My most recent driver’s lesson
It had been ages since my last driver’s lesson and I have to admit I was kind of excited to get behind the wheel and see Alpas, my driving instructor, again. I showed up early and waited outside of the Donlands subway station for him. Just across from the Toronto East General Withdrawal Management Centre, a teenage couple sat out at a patio. The boy wore a Raptors cap and had a gentle face, and the girl, dressed for a provocative summer, had a flirtatious mane of hair that was designed for tossing. Holding her iPhone, the boy said, “No, I’m not going to go and look at naked photos of you.” She just stared at him, as if he was weak and pitiful. I walked on by, taking up residence at a picnic table where I waited for my instructor.
In short order he showed up, letting another student out of the car and then waving me in.
Me: Alpas, good to see you! You’re looking well, that’s a spiffy Dashoko you’re wearing!
Alpas: You mean Dashiki, but thank you, my wife bought it for me.
Me: Sorry, Dashiko.
Me: Yes, well it’s way better than that last thing you were wearing, that was ratty. How many wives do you have, anyway? Is it one of those situations where one wife has really good taste in Dashoks and the other doesn’t have a clue?
Alpas: I only have one wife, Michael, just like you. We should start with our lesson now. I will need you to concentrate if you are to improve.
Me: I am focused.
Alpas: Please start. Pull out into the street slowly, remembering to check your rear view mirror and signal.
Alpas: Remember to watch for other cars.
Me: Rachelle and I just got back from Cuba, they’ve got some crazy, beautiful cars there.
Alpas: You are approaching a stop sign, cover your brake.
Me: Yes, sir!
Alpas: It is an All Stop. Do you remember what that means?
Me: All Stop. That sounds like your name, Alpas.
Alpas: No it doesn’t.
Me: Yes it does,
Alpas: Why, because they both start with A?
Me: No, because they both start with AL.
Alpas: Sometimes you are very much like a child, and there is a reason why children are not allowed to drive. They cannot concentrate, that is the reason.
Me: I see.
Alpas: The student I had before you, she has failed the test four times. She cannot concentrate.
Me: So you’re saying I’m like that other student.
Me: Maybe she’s failed four times because you’re a lousy teacher, have you thought of that?
Alpas: (Sigh) Please watch the speed limit. You are going a little fast.
At this point I glanced down at the speedometer to see how fast I was going and when I looked up a squirrel was darting across the street in front of me. He stood up on his hind legs and stared into my eyes, into my soul.
Me: Sweet Jesus, it’s a squirrel!
There was a little thud.
Alpas: Michael, there are many squirrels in Toronto, do not worry about them. They had a bountiful winter and now some are called home to be with their ancestors. God has a plan for all of us.
And then he put his hand on my shoulder and I knew that our fight was over. Things were different, and I knew that from this point forth things would always be different.