Thursday, 29 August 2013

Bandits

A not quite five year old little bandit

The neices came for a visit.  My they have grown.  Dominic could ride a motorcycle at four, could drive my car at nine and now with fourteen years can comfortably handle my truck.  I was astonished, therefore, when Cristina at sixteen admitted she had never been behind the wheel of a car.  Alex can't reach the pedals of the Jeep but he can steer us all safely from the restaurant to the shop site.  He knows how to start the car, put it into gear and release the handbrake.  He knows how to adjust the seats and set the aircon.  For these reasons, I keep the keys on me all the time but, although many would argue against teaching a child such things, I believe that by familiarizing them with such activity early, by the time they hit the road, they won't go crazy because it will all be old hat.  They will be more responsible as driving a motor vehicle will be nothing new to them.  I am forty years older than Dominic and fifty years older than Alex so, on current form, I very much doubt I will be around to guide them through their twenties.  I need to teach them as much as I can now.

As a car to learn in, a 5.7 litre V8 would perhaps not be the first choice of a driving school but it was all I had to hand if we exclude a three tonne truck with no power steering.  I let Dominic drive us to a bit of flat ground on the property just to give the girls a bit of confidence and then let Cristina take over.

She stuck it in gear and floored the accelerator.  The car leapt forward as the rear wheels dug in.  My land is right next to a river and I could see we were heading for a bath.  I was in the passenger seat so I knocked the car into neutral and applied the hand brake.  Cristina, with eyes like bloody saucers still had the throttle buried into the bulkhead and the valves were about to exit through the bonnet so I killed the ignition.

'Not bad,' I said, 'not bad at all'  I thought about getting out and retracing our route so I could find my stomach which had been left way behind.

This wasn't exactly the very best start.  If she was terrified of the beast she would never get the hang of it.  I had to calm her down.

'Think about your boyfriend,' I said.

I don't have a boyfriend!' a shocked Cristina blurted out (far too quickly).

'If you want to give your boyfriend a kiss,' I continued unperturbed, 'do you head butt him and chew his face off, or do you caress his lips gently with yours?'

Everyone in the car, Ju, Ritinha, Dominic, burst out laughing.

‘Cristina, I want you to kiss the throttle.  Ge-ently, ever so gently, just kiss the throttle.  Think of your boyfriend while you do it.’  As I repositioned the car I hoped to hell he hadn’t just jilted her.

She was fine.  She did figure of eights, learnt how to do emergency stops confirming she knew the difference between the brake and accelerator pedals.  Oddly enough, Ritinha who, at seventeen was the oldest, bottled out and refused to have a go.  Ju, at twelve, leapt at the chance.  She was miles better than Cristina.  She was so good, in fact, that I let her loose in the car with Dominic in the passenger seat just to boost their confidence even more.

I was doing so well, instilling in the kids a sense of responsibility and then Dominic asked me what oversteer was. 

I suppose, with the aid of diagrams and a lengthy explanation I could have got him to more or less understand oversteer but I was by then quite thirsty so I thought I would just stick him in the right hand seat and show him.

 
video
An officially middle aged fat bandit undoing all the good work he has done. 
How can kids grow up to be responsible with me as an example?
 
 
There are many who suggest that English is the most expressive language in the world.  I tend to disagree.  There are words in German wholly comprehensible to Germans but bewilderingly complicated to translate.  Schadenfreude is an example.  It was so bloody complicated to explain, it has entered English usage in its own right.  The word I am thinking of in this case is 'Vorfuhreffekt'.  Basically what vorfuhreffekt means is that you can do something successfully over a thousand times but as soon as you demonstrate whatever unique skill you have in front of others, you will fuck up.  And so it was with me at the Nurburgring back in '92 when a German film company wanted to film me leaving black stripes on the tarmac.  I high sided 25,000 dollars worth of Ducati motorcycle and smashed both ankles.  Obviously they were pissed off because it had cost them a lot of money to bring a film crew and all their equipment down but they weren't half as pissed off as I was, it was my motorcycle.  That's vorfuhreffekt.  As soon as I realised Cristina was filming me, I got the collywobbles and hadn't the guts to stick my boot in anymore and do a few real 360's which is why, right at the end of the vídeo you can hear the girls complain when I pull up and tell them I'm going home.  They may be delightful, but I'm not rolling a Jeep for them so they will just have to be satisfied with a couple of rooster tails.

That was yesterday.  I spoke to Josh next door and asked if I could charter one of their boats just to give the kids a run up the river.  The charter has just been confirmed.  I tossed Dominic a cool bag, told him to nip over to the shop and fill it with soft drinks and cookies.  He came back and asked me if I could give them a lift over to Rico's.  'Bugger off!' I said chucking him the keys to the Jeep, 'I'm off for a shower, you can drive yourself.'  I know it is only a matter of eight hundred metres; driving off my property and onto Rico's place but this was freedom and a whole lot more for him.
 
He is fourteen years old.  In the passenger seat of the V8 Jeep he is driving he has a drop-dead-gorgeous girl with come-to-bed eyes and he is going to take her for a ride on the river.  He probably won't get laid but at least he'll get an inkling of where to start.  I wish my Dad had given me presents like that.

Maybe when he gets his licence, he'll be cool rather than crazy.

22 comments:

  1. Your dad had more sense. Any road you really can't cut the mustard the same in a Morris moggie. Yes, yes I know?

    LLX

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    1. I had loads of fun in my Moggie and even managed to spin it once. If it has a motor in it, I can have fun with it (excluding Lawnmowers).

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  2. Now there's a TOP Top Gear episode. I finally understand a little bit more about what oversteer is. Next video about understeer please.
    Els

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    1. Oversteer is when you skid off the road as the back end of the car overtakes the front and you reverse at high speed into a tree and understeer is when you skid forwards with unresponsive steering head first into the tree.

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  3. Farm kids learn to drive as soon as possible. My son was driving the Mercedes station wagon out to the fields by himself to pick tomatoes for dinner when he was 7. I had told him when he was small that he'd have to buy his own car and pay his own insurance. He bought his first car, an ancient Toyota, when he was 16 and promptly totaled it. Never made it to the highway, it was in a head-on with a pickup full of farmworkers out in the fields on a blind turn in the dirt road. No one was hurt. But he didn't buy his second car and get his license until he was 20.

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    1. Exactly seven days after passing my test, I totalled my mother's car. There were no injuries at the time of the accident but two hours later I suffered blunt trauma injuries when my father got home and saw the car.

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  4. I reckon the balance of the car was all wrong because your ciggie was on the wrong side of your mouth. Only once did I let a girlfriend try and learn to drive in my pride and joy. The lesson was in a deserted car park luckily. She rocketed forward, screamed and just let go of the steering wheel. I needed an area like you have.

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    1. Funny how some people just freeze and stare wide-eyed straight ahead at the lamp post they are about to hit!

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  5. First time I drove on the road I was 11 and that was with a landrover and trailer. Admittedly I was so nervious I forgot to take the handbrake off but still I got home (dad was driving the combine back so I was in there on my own!). I think it's a great thing to do with kids/teenagers and I'll make sure my daughter can drive well before she's meant to. As for cool rather than crazy buy them a scrabler and get the crazy completly out of their system! (they're also great for rounding up sheep)

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    1. Dominic learnt to ride a Yamaha PW 50 at four years old.

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  6. That's a very throaty sounding V8. You're right; kids should learn everything as young as possible, including driving their dad home from the pub'.

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    1. You can't beat cubic inches, Cro, and filling it's eighty litre tank only costs me US$50.

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    2. Cro, that happened here (Gold Coast - Australia) a month or so ago - they were stopped by the police at about 3 am I think...

      http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/boy-7-caught-driving-begged-police-not-jail-drunk-/1997343/

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  7. Ducati?

    I'm begining to have my doubts about you!

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    1. In those days Doug Polen and Giancarlo Fallapa were wiping the floor with the Japanese competition. Nothing like the sound of a big V Twin and, unlike Harleys, Ducatis handled.

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  8. Sorry, Tom, got your time line wrong here. The earlier you learn (how to drive) the deadlier. It'll be so 'old hat' as you call it that by the time they hit the beer they think they can conquer all. Whilst I do not drink beer I have driven when I shouldn't have. By rights I shouldn't be alive.

    Factor in testosterone. Your sons so bloody confident - yeah sure. My father was brutal when I voiced (say age 18) that I'd fancy a motor bike. Showed me pictures of vegetables (Schmieder Clinic, Konstanz). Neither did he mince his words. My son got the beer out of his system first. Now, at nearly 22 (just like his mother) he has had just his second driving lesson. And his head screwed on - not by me, by himself.

    Anyway, not wishing to lecture you. I do agree that there are life skills to be taught. Like swimming. And common, even good sense.

    Other than that: Don't be so gloomy. After what you appear to have been through I am sure you'll make it for a few more years to see your sons to adulthood. No rush.

    U

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  9. I learned how to drive early and was never sorry. By the time i was legally old enough I already knew that driving drunk was stupid (having been drunk before legal driving age) and driving stoned wasn't any better than driving drunk (weed was plentiful and ubiquitous in the 1970's in my corner of the world). I also buried two loved ones who died in car accidents before i was legally old enough to drive, so that no doubt added to my decision to remain sober behind the wheel and always to wear my safety belt.

    I'm sure Dominic loves the trust you put in him, throwing him the car keys.

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    1. The more I trust him, the more he hates to let me down. That's the theory anyway!

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  10. I think there's something to be said for the method of allowing new drivers to be a bit bold in open spaces, so that they can learn the basics, and if they eff it up, it wont cause trouble to other drivers. My partner has a driving licence, but hasn't any idea how to drive and I have been terrified on the few times he has attempted to drive me. So now he doesn't at all, which is a drawback when you want a break, and someone to share the burden. But he's the best SAT NAV one could hope for. I'll send him over to you for a *crash* course.

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    1. I am a qualified instructor and examiner for instructors. I also used to teach anti hijack techniques to executives of multi nationals the highlight of the course being the opportunity to ram a car out of the way. When training drivers for senior management I would blu tack a shallow bowl on the dash, put a golf ball in it and tell the trainee if the golf ball fell out of the bowl, he had failed. It taught them to accelerate and brake gently and to look far ahead and anticipate.

      Send me the boy and I will return you a man capable of driving you over the Himalayas without spilling your champagne.

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