Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dennis, Pt 2

"There's more to driving than steering."
What's your trip?
"You're gonna learn to drive for real. Be in control and stay there."
Dennis in the 'Alpha' position wasn't a normal occurrence, more on that later...
Where we going?
"Camino. Where else?"
He was laughing, and still had the grin of the cat who just discovered the canary's location.
I knew that grin well.

'Camino' was shorthand for El Camino College, the local junior college we would both be attending eventually.
Camino had a large and spacious obstacle-free parking lot. I wasn't the first who learned to drive in it.

The streets were flooding up to the sidewalks on some blocks. Arriving at Camino we find the lot itself is under a layer of water, inches deep in a few places.
After showing me what to do, Dennis had me hydroplaning and spinning all over the lot.
Slamming on the brakes and winding up in a swerving skid...
Practice control, he said.
Don't tense up, Dummy!
Let the car tend where it will, hold the wheel straight, and then use the wheel to nudge it in a different direction.
Wait til the tires make contact again.
Don't force it, Dummy!
Never panic.
Don't fight it, manage it.
Loose your mind, you'll lose the car.

When we were done Dennis was laughing his ass off at me, yet sported this smug grin of a man who knew he had imparted knowledge to an idiot.

Needless to say... I learned a few things that night.
Precious things that likely saved my ass on more than one occasion since.
(Things that would have saved my sister's ass 4 years ago.)
Like Dennis, who drove like he had a Banshee on his shoulder, I tend to push my extremes a bit on the road.

He had taught me the same skills Armando had taught him, and in the same manner.
Armando: Not like other dads.
My Dad would have never taken me out in the rain, in the worst conditions to teach the extreme part of driving, encouraging reckless attempts so as to learn from them.

I don't know of any other friend's dad who did, either.

It was only later, and in some case many years later (like when I rolled my car in '94, or was doing plus 90 when a tire blew out in '99)... I would look back after a hair-raising event... and thank Dennis.


K-Rod said...

I yried that in the snow with our oldest, because of the Jeep's traction control and ABS it didn't go as I had planned.

(... pushing extremes, my most recent, blown snowmobile belt going 113mph. not to mention sinkinking a sled in 12 ft of water... or getting run over...)

Night Writer said...

We had a sad story here in the Cities last week when a 16-year-old kid had a blowout while driving across the Mendota Bridge. He panicked, thought the car would go over the side of the bridge (very unlikely since this is a newer bridge and they are designed not to let people go off the edge) and tried to jump out of the car while it was still moving - and got ran over by his own rear wheels. The kid had survived civil war and a refugee camp in his homeland and was about to graduate with honors.