Thursday, January 12, 2017

the impact of driving lessons on my life

In the 40 Days til I turned 40 I wrote letters every day to someone who made an impact in my life.  One of the letters I wrote was to my Driving Instructor having taking their course in Apple Valley, California when I was 15.  I believe that sometimes we do not stop and think about the people who have helped us become who we are and this is one person that has made an impact on my life!  The reality is that I utilize this training nearly every single day and I shouldn't have waited this long to write a letter to say thanks.  I don't have his address nor do I remember his name and I don't think I have any paperwork to even try to locate him, but I still did the exercise of saying Thank YOU and listening to my heart and mind as to why I am appreciative of his efforts in my life and why he will always be listed in my Circle of Influence, and I wrote the letter anyways.

You see, my Driving Instructor was a man, whom my Mother didn't like that I would be alone in the car with, for no reason then simply as she told him, she never lets her daughters go anywhere alone with men.  He told her basically that lady, no family members are allowed in the car with the student.  She can be with me or she can not do the course, those are the options as at this time, we do not have any female instructors. He explained that this was so that they could do concentrated training and not have input from other drivers who would potentially create conflict in verbal instruction or make the driver more nervous.  My Mother had no choice but to either abide by their policies or not let me get my Drivers Education to obtain my Drivers Permit.

My Driving Instructor was a guy who had a very matter of fact method in pointing out the reasons behind his instructions, clear in explaining the why behind how things needed to be done the way he had me do them, and the goal in learning to drive.  We got along very well.  He didn't praise me much, but he was thorough in critiquing my work.  Many of his examples and illustrations I remember to this day, because he made such an impact in my life.

One of them was that when you are entering the freeway through the on-ramp, the goal is that by the time you are ready to merge with traffic, you are going the speed of the highway, whatever that is. He made it clear that you needed to be looking over your left shoulder to the half of mile before the on-ramp to judge the speed of cars coming and be assessing the half of mile ahead of the on-ramp to see if there were brake lights.  He said the laws are clear that the person in the slow lane is supposed to let you in, even if they do not want to, they are supposed to.  He went on to say, but you will make them mad if they have to brake because you aren't at the speed you need to be at the point you merge.  This is your responsibility to keep the flow of traffic moving.  He stated most on-ramps have enough space for you to get close enough to the speed you need to be if you do it right.  It made sense to me and he made me practice it over and over and over.  However, if you evaluate most peoples driving patterns, they act scared to get on the freeway.  They are timid in merging.  They do not maximize the on-ramp and are slow at increasing their speed from the service road onto the on-ramp and then onto the freeway.  They do not approach this with this framework I was taught.  The truth is, they may never have had a Driving Instructor who gave them this instruction and may not be aware of what they are doing that could make their driving experience better.

Another lesson this Driving Instructor gave me was that if you people are passing you on the right when you are in the fast lane because you are not going fast enough for them, move over to a slower right hand lane.  He made it very clear that the law is "slower traffic keep right" and that it doesn't read, "slower traffic keep right unless you are going the speed limit".  He stressed being aware of the cars behind you at all times, not just the ones in front of you.

The rub came one day when I had a substitute Driving Instructor. I was going the speed limit in the fast lane and people were passing me, so I put my blinker on to move to a slower right hand lane. He tore into me and told me that I had every right to stay right where I was because I was going the speed limit and that if they wanted to exceed the speed limit, then they could go around me.  The fact of the matter is nobody drove the speed limit in that area of town and I was creating a hazard on the road as car after car passed me on the right.  It made me nervous and uncomfortable. I felt condemned for my choices to follow my regular Driving Instructors instructions. I was frustrated that I was making people angry at me and they were giving me dirty looks as they drove by.  But I had to sit in the fast lane and deal with it to not make my substitute Driving Instructor more upset.

But I learned a valuable lesson that day.

What if the substitute Driving Instructor had been my instructor the whole time I had taken this Drivers Education Course?  What if I hadn't had the training from this incredible man who not only explained the laws but gave me practical advice to keep peace on the roadways and to be a more kind and courteous driver?

As I drive today, many times I can get frustrated when the person in front of me isn't approaching the freeway on-ramp at a speed that is reasonable.  I have to remind myself: One, they may not have had the training I had.  Two, their are zoning out when they are driving and not intentionally engaged.  Three, they don't care.  Whatever reason it is, one of these or another, I have to consciously choose to give grace.  Being frustrated won't help one of us.

I made a lasting impression on my Driving Instructor.  One of the things my parents had requested that he give me in training was how to pull out of a tail spin if you were on a dirt road and about to loose control of the car.  They stated this is something they wanted me to know how to do.  He agreed to provide that training after all the rest of the training had been completed.  So the last day we had a lesson, with about 15 minutes left to our time, we hit a back road to get this training in. He told me to drive as fast as I could so we could get this in as he couldn't be late to his next appointment.  I tore off down the road, obviously exceeding the speed limit.  He looked over at me and said wow, you took me literally when I said drive fast and get me to a dirt road ASAP.  He said, don't look but how fast are you going?  I said, as fast as my Mom drives this road.  He said how do you know that? I said because I can tell by how fast the tumbleweeds are passing the car as we drive by!  He laughed and laughed and laughed.

We all have a chance to make an impact in sharing life lessons and to better someone else's life. It is a choice to provide instruction beyond the laws so that someone can be equipped to make decisions that help them live a better life.  Who will you impact today?
#TheSassyVoice #LifeLessons #CircleOfInfluence #BeDifferent #40DaysTil40 #40Letters40Days