One of the most valuable lessons in my life, I learned in driver’s ed. I didn’t realize this until Thursday, when I was blurting it out to the TTHM.
“Jodi Chromey,” he said, “I STILL don’t know what to do with you.”
“Don’t overshoot your headlights,” I said.
“Don’t overshoot your headlights.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’ll explain it later,” I said, not wanting to explain about my failing my driver’s test and really just wanting to enjoy the feel of his arms around me.
Here’s what I didn’t tell him:
When I was fifteen, just months shy of turning sixteen, my parents enrolled me in North Star Driving School. I think this was the fast track method of getting a driver’s license or something. I didn’t pay a lot of attention in the class, mostly I just sat in the corner looking sullen and drawing on my tennis shoes, because I had decided it was cool to be sullen and have drawn-on tennis shoes.
Driving didn’t really interest me. This is probably best reflected in the fact that I had to take the driver’s test four times before I got my driver’s license. Yes, four times. The first time I failed for driving on the wrong side of the road, the second time I failed for hitting a pole, the third time I just plain failed, and well, the fourth time I had the guy who gave me the first test and I think he took pity on me.
Eventually I got my driver’s license and forgot most everything I might have learned in that class. Everything, except, don’t overshoot your headlights. For some reason that stuck with me. It’s one of those lessons that came back to me when I was seventeen and doing a lot of late-night driving between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
While winding my way out of the hills on the other side of Menomonie, I would panic and my heart would beat furiously in my chest because I couldn’t see what was out there. I was convinced that my headlights were defective and I was going to die. Then for some reason, the words of wisdom came back, “don’t overshoot your headlights.” I discovered that I could see just fine, if I focused on the area the headlights illuminated. Finally I knew what in the hell that meant. I was overshooting my headlights and trying to see all that stuff just beyond the reach of the lights.
And really, you don’t need me to explain the metaphor of focusing on what’s right in front of you and not worrying about all the stuff you can’t see, right?
So when the TTHM said he didn’t know what to do with me, I panicked. I don’t know what to do with me either. I haven’t the foggiest notion what to do with him and, well, I just don’t want to worry about it yet. I just want to dance in the illumination of the headlights and worry about the rest a little later.