I was surprised today when I approached the red Toyota Corolla and Mr. No got out of the car when he saw me approach and motioned to the driver’s side.
I went around to that side, sat down; strapped in, adjusted the seat (Mr. No is much shorter than I) checked the mirror, cranked the wheel and put the car in drive.
I edged out onto the center lane of Forsythe Street and drove forward. He made me turn on Delancey, then down Essex Street to Grand, and then over to Cherry Street where we always start out lessons.
For the next hour and a half we did left turn, right turn ad nauseam. I had better control of the brake/gas, and wheel control. Mr. No was still not happy with how fast I made turns, I endured many exhortations to “go, go, go, go!”
“You too slow! Too far away,” when I stopped more than a car length behind the car in front. Also too far away from the crosswalk lines. But at least he kept his foot off his brake, which was a good sign. He also kept his hands off the wheel, at least for the time being.
I drove around and around, a lot more relaxed and comfortable. Less sighing and teeth sucking from Mr. No. Going through narrow spaces was scary, I kept waiting for the sound of metal scraping metal and kept making minor corrections to the wheel.
“Why you turn wheel? Car straight, you go straight. Don’t look to side, look straight!” How could I impart to him I felt the car drifting and had to correct?
We passed parked delivery trucks and drove in an ever-widening circle, going up and down unfamiliar streets. East Broadway. Division Street, Pike Street. Further south than the previous lessons. I felt more comfortable pressing on the gas and making lights, rather than slowing down and waiting for them to turn red. I kept a good eye out for some of the people who think they are made of steel.
There were bicycles, police cars, delivery vans, trucks, and busses. There was a line painting crew on Samuel Dickstein Plaza, and I had to wait for the gut with the orange flag to wave me through.
The few times he addressed me directly, like when he asked why I turned the wheel, I wanted to make some sort of personal connection, you know, make a joke or some kind of human observation, but Mr. No was having none of it. When you say “good morning, how are you today,” to someone and they just grunt you know to not waste your breath. So I would just do the next thing and file away whatever displeased him so I wouldn’t do it again.
Unfortunately, despite making some pretty good turns going back through the congestion on Delancey and Chrystie Streets we came to the same problem of not moving fast enough when the time came to make the left onto Grand Street.
There three bicyclists leisurely pedaling in front of me, and I stopped to let them go by.
“Why you stop? You go! Go, go!” I wondered if he wanted me to run them over or something. I signaled to turn left onto Forsythe and turned slowly. Maybe he was hungry or something, but after that turn he grabbed the wheel as I drove up to the spot I know he likes to park at.
“Stop. Stop here.” I stopped the car, put it in park and got out.
He glared at me as I got out of the car.
“See you next time!” I said as I threw him a jaunty salute.