First time I drove a car, my father told me to get in to our aging Cadillac and drive it down the main street of Perkasie, our small town In retrospect, I am impressed with his confidence in me, that he thought I had the skill of driving naturally. Only thing I had ever driven before were dodgem cars, where the objective was to hit as many other cars as possible, aim right at them. I knew the objective now was the opposite, to steer clear of all encounters, but otherwise, it seemed the same: foot on pedal, there is a brake, and also there was a big hood ornament to steer by.
I learned to aim my bumper car by the hood ornament. Sure, I’d keep an eye out for who was coming at me and how fast, and I’d gauge my speed and ability to dodge them, to get away, or to ram someone. But during all forward motion my eyes were fixed on that hood ornament, to know where I was going.
So I took the driver’s wheel of our huge tan Cadillac 4-door automatic, and started down Fifth Street, paying strict attention to the hood ornament. Shortly thereafter, my father started yelling. which happened regularly in Dodgem but this was a first in our sedan’s plush interior. I was immediately scared. Turns out I was driving perilously close to the cars on our right side.
Dad was interrogating me now, in a very loud voice. “Why didn’t you see those cars? What the heck are you doing? You’re going to get us both killed.”
What I was doing, of course, was learning to drive. Driving for the very first time. And keeping my eyes on the hood ornament.
I stopped the car. Dad took the wheel. And we drove home in silence. Then Dad called a driving school and signed me up, which was much better for me.
First real lesson, first thing the instructor taught me was, keep your eyes fixed on where you want to go, not on where you are. Look ahead, and see as far ahead as you can. Steadily gaze there, and you can take in everything happening between your next visible destination, and your hood ornament.
When times are rough, I find myself aiming with my hood ornament again, pulling my focus way in. and watching out not to get slammed or slam into anything. It keeps me moving, but does not necessarily help me reach my goal. That’s when I remember the Cadillac, and I reset my sights and settle back for a longer drive. It helps.