Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Ode to George Robinson

I am the best driver on the road.

It's not an opinion, nor am I tooting my own horn (so to speak). It's just a plain statement of fact, and I see the evidence of it every day. I see it even clearer now that I am helping teach my son to drive. Any day now I expect to hear him say, "You know something Dad, you're the best driver on the road."

I owe much of the credit to George Robinson, my driver's ed teacher in high school. Most kids took Drivers Ed in school as opposed to having private lessons like they do here, and since my birthday was in the summer I took it in the summer rather than wait until my junior year. And Mr. Robinson had been there for a LONG time; so long I found his picture in my Dad's yearbooks. But he taught us all the important stuff needed to be a good driver like always wearing your seatbelt (it wasn't yet a law back then), being aware of cars all around you including who might be in your blind spot (and not staying in someone else's blind spot), and using your turn signal.

(As an aside, I remember a popular bumper sticker that said "Visualize World Peace." But an even better one said "Visualize using your turn signal!" Amen to that.)

At any rate, Mr. Robinson taught us lots of important things on those hot days when we'd rather be near a pool than in a stuffy classroom. We watched movies with titles like "Red Asphalt" and "Blood on the Blacktop" (or something like that) as well as a short Disney film of Goofy driving (I still love that one!). We practiced in the simulators (which were even hotter and stuffier) and on the driving range. Actually driving on the road with students must have been as stressful for him as it was for us, though (as I'm finding out now).

He'd take 4 kids at a time and my friend Jeremy and I were together in a group. There was one very short girl who had a hard time seeing over the steering wheel. He had her turn where a bunch of kids were playing on the corner and she hit the brakes really hard when a kid strayed a little too close. Mr. Robinson told her to honk the horn (which, inexplicably, was located on the end of the turn signal). Unfortunately, he had her drive around to the same corner and while she was looking for the horn he yelled "Watch it, you're gonna send a kid flying!" Poor guy - I think he forgot he had a brake pedal, too. (Yeah, Jeremy and I still laugh about that!)

Of course, Mr. Robinson didn't teach me everything that now makes me the best driver on the road - after all, he only had a couple of months - but he gave me the vision of what a good driver should be. And for that I thank him... every day as I drive the freeways of Los Angeles!

(Incidentally, I just found out he died a few months ago. I always knew he was a good guy but didn't know what a great man he was until I read his obituary.)

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