Re: New Drivers


katie guyot, co-editor in chief

Dear Newbies Behind the Wheel,

Whatever your parents say about your driving, rest assured: when I was learning the difference between the turn signal and the windshield wipers, mine said worse.

I can’t say the jabs, the jokes and the panicked passenger-seat gibberish weren’t well deserved. My parents could have won Medals of Honor just for remaining in their seats as I sputtered down Wakarusa in my mom’s minivan, weaving back and forth across the yellow line like an infant playing Mario Kart.

In hopes of saving your moms and pops from premature heart attacks, I’d like to share with you the driving guidelines the DMV forgot to put on your test.

Katie’s Unofficial Supplement* to the Kansas Driving Handbook: Firebird Edition

*Based entirely on firsthand experience.

1. Don’t forget to open the garage door before you back out.

And a subrule: always look behind you before you use that thing that is not called the prindle (but which I call the prindle anyway) to put the car in reverse.

Garage doors are stubborn. They know when there’s a dent the size of the Dead Sea in their metal walls, and they won’t budge until you get an expert out to hammer them back into place, maybe not even until you add in a new coat of paint as an extra apology.

Or, like me, you can dodge the issue by keeping your car on the street, where car washes are free whenever Kansas isn’t experiencing a drought.

2. Be wary of stop signs.

For you, me and the infinite majority of drivers in the world, a gleaming red octagon on the side of the road triggers an automatic reflex in the right foot that brings the vehicle to a perfect halt.

It doesn’t matter what the sign says: it could be in Spanish, it could be printed in size-six font, it could even say, “Go!”

Red plus octagon equals stop.

But apparently, this universal rule doesn’t apply to some Free State drivers. Just a few weeks ago, I was rolling down Overland from Wakarusa and had to swerve onto the sidewalk when a driver coming from the roundabout mistook “STOP” for “SPEED UP.”

I nearly took out the poor, neglected stop sign in the process–not that it would have been any less helpful on my front bumper than it was in the ground.

When you get out on the road on your own, remember that stop signs are not magical. To be safe, drive as if every other person behind the wheel has a woman in labor in the back seat and is trying valiantly to get her to the hospital in time for the birth.

That’s why they’re speeding. Have some sympathy as you veer off the road to save your fragile life.

3. Turn down the radio when you’re trying to cut across 6th Street.

Racing through four lanes of 45-mile-an-hour traffic requires patience, precision and more than a pinch of luck. That boost of confidence you get from Florence + the Machine will do you no favors between Dillons and Orange Leaf.

4. Always keep a roll of paper towels within reach of the driver’s seat.

You don’t think the Kansas heat has the power to melt your steering wheel into a gooey tar pit until your hands get stuck at ten and two.

5. Move Heaven and Earth to avoid hitting a teacher.

I’ve had a few close calls while exiting the parking lot via the north entrance. Sometimes teachers act like deer in headlights. You would, too, if you saw a teenager on telephone books speeding toward you at thrice the recommended speed limit.

If, as you exit the parking lot, you happen to catch one of your esteemed professors packing their books and bags into the trunk of a car, don’t panic. They will see the fear in your eyes.

Instead, slow to a snail’s pace and cautiously lower the righthand visor so as to block their view of your face. You never know when an impromptu driving test could show up on your report card.