The first time I drove on a highway was nearly my last. It was during my only driving lesson with Mr. Taylor, the history teacher/boys basketball coach/driver’s ed. instructor whose persona was a combination of red-faced sideline screamer and feet-on-the-desk professor. As a driving instructor he was wholly the latter; he held an open newspaper in front of him in the passenger seat.
One of the few times he even spoke to me was to ask instruct, “Get over to the right here and let’s take the highway.”
“Oh, I’ve never driven on the highway before,” I corrected.
“Okay,” he said. “You will today.”
With images of the sideline screamer in mind, I switched on my blinker, checked my mirror, checked my blind spot, and then, with hands at 10 and 2, moved into the right lane on Iliff Avenue and proceeded to merge onto Interstate 225, southbound. The car suddenly jolted to a stop! I took my hands off the wheel in a desperate posture that said, “I didn’t do anything!” and looked at Mr. Taylor for vindication. He lowered his newspaper and, gesturing with his right hand to a bus that had only just cleared our front bumper after entering the on-ramp from the oncoming lane, said calmly, “If I hadn’t done that they would have been reading about us in tomorrow’s paper.”
He’d slammed on the passenger brake. I hadn’t even known there was a passenger brake.
There are a lot of challenges that make me wish for a passenger brake. No good: we’ve outgrown it.