Don't Teach Your Wife to Drive!
There are many funny jokes floating around about women and their driving abilities. It’s a guy thing I guess. But is there any truth to assertions women are inferior to men when it comes to operating a vehicle?
I never gave the subject much thought until I married a woman who didn’t know how to drive. She was an Okinawan named Mitsuko Toma and 13 years my senior…but that didn’t bother me. I nicknamed her “Tommie” since most Americans couldn’t pronounce her name correctly. I met her on Okinawa while serving in the Marine Corps back in the late 1970’s. I liked the country and people so I decided to bring home a souvenir.
She spoke enough English to get by but couldn’t read it very well. So, when she decided to learn how to drive, the manual wasn’t much help and the task of teaching her fell on me. But, I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t learned to drive in her own country years ago. I was about to find out.
First, Tommie was a very short lady, as most Okinawans are, but short even by their standards. I’m 5’4” and she came up to my chin, making her about 4’9”. (Hey! I wasn’t about to marry someone I had to look up to.) I figured the height thing may present a problem with her feet reaching the pedals…even if my car was a small 1974 Ford, Pinto automatic. Fortunately, wearing platform shoes provided just enough length. Therefore, there was no reason why I shouldn’t try to teach her. After all, she was a grownup, mature woman.
I’m going to interject some sage advice here to husbands considering teaching their wives to drive…don’t! Get somebody else to do it. There is just too much tension created by a husband hovering over their shoulder.
Anyway, the big day came for lessons to begin. It was a bright, sunny morning just perfect for our purpose. I drove out to some back roads on the military base where there was little to no traffic and parked. Tommie got into the driver’s seat and I began pointing out the different parts and equipment she needed to be familiar with. I showed her how to adjust the rear view mirror and let her try. She grabbed her pocketbook and out came a hairbrush! I began to realize this may prove more difficult than first planned.
I corrected her and continued on with my instruction. Now it was time for the acid test…to see if she could properly maneuver that vehicle. She looked in her rear and side mirrors for any traffic approaching from behind. All clear, so naturally, she puts the car in reverse, not drive. I could see it was going to be a long day!
Once she learned what gear was what, simple since it was automatic, we pulled onto the road and slowly accelerated. Then the weaving back and forth from one lane into another started. I had her pull back off the road and park. I explained, again, not to focus directly in front of the car, but further down the road to steer. I compared it to trying to walk on a railroad track. Focus in front and you will fall off the track. Focus further down and you won’t. I thought she understood so we tried once more.
She Did a Little Better
This time she did a little better but was still crossing in and out of the left lane. The road had lots of curves and line of sight was obscured by many trees growing alongside it. I cautioned her to watch out for oncoming traffic. Too late, a big, white garbage truck appeared rounding the bend quickly closing the distance between us. It was one of those types with forks in front that picked up big trash containers.
The truck driver sounded his air horn sending Tommie into shock and freezing her hands to the steering wheel. My car was still halfway into the next lane and staying there. I could see the next day’s newspaper headlines. “Idiot Marine Teaching Wife To Drive Ends In Disaster!”
However, I reacted quickly enough to grab the wheel and get the car back off to our side and park. Meanwhile, the garbage truck driver had managed to veer off the road and stop without incident. I checked my side mirror to see if my hair had turned prematurely gray. I knew I had just shortened my life expectancy by 10 years. When my heart stopped pounding I got out and went to check on the truck driver. He was alright, although a little shaken up.
Obviously, he was a little upset about the episode. But once I explained this was my wife’s first driving lesson he understood completely and calmed down. He had also been hoodwinked into teaching his spouse to drive. We shook hands and parted company…each sympathizing with the other.
I took possession of the automobile and drove home in silence. There was nothing to be said. It was clear there would be no further lessons.