Three or four years ago, I was preparing to teach my Monday night class at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Desperados on Greenville Avenue. I arrived about 45 minutes early and was retrieving something from my car when a large sedan pulled up into the space across from me. Watching the car’s bumper creep ever closer to mine, I was about to yell “Stop!” when the car came to a halt, squashing a small fly between our bumpers.
I was catching my breath, when the door of the car opened and out popped a lady whom I’d guess would be in her mid thirties. I was about to walk inside the restaurant when I heard the sound of books falling. I turned around to see that she had dropped some books that she was obviously going to carry inside.
Now being a chivalrous lad, or as I like to think, just a decent human being, I ran around the car and bent down to retrieve her books. As I stood up, I noticed that she was removing something else from the car: a cane. It was one of those three-pronged canes that usually the elderly or stroke victims use instead of walkers. A three-pronged cane covers a wider area than a regular cane, allowing the user to put more weight on it and with three prongs instead of one, the user won’t be as likely to slip.
“Here, let me carry these books for you,” I told her.
“Thank you,” she replied. I expected a bit more appreciation in her thank you, but I always try to put myself in their situation. She was several years younger than I was and was already confined to using a cane. I’m not exactly sure how I would’ve reacted at that age if something debilitating like whatever was afflicting her had happened to me. I’d probably be a bit of an old fusspot, too, so I let it go.
I held the door open for the lady. Another so-so thank you. When we got inside, she asked me where the defensive driving class was.
“You’re in luck,” I told her. “I’m the defensive driving instructor.”
“Well, I’ll follow you then,” she said back, exceedingly under-whelmed that she was talking to an A-1 bona-fidee defensive driving instructor. I could’ve just as easily said that I was the guy who put the cheese on the nachos.
Now, usually when I get people whose dispositions or attitudes are a bit morose, I either tend to talk to them in their own voice, sort of like Jack Webb from Dragnet (for you older people), or I’ll go completely over the top and annoy them with this “Isn’t the world great!” happy sunshine, very annoying voice.
“Follow me,” I told her, having decided to use the happy sunshine voice.
I lead the way through the restaurant to the hallway that leads to the restrooms and to our room.
“Right this way,” I said, my hand extended, doing my best French maitre d’ impersonation, which was a tad embarrassing, because when I turned around, she was nowhere to be seen and I was left looking like an idiot in front of everyone sitting at the bar. I’m pretty sure that I was the first person that they’d seen that day doing a French maitre d’ impersonation to no one.
I retraced my steps and found that the woman had turned down a corridor.
“Hello,” I said. “Back this way.”
The lady made her way back to me and put her hand on my shoulder. “I’ll follow you then,” she told me.
As we began to walk, I noticed that she seemed to be studying the floor for some reason. And then it dawned on me. The woman wasn’t studying the floor, she was watching where she was walking: She was making sure that she wasn’t going to trip. I had a strange sensation as I lead her into the room and sat her down at one of the tables. There was a question I needed to ask her, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to ask it, so I decided to just rip the band-aid off.
“Eh…are you…eh…blind?” I asked her.
“Yes, I am,” was her only response.
“Well then…uh…um…what are you doing in a defensive driving class?”
“Oh,” she started, “I can see well enough to drive. I just can’t see up close at all.”
“I see…” I stammered back, not completely comprehending how one did that.
Usually, the first few minutes of my class are taken up with explaining the rules, and showing them the restrooms, and filling them in on breaks, and generally explaining what the student gets out of taking the class. After all of this, I go around the room and meet all of the students. I ask them their names, followed by their reason for being in the class.
Most people are in the class because of tickets, although some take it to lower insurance, while still others take it for their job, but as I said most people are in the class because they got a ticket.
When it came time for her to explain why she got a ticket, I naturally expected to hear her say “I was speeding” or “I didn’t give my turn signal” or “I didn’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign”or any number of offenses that I hear in my class…but she didn’t. When I asked how she got her ticket, she fumbled with her cane for a moment, and then said, very matter of fact, “I stopped too far out in the intersection at a red light.”
“How far?” I asked, thinking maybe she pulled a tad too far into the crosswalk.
“About twenty feet.”
Over the years, he’s gained a large following of people who seem
to get tickets just so they can take his class again and again and again.