Abraham Driving School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

October 25, 2013
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The room didn't have a whiteboard. It was small, and recently painted blue. An old television with a convex screen dangled dangerously from the top right corner. Four folding tables were placed around the room. Three desks sat in a row to the side. The room looked more like an office than a classroom. At the middle desk sat a leathery-skinned man with permanently stooped shoulders and a bent neck. A pair of wire-rimmed glasses rested on the tip of his nose. I stood in a line of teenagers and parents who trailed out the door, all holding contracts and bank checks for the man's ­perusal. The sign on the front read Abraham Driving School.

In addition to being driving students, we all had something in common: our parents worked during the day. The morning classes at the nicer, bigger Civil Driving School were impossible for us. Abraham's was the only school with classes at night, when our parents could bring us.

Following the general laws of a typical learning environment, we all sat on one side of the tables, facing front. When the seats were filled, half the class stood self-consciously, unsure where to sit.

“What are you standing around for? You guys are ridiculous. Sit on the other side of the tables,” Abraham said. His voice had a distinct Italian accent; he sounded like a movie mafia boss.

This man was supposed to teach me how to drive.

Most of the learning didn't happen in the classroom, where we all strained our eyes and necks to see the PowerPoint presentations on the tiny TV. The real learning happened in the student driving car, with Abraham in the forever-reclined passenger seat with his dress-shoe resting on the dashboard that had a permanent orange stain.

“Look where you're going. Look at where you wanna be, and you'll get there.”

“Look right when you turn right. Look left when you turn left. How is the car supposed to know what to do if you don't look?”

“Ugh. Whiplash. Don't brake so hard.”

“I'm dead. You've killed me. Call my wife and tell her that you killed me because you didn't look both ways at an intersection.”

When he wasn't teaching or yelling, Abraham was taking calls on his cell phone. Depending on how well you were doing, he would stare at you spitefully or ignore you, talking to other prospective students. Often, we came across a Civil Driving School car. They were always newer than Abraham's decade-old, dusty blue sedan.

Abraham had hired someone else to teach us in the classroom, but during the third class, he filled in for the regular teacher. Instead of going through every slide of the PowerPoint and reading all of the information out loud, he told us stories.

“I was driving down I-75 trying to pass this big cargo truck on its right. The driver started to change lanes. He had no idea I was there. I started blasting my horn and trying to find an opening in the right lane. Don't pass big trucks on the right.”

“… This driver was oblivious. He had stopped too far past the white line at an intersection and was trying to back up. I laid on the horn and he stopped this close” – he positioned his hands about a foot apart – “to hitting me.”

He also yelled at us that day. “You have to be a defensive driver! Every single driver out there is stupid. You gotta be able to predict their stupidity and protect yourself.”

One Saturday afternoon, I was in the car with two other girls. Kayla, a short blonde with a big voice from a decade of drama classes and community theater, was driving. We were traveling through a residential area when a black minivan began backing out of a driveway, unaware of us. Abraham, in a fit of activity I had never witnessed, reached over to honk the horn.

“You gotta learn how to honk your horn!” he yelled. We were stopped at the entrance to the neighborhood, waiting to turn onto the main road.

“Honk the horn. Now.”

Kayla and the rest of us, highly aware of the car behind us – the black minivan that Abraham had honked at – were reluctant. Abraham reached over again and laid on the horn for a long, loud three seconds. His small sedan had a high-pitched beep that didn't sound threatening. Still, as Kayla drove down the road, honking the horn whenever Abraham told her, pedestrians stared at our car, confused.

“My daughter called me a few weeks ago. She said, ‘Dad, when you get that new batch of students, teach them how to honk their horn,'” Abraham began a long lecture. “She told me how she had just seen this motorcyclist almost get flattened by a SUV that was turning. The only thing that saved him was his horn. You gotta learn to use your horn.”

At the last session, I turned into the correct lanes and didn't have any run-ins with cars when making left turns. The whiplash that had occurred when I braked was almost gone. I looked both ways at intersections. Abraham turned toward me and smiled.

“I made you a driver,” he said.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the March 2014 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

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