Driving Lessons

 

Throwback Thursday – Learning to Drive

My friend, Benny, taught me to drive but it was a stranger who taught us both one of the most important things about driving.  More about that later.

Benny was the best driving instructor a girl could have.  He was 19, two years older than me, and he had his driver’s license. Better yet, he often had his father’s car. I loved that car, a deep-burgundy Chevrolet Monte Carlo with a black interior.  I’m not sure his father knew that Benny gave me driving lessons in the car, but I guess what he didn’t know didn’t hurt him.

Benny would pick me up, slide into the passenger seat and let me take the wheel.  Sitting behind the wheel of the “the Monte” as we called it always made me feel classy and special.  And, although I didn’t know anything about cars,  I knew this one ran smoothly and comfortably.

Our lessons started in my neighbourhood, a quiet, residential area with little traffic.  I was nervous at first because I could hear my mother’s voice in my head “Be careful”  or “Look out for that car!”  But Benny stayed calm and was never anything but patient and encouraging.   Slowly, he urged me to venture onto busier streets until, with time, I was comfortable driving almost anywhere.

I’d heard many stories of friends failing their driver’s test because they messed up the parallel parking part. The day before my test, Benny and I spent a whole afternoon practicing parking and the next day I passed with flying colours.

But the two of us learned an important thing about driving from a stranger when we went for a drive through downtown Montreal on a balmy Friday night in June.  Benny drove and the streets were alive with people celebrating a beautiful summer night. Coloured lights outside bars, restaurants and movie theatres lit up the night and tried to entice people to come through their doors.

We stopped at a red light when a small group of intoxicated young men began to cross in front of our car. Suddenly, one of them veered over to the driver’s side and opened the door.  With the dome light on, I could see that Benny was as startled as I was.  With a goofy smile, the young man just said “Ya really should lock your doors, man. You never know who could run into.”  Then he closed the door and ran to catch up with his friends.  Benny and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. But it’s something I never forgot and I always lock my doors!

Several Hours in the Beautiful Moment

 

A friend once told me that he loved playing hockey when he was a kid. “But I was always so mad at myself after a game because I didn’t fully appreciate just how much fun I was having while I was on the ice.”  I guess he was a precocious kid because he was already telling himself a version of what we hear so often as adults:  Be present. Be mindful. Be in the moment. 

That’s easier said than done.  But this week, thanks to a good friend, I spent several hours in the beautiful moment.

We hadn’t seen each other for almost a year when Jay and I decided to have a picnic lunch. We met at a park that was a large green space with a grassy slope that rolled gently toward a lake. There, nestled beneath a row of mature trees were two weathered-wood picnic tables that looked out onto the lake.  There was no one else around so we picked the table with the best view and settled in.

The day was hot, hazy and humid and as we sat in the shade, we welcomed the light breeze that swept gently through the trees. As it did, the leaves shimmered and danced in the dappled sunlight and made a soothing “shusshshshsh” sound.

“I love that sound,” Jay said.

“Me too! If you listen carefully, it sounds a lot like the ocean,” I replied.

So, we did. We paid attention to the wind as it gently rose and rustled the leaves, echoing the sound of a wave cresting, breaking and receding. With our eyes closed, the tropical heat and a bit of imagination, for a few seconds we were transported to the ocean.

Just then a bird chose to break into its sweet song. “I think that’s a cardinal,” said Jay.

I shook my head.  “No, I’m not sure what bird it is, but it’s not a cardinal. So again, we listened and though we couldn’t say what bird it was, we agreed that it wasn’t a cardinal.

Then she took out the picnic lunch she had made and refused to let me contribute to. We talked – and kept talking long after the sandwiches, veggies and chips were gone.  When the hard benches began to take their toll on our backs, we got up to explore our surroundings. 

Jay


We walked close to the marshland where bulrushes, reeds and cattails poked their heads up. We took photos of trees, flowers and whatever else caught our fancy.  And that’s the ONLY reason we used our phones. We didn’t constantly check them, we didn’t send or receive texts or calls and we certainly didn’t rush to post our pics on social media so everyone would know what we were up to. We just captured the beauty that caught our eye in the moment as a way of keeping it alive forever.

We were surprised when we checked the time to find that several hours had gone by.  Slowly and reluctantly, we packed up our belongings and made our way back to the cars and to reality.

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“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
– Allen Saunders

Why I’m glad I watched the Olympics

Photo by Anthony from Pexels

I had little interest in the Olympics this year. Considering what the entire world has been through in the last 18 months, I didn’t see the relevance or importance of the games. I also thought the absence of spectators would beam across the miles to our television screens and make watching a flat, dull experience. Then I realized that wasn’t important.

What’s important is that the athletes showed up and brought their best game.  COVID upped the pressure and forced them to wait an extra year, but nothing was keeping them from Tokyo in 2021. Take Canadian weightlifter Maude Charron. With gyms and training centres closed because of COVID for a long time, she trained alone in her father’s garage. To stay motivated, she plastered the walls with inspirational quotes. It paid off; she won gold in Tokyo.

The Tokyo games also saw athletes shining a light on the importance of their mental and physical health.  American gymnast, Simone Biles, withdrew from some events when the pressure affected her focus and mental health, making it dangerous for her to perform. Pamela Ware of the Canadian diving team  aborted a difficult dive and went into the water feet-first after making a mistake and realizing  she might injure herself if she tried to pull it off anyway. It cost her a chance at the medal rounds.  “I think that if I would have done the dive, I could have possibly hurt myself,” she said in an interview afterwards.

I’m glad I changed my mind and tuned in to watch the games. It was inspiring. Politics, language, flag and skin color aside, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are shared experiences for all athletes. Congratulations to all of them for showing up and giving it their all. A nod also goes out to host country, Japan, for moving forward with the games in difficult conditions.