I’m finishing my introduction to the driving exam as Matt tips his head back and polishes off a tall can of energy drink. During our last lesson Matt revealed that he has ADD, but it doesn’t seem to affect his concentration much when driving. In between sips of corrosive 7-11 coffee I lay out the ground rules: I’m only giving directions, not guidance, and I’m only stepping in if needed for safety’s sake.
We pull out of the parking lot and start driving down a main road. When I instruct my student to go left at the next light, he begins to drift into the turn lane. A minivan swinging through the intersection cuts the turn too hard and starts coming straight at us. Matt laughs and says, “Wrong lane buddy” before hitting his brake. The challenger spots our car and swerves out into the travel lane. It’s a fairly close call but Matt handles it perfectly.
We roll through the intersection and enter a busy four-lane road. Approaching a solid green light, I instruct Matt to turn left when it’s safe. Since the light is solid, and not a green arrow, we need to yield. Matt hits the brakes and we begin slowing. Without warning he suddenly decides to go for it. What the hell? We’re in the middle of the intersection before I can react. Two cars bear down on us from the other direction. One, a mid-sized sedan, lurches to a halt. The second, a huge black SUV with its grill at head level, actually speeds up. The truck is incredibly close and my stomach falls away. I’m certain we’re dead. In rapid succession I scream “Go, go,go,go,go!!! Matt slams on the gas. Our heads snap back and we rocket into a dead-end road.
Matt pulls to the curb and we sit silently for a moment. My heart’s pounding and my head feels fuzzy. I picture medics dragging my body out of the car with the Dodge Ram insignia pressed into my forehead. The truck looked just like the one Matt’s mom was driving when she dropped him off; I’m tempted to ask him if this is her idea of a joke.
The pounding slows and my head starts to clear. I chuckle and look over at my student, our eyes meeting. I know he’s as shaken as I am, and his sheepish look says he’s probably expecting me to shout at him. But I never yell at kids. That’s for hard guys with mustaches and muscle tees.
“You might want to give yourself a bit more room there,” I say calmly.
Matt exhales and shakes his head. “Man,” he says, “you’ve got nerves of steel.”
“Well," I reply, "you should see my pants. But think of it this way -- you’ll never forget to yield on a solid green again. I can guarantee that.”