Getting Schooled On Driving By The Book

WagsphotoBy Bob Wagner, AAP Columnist

Having successfully driven 2,800 miles on the spring trip to Florida, I am once again safely sitting on my five-gallon bucket at the garage. Getting here this morning required a drive of eight city blocks. Not far, as compared to the trek south, but equally daunting, and twice as scary.

Let me preface my commentary on Jersey driving by explaining where these thoughts spring from, and how I came to write about all this.

I let my motorcycle license expire a few years back. It costs extra to have “motorcycle” stamped on your driver’s license. Since I hadn’t had a motorcycle in many years, I simply pulled the plug and dropped the aforementioned extra from my photo I.D. I think I saved five dollars.

Now that I have a few motorbikes in the garage, I have to take the driver’s test, both written and driven, to put “motorcycle” back on my license. Simple! I paid for my permit, disdained reading the manual, and sat down at a computer to take the written test. I could barely use the computer because… it was a computer! But I persevered. And I flunked, quite miserably. I went home, tail between my legs, to read the manual. Amazing stuff in here. Stuff about safe distances between moving vehicles; and more stuff about alcohol in beer, wine, and whiskey. So much so that I threw the book into the back of my truck, and swore that I would drive by the book, for one whole day.

I left three car lengths between the car in front of me and my truck, on Rt. 130, going north to Fontano’s Auto Shop for morning coffee. Each time a car on my right saw the opening, it jumped into my gap. I hit the brakes and backed off three car lengths once again. Another car jumped in! This happened time and again, and again. By the time I had hit the brakes, adjusted, and left space properly, I found myself behind my house – where I had started – and two hours had passed. I had lunch with the bride, and tried again. Same results, except this time I backed up all the way to the city line. So I had dinner at the Pub, careful not to order any adult beverages, as I couldn’t find my calculator to figure out what 12 ounces of beer at 6.3 IPA, divided by hundreds of pounds, a 12-ounce rib eye and baked potato, plus a cup of coffee, could possibly do to my system. I still do not know.

So, I’m a dinosaur without an accident or ticket since 1968. I can successfully survive the Rt. 95 NASCAR drive to and through Florida. I took a vow years ago to never yell and scream at crazy behavior on Florida roads. When the drivers there cut across three lanes of traffic to make a right turn from the left lane, I applaud and exclaim, “Well done! Brilliant!” But until I learn to do so at home, in New Jersey, I will continue to be mildly frustrated, at best. And probably will drive my bikes with a permit forever, until I can use the computer and pass a written test.

And to the young lady at Westfield and 45th St. this morning, who sped away from the nail salon, passed me on the curb side, cut off the school bus, and turned down 44th St., all while holding her cell phone with one hand, and her upraised middle finger with her other, I say, “Well done! Brilliant!”

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