The Driving Lesson
By Guy Lemone
It was late May or early June on a Monday morning in 1951,after a Saturday night of celebration for the graduating senior class at Moose Park High School. As one of the more easily identifiable members of this group, I had settled into a daily routine of going to the main office to greet the principal who was also the band director and the superintendent and their secretaries. Entering the inner office of the Superintendent I couldn’t help but be a bit surprised by a uniformed presence not normally there.
When the superintendent responded to my good morning with “Morning, Glenn.” The uniformed guy said, “Your name, Glenn?” When I replied with my smiling affirmative, his no-nonsense, If I want any crap out of you. I’ll kick it out attitude, was followed by, “Follow me.”
Since it was a Monday morning I was in my in my normal school mode of being told to ask questions later, I quickly followed him out of the office, the building and took an uncomfortable seat in the passenger side of a Kootenai County Sheriff’s car. What happened next after “ Is your name Glenn?” became a three or maybe four hour random drive around the County interspersed with a long disconnected conversation that can best be described as an interrogation room on wheels or a mobile question-and-answer session.
“Did you ride you the bus to school, Glenn?”
“No, sir, I walk; my house is just three blocks South of school.”
“Have you got a drivers license, Glenn?”
“Yes, sir. I got it when I was sixteen.”
“How did you learn to drive, Glenn?”
“Well, that’s kind of a funny story, I’m glad you asked. . . .. My Mom, Dad and I were driving back from a family trip to visit my oldest brother, his wife and their newborn second son. They lived in Sioux Falls, Idaho and our car was 1931 Auburn sedan. After several hundred miles of boredom. . .’
“Get to the point!” interrupted the Deputy. “I don’t need all the details”
“Well, yes you do. “ I objected. “ I think any question whose point doesn’t need a detailed response, doesn’t deserve an answer.”
“Hurry it up then. It sounds like you are just making it up.”
“Believe me, Officer, I have a good imagination, but I couldn’t make this stuff up.”
“As I was saying, after several hundred miles of arguing about anything and everything and nothing in particular, my mom started again with,
“You know, Glenn, ( that’s my Dad’s name, too, incidentally.) he’s almost 15 years old now.”
“And you are close to sixty five.”
“I was just thinking he needs to learn how to drive.”
Since arguments were a staple in my daily diet of what masqueraded for conversation, I quickly lost interest in this one. I was looking out the window counting tumbleweeds and fence posts, when I heard.
“You know how to shift gears?”
As I gulped, “Yes.”; the car veered to the shoulder of the straightest stretch of the highway of the trip.
“I moved timidly from shotgun to pilot and there you have it; my first and only driving lesson. Everything else I know I learned by reaching the drivers manual.”
“Okay, smartass.”, said the Deputy.. “Very funny but you’re not here to be comedian and if you think what you are here for is humorous, you’re in for a big unpleasant surprise.”
“Oh, I see. Now we’re back to that, so why am I here?’
Familiarity not only breeds contempt, it also spawns boredom and after two or three hours pointless questions and interrogation on obscure and abstruse issues, my mind had given away to humor as a next-to-last resort.
“Did you ever drive or want to drive a bus… uh .. a school bus?”
“No, it always seemed to me to be a whole lot of terrible responsibility for not very much money.”, was my off-the-cuff reply.
So, when a dog is chasing its tail, I sometimes ponder whether it’s end of the tail or the end closest to the smell that is the attraction. Sometimes a little scholarly review and examination of the evidence can help to understand the motivation and consequences.
There were two Glenns in the graduating class of 1951 in question.
One was known for a clean and spotless appearance and reputation and the other had always lived in a brainless and usually entertaining proximity to the daily crap in other people’s lives. And in the end of this tale, the deputy sheriff was busy examining the wrong end of the tail.
Returning to the school, I assumed my position as the outgoing President of the Student Body. In an effort to find out the truth of the matter, I immediately launched a covert internal investigation. I needed to find out what the hell had happened that had provoked my brush with the Police.
The intelligence grapevine quickly provided the answers to the questions the Deputy had been asking me. Someone named Glen had taken a couple of friends on a joy ride around the school bus yard in one if the busses. Being proud of this juvenile joke gone bad, and in a burst of need for notoriety, this Glen had been bragging for two days to anyone and everyone who would stand still long enough to hear about it. Since most were not particularly interested or simply didn’t want to be implicated in any way, he turned himself in to get the public attention he felt such an accomplishment deserved.
“I thought it would be fun and funny”, he explained to the officer. “What’s the matter? Can’t anyone take a joke?”, was his ill-thought out confession.
He was subsequently arrested, booked, and charged with malicious mischief. After a summary trial complete with witnesses, character and otherwise, he was convicted and sentenced to two weeks of supervised community service picking up and disposing of dog poop left by irresponsible citizens in public places.
This was a brilliant disposition of one more minor episode in the procedural life of small town America’s criminal justice system.
As for the other Glenn, he eventually became the teacher he never wanted to be. He, too, however, had the learning experience of a night in jail and a couple of weeks of confinement to quarters for bad judgment, ignorance and arrogance.
But that’s another story for another time.