately estimate the actual level of risk involved in driving?”
Does this book a.) overestimate, b.) underestimate, or c.) accurately estimate my intelligence at answering that question?
Memorable quotes from the video: A man asking, “So what’s the big deal if I blow through a stop sign every once in a while?”
Memorable quotes from Kathy: She called it “the Youtube.”
One of our longer discussions involved which way do you run if your car stalls on the train tracks. The answer should be Whatever way I feel like running. But no, it’s “to the southwest of your car door (assuming your car is facing north) and northwest if not.”
The class might have concluded in six hours if we didn’t have one of the high schoolers commentating on every discussion points. Seriously, without raising his hand (like, dude, you’re still in grade school), Kathy would say something, and the teeanger would insert, “Especially in my town” or “The cops pulled me over this one time for doing the exact same thing except…” (it’s obviously not the “exact same thing” if there’s an except in there).
Our class also veered off (get it?) into cultural issues like, “Is it legal here to eat your road kill?” And we should all carry guns in case someone is following us – tattooed cable installer guy with gauges said that. And the son (whose mother was in the room) brought up “feminists who still want you to open the door for them.”
Kathy referenced The Andy Griffith Show. She also said, “I know this is off-topic, but I read that Miley Cyrus wants a sex change.” I also got to hear several men catcall the woman in the video checking her tire pressure.
And we’re about to end for the night when the high school chatterbox goes, “I saw a tractor trailer last week, and it was…and then…until…”
The most heartwarming conversation we had involved organ donation. Kathy told us we should let our loved ones know our decision before we part this world. I then got to watch Mom and Son convey their decisions to each other plus some.
Son: “I want to be cremated.”
The class concluded with a 50-question test. Kathy told us none of us could fail; she would give us the answers. But first we had to try.
But, Kathy, 50 questions?!
“You will get a child, but first, try giving birth.”
I think the real nightmare will be if I go to court and they say I have to take this class again.
On my way out of the class, certificate of completion in my passenger seat, I watched the loudmouth high schooler rev the engine of his Mustang (yes, why does he have a Mustang?) with flames painted on his bumper – and speed down the 25 mph street obviously not at 25 mph. I caught up with him at the stoplight. He was texting – and he continued to text as he turned on green.