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blood, guts and driver's ed

blood, guts and driver's ed

I took driver's ed in 1979, the beginning of my senior year in high school. The class met two days a week after school, one day for driving and one day for classroom lecture.

The classroom lecture consisted mostly of us watching films while the instructor, Mr D. (who was also our history teacher) used his pointer to draw attention to the finer points of the film. He banged the screen with that wooden stick enough that he there were several holes in it by the end of the semester. He took his driving seriously. Mr. D was all about the dangers that lurked on the roadways. Apparently, death and mayhem were waiting to greet us at every turn.

The first film we saw that year would later be referred to as "The Box of Death." It was animated, as most of the gore-fest driver's ed films were, and starred a crudely drawn teenager driving a sports car. The teen is speeding down a residential street when he approaches a box in the middle of the road. Just a big, white cardboard box sitting in the middle of a side street. A bubble pops up above the teen's head, cartoon style, and in it we see the teen is thinking of his two choices in the situation: drive around the box (good choice) or drive over the box (bad choice). Cheesy music plays. Tension abounds. The teen guns the engine and goes for it.

At this point Mr. D. stops the film.
"What do you think is going to happen here, class?"
"Uhh...hes going to hit the box..."
"YES!" Pointer smacks screen. "He is going to hit the box! Because he has MADE THE WRONG CHOICE!" Each word brings a smack of the pointer. The flimsly screen sways. "Would you like to see what happens? Are you ready to see where a bad choice can lead you?" We begin to think he is reading from the same script as the police officer who came to warn us, a bit late, about drugs.
Those of us who aren't already asleep encourage him to play the rest of the film.

Our speeding teenager who made the wrong choice continues down the road, hell bent on running down that mysterious box. He hits it with a loud thud, and the box goes flying in the air. It lands on the sidewalk. The teen gets out of the car and stand there with a Home Alone look of surprise on his face. He walks to the box, where it rests upside down and battered, and carefully lifts it up. I don't know what we expected to see. Garbage or soda cans or even homeless kitties. But, no...we see an arm. A small child's cartoon arm sticking out of the box, looking somewhat bruised and bloody.

Instead of recoiling in horror and shame, we burst out laughing.

"Is there something funny about a dead child?" Mr. D is not happy with us.
We giggle uncontrollably. A kid was the last thing we expected to be in the box. Why? Because it's incredibly absurd. Someone comments that if a kid was hiding in a cardboard box in the middle of the road, he sort of deserves to be hit by a car. Mr. D. threatens us all with driver's ed failure. Then he lectures on The Box.

"That box could be filled with anything. Leaves, children, bricks!" We are rolling on the floor now. We have no idea what box he is talking about. For as long as all of us have lived on this earth, none of us have ever come across a cardboard box, empty or filled with small children, in the middle of the road. We make jokes about brick-filled boxes. We make bad puns revolving around kids named Jack (jack-in-the-box...get it?). Mr. D. realizes lecturing on The Box is useless. He warns us that the films we will see in the coming weeks will make The Box look like a comic book.

We spend the subsequent lecture days in a dark classroom, projector rolling and Mr. D. banging the pointer around. We see school buses imploding. Cars going off cliffs. Rag doll bodies being thrown through car windshields. Corpses, brains, body parts and crying teenagers, all ketchup and fake goo and Jamie Lee Curtis caliber screaming, set to a 70's soundtrack that sounds as if it were ripped from a porn film. They had titles like "Death Never Takes a Holiday" and "Mechanized Death" and "Blood on the Highway" and we began to look forward to these films the way we looked forward to watching horror movies at Mike's house on Friday nights.

These films became the Reefer Madness of driving culture. Instead of scaring us as they were intended to do, they served as pure entertainment. There were kids who weren't even taking driver's ed and would sneak into our classroom just to see "When Death Comes Driving."

We were sad when the semester ended and our car crash gorefest was over. We all passed Mr. D.'s class with flying colors, most likely because didn't want to see us in his classroom again the next semester. We were the kids who laughed at death.

I'm sure Mr. D. would be happy to know that all these years later, I still think of him every time I run down a box in the road.


Several years ago my stepfather was driving home from a trip out of town. He took the back roads home because traffic is less horrendous and, honestly, the drive is much more scenic that way. The sun was setting slowly in the sky as he inched his way home mile by mile. Right at dusk, he rounded one of the many curves to find a big cardboard box sitting on the side of the road. One side of the box was out IN the road as opposed to off on the side. He immediately turned the steering wheel to avoid running over the side that was out in the road. For some reason he looked in his rearview mirror. As he did this, he saw a small child climbing out of the box.

True story. I swear. Mr. D. would be happy to hear it, don't you think?

An aside: my stepdad stayed upset and an emotional wreck for at least a week after that. He couldn't stop thinking "What if I hadn't seen it?"

Somehow I was expecting you to come up with a different box joke at the end of this Michele.

Umm never mind.

Dave, your mind is a frightening thing. And it doesn't really matter now that Lee has ruined the entire premise of the post.

Mr. D. was right after all!!!

I had this drivers ed teacher called Mr. A. This happened to be the same year that my best friend and I had the same English teacher and this English teacher taught us a whole schwackload of Latin prefixes and suffixes. We decided to make up some words of our own using this list and since we had the same drivers ed teacher too, we soon ended up coining the word doxipelliphobia (dox meaning teacher, pell meaning to drive or push, and phobia meaning fear of). Doxipelliphobia soon led to doxipellicide.

I swear to God, during the road tests on the freeway, I thought about driving into a bridge abutment so many times. (I'm normally a rather sane and non-suicidal human, but Mr. A. was the sort of personality who "drove you to it.")

Ok. D made me giggle.
Sorry for ruining the story, Michele. I was just trying to help Mr. D. a little. Forgive me?

Of course, Lee. I'll tell Mr. D. that story if I ever see him.

I never took drivers ed. I missed out on all the "Blood on the windshield" and "Red Asphault" video's. Of course around here kids start driving a tractor at the age of 10. What I can handle a 20 ton tractor, but the Geo is too much for me?

i failed my written learners test 8 times - you don't even get to sit in a car without passing that, let alone opearte one...i considered it a message from a higher power that there were forces insideme that did not get on well with being placed in charge of a moving death mobile...now knowing the box story, and knowing i owuld hit the box every time, i finally have closure.

I had a boyfriend when I was a teenager that took extreme delight in hitting boxes and having them dragged under his car. I don't think any of them were big enough to hold a kid, though.

My drivers ed teacher lost 3 fingers in a heavy machinery accident. He was fond of slamming his "stubs" on the podium while blood-curdling screaming, "People! You're ramming it in the ground!" I still wake up from nightmares with that going through my brain. And one day a friend of mine was driving during "class", and he slammed the stubs on the dashboard when she forgot to brake quickly enough. It just about darn-near killed us all as she freaked and shrieked and the car went swerving off the road... warm safe place, warm safe place