Today on "Open Mic Monday" I'm hosting humorous author, Thomas Sullivan, who writes about his adventures as a driving instructor. Speaking as a mom of a 15 year old with a learner's permit--he must have the patience of a saint. Humor obviously gets him through the day and he shares that in his book, LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE.
Enjoy the brief excerpt--and scroll down to hear an audio excerpt narrated by a professional DJ as well.
Thomas Sullivan was having lunch in a suburban convenience store when he decided to start documenting his experience teaching driver education to teenagers. Yet another lesson had been canceled, so he had time on his hands. He started writing about the strange and funny world he found himself in, one populated by ancient dying cars, a shady employer, and wonderfully lighthearted kids who persevered through all the confusion. And he kept documenting the humorous episodes as they happened throughout one crazed, chaotic summer. To use a bad driving pun, Thomas started writing by accident, but the end result was the humor memoir Life In The Slow Lane.
On The Road
An Excerpt From Life In The Slow Lane
By Thomas Sullivan
Julia is doing Lesson 3 today, practicing lane changes. This is a nerve-wracker for many kids, but also one where they seem to gain confidence and express satisfaction by the end of the hour. We roll out of the parking lot and cruise past the golf course, heading for a main road to practice our maneuvers. I look over at the fairway and watch a rotund guy in ridiculously bright clothes shank a drive. The ball flies to the side, violently entering a patch of woods. I've been waiting for one of these jokers to hit my car during a lesson, but it's yet to happen.
Julia swings onto a main road heading towards the center of Beaverton.
“Okay,” I say, “Let’s get into the right lane when it’s safe.”
Julia checks the rearview mirror, looks over her shoulder, and signals. She drifts cleanly into the lane.
“Well, well,” I say, “Looks like someone’s been practicing. That was perfect.”
Julia turns her head toward me, unleashes a toothy grin, and quickly returns to watching the road ahead.
We run through two more lane changes and Julia completes both with confidence. We round a corner and grind to a halt behind a nasty stream of cars. I sigh. The traffic is fully stopped, with tired commuters waiting to enter the freeway a half-mile up ahead. I forgot to keep an eye on the time of day, and we're paying the price for this oversight.
We bail out of traffic and head down a side street to practice a three-point turn-around. I haven't been down this particular road yet and am still learning my way around this confusing suburb filled with cul-de-sacs and dead ends. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get us back to the school once we’ve abandoned the regular route, but no matter. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to ask a kid to cart me home.
I have Julia turn onto a narrow lane, which changes to dirt just out of sight of the main road. We creep towards a decomposing house with flaking paint and heavy green moss clinging to the roof. Indistinguishable metal junk lies scattered around the porch.
"Is it okay to go down here?" Julia asks nervously.
"Sure," I respond.
Actually, I'm picturing the windshield exploding under a hail of gunfire. The landscape is a chaotic mess. A door-less refrigerator stands in the yard to our left and I spot the rusty front half of a pickup in the weeds to our right. It's like I've taken my students along on a drug run.
"Okay,” I chirp, “this is perfect. Let's practice a turnaround."
Julia looks over at me with raised eyebrows.
"Are you sure?" she asks nervously. She turns her head and stares at the house, waiting for some drunken inbreed to emerge and intervene.
"Yup," I reply. "Just aim for the fridge, back up towards the half-truck, and then head back to civilization."
Julia inches toward the fridge and then stops, giving it plenty of room as if it were a bomb, which it very well could be. Somewhere behind us a metallic noise rings out, probably just a cat or a chunk of the house falling off. Julia cranks the wheel hard to the side, snaps the shifter into reverse, and backs up without looking over her shoulder, which I let slide. I want to get out of here just as much as she does.
Julia yanks her hands off the wheel and lets it whip back into position, another entirely acceptable no-no in a situation like this. She grabs the wheel with force and punches the gas. We tear across a piece of mystery junk, which bangs against the wheel-well, and then shoot down the dirt path in silence.
Julia exhales as we turn onto the paved road and travel into a residential area to change drivers. I ask her to park using the reference point on her hood to gauge distance. She proceeds to drive the front right tire up onto the curb. It's a tall one common in newer neighborhoods and we sit for a moment suspended off the ground, our bodies tilting downhill. Julia laughs, looks up at me sheepishly, and says, "Just kidding." I open my door and look down as I always do to check parking alignment.
"I'd like you to get just a bit closer to the curb," I say.
For an audio excerpt narrated by a professional DJ, click here:http://www.prx.org/p/71515
Pick up your copy of LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE at Amazon.com.
Stay connected with Thomas at his website:http://www.thomassullivanhumor.com