Driving with the Dead (Open Thread)

Ever taught a teenager to drive? What fun!


“Holy Christ, never mind the freaking squirrel, watch for the tombstones! And the trees! Sweet Jesus, there’s a turn coming up! Don’t fiddle with the freaking radio!”

Why tombstones? Because I’m teaching my kid to drive in a graveyard. I figure that way, she won’t kill anyone. Except possibly me.

It’s a semi-rural, deserted kind of graveyard, and on the rare occasion that living people show up, we stop and wait for them to leave, or else I take the wheel.

She knows the driving basics already from driving golf carts, scooters, etc., but I’m determined to teach her real driving on a stick shift, so my poor old Beetle’s clutch is getting a workout.

Please feel free to leave teen driving tips or discuss whatever.

[X-posted at Rumproast]

141 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Remember, zombies have the right of way.

  2. 2
    4tehlulz says:

    Fuck that; I’m paying someone to teach my son how to drive.

  3. 3
    nancydarling says:

    My ex always took a book along with him and read that instead of watching the road.

  4. 4
    Urza says:

    Recommend they hang out more with an older driving friend. Legal or not, teenagers tend to teach their friends more than parents every have the nerves to.

  5. 5
    srv says:

    Try learning in a 1963 Beetle.

    Oh, and that push down to get into reverse they have now. Fuck that engineer with a 2×4.

  6. 6
    JGabriel says:

    Betty Cracker @ Top:

    … I’m teaching my kid to drive in a graveyard.

    Is this some kind of pre-emptive behavioral modification therapy, so that your daughter will drive safely because she’ll think of graveyards and death every time she drives?

  7. 7
    Betty Cracker says:

    @JGabriel: Not consciously, but I did note aloud that the person whose grave we stalled out next to at one point was only 36 when he died and speculated that maybe it was a CAR CRASH that killed him…

  8. 8
    mistermix says:

    Been there, done that, a couple of years ago, with a stick shift car. When I got tired of the smell of burning clutch, I found a neighborhood with some gentle hills so she could get the hang of starting out from a stop.

    Now she’s proud that she has a skill that few of her teenage buddies have, and it keeps other (drunk and/or stupid) kids from driving her car.

    The post-lesson drinking was hard on my liver, though.

    Forgot to mention my key rule of driving: everyone else on the road is an idiot, so you can expect them to behave like idiots and do stupid things.

  9. 9
    RepubAnon says:

    Well, in the event of accidents, I suppose already being in the graveyard helps save another trip… (chuckle)

  10. 10
    West of the Rockies says:

    My daughter is only 11, so I still have a few more years ’til I have to face this task….

    Open thread, right? Okay, so I am not sure that I really am referring to actual nose-breaking violence here, but which politician would you really like to slap/punch? I really dislike every image I think I’ve ever seen of Eric Cantor: he looks like a spoiled, arrogant, rich brat. Oh, Louis Gohmert is more stupid, of course, and other politicians may be more dangerous and hypocritical, but, damn, every time I see Cantor I wish someone would thrust a big poop pie in his mug.

  11. 11
    wmd says:

    If you’re freaking out while teaching, I’d suggest getting a +1 to + 3 drink on. Relax a little and the teaching and learning will be smoother. Downside is you can’t take the wheel legally.

  12. 12
    quannlace says:

    ” I’m teaching my kid to drive in a graveyard.”

    Another good place: An office complex parking lot on a weekend. All most as deserted as a graveyard.

  13. 13
    Yatsuno says:

    @Betty Cracker: I had to teach myself how to drive with the occasional pointer from my mom. But learning on a Toyota clutch is the way to do it. It’s very forgiving.

    I can’t drive clutch now because of [very long boring story] but I do miss it. It’s fun.

  14. 14
    jeffreyw says:

    Hell, I’m still trying to teach Mrs J how to drive and she’s pushing 60. She often does. not. listen. to. me. I often think it’s better to not watch where she’s going lest my advice be ignored. I have my Nexus to console me.

  15. 15
    Dolly Llama says:

    Try teaching a friend how to drive a motorcycle when she not only hasn’t driven a motorcycle, but has never driven a manual-transmission car.

    She put five years of age, at least, on my clutch, and aged me ten years generally in one afternoon.

  16. 16
    seabe says:

    Easier said than done, but just relax a lot more and give some trust. I learned to drive maybe 8 years ago, though I’ve never owned a car (and only recently got my license last year). However, I still remember mom flipping out every 5 seconds, and it made driving harder and a lot worse. My father was much better, he just sat there.

  17. 17
    lahke says:

    Other end of life’s a little scary for driving also–didn’t get Calif DMV to take my dad’s license till he was 92, and I think he’s still sneaking drives. His brother was creating a video diary/history while driving–I watched that video and was terrified. “Here on the left is where the Dudleigh farm was (big swerve to the left over the double line as the wheel turns with the camera), and across the street (big swerve back to the right back into the right lane) was that barn where I kissed (“euphemism” says my dad) so-and-so”
    Good thing Vermont is low on traffic.

  18. 18
    Elizabelle says:

    @West of the Rockies:

    Agreed re Cantor. For you: Eric Cantor’s Bitch Face.

  19. 19

    re teen driving, this isn’t light stuff but it is important:


    from a father whose teenage son died in a single-car crash.

  20. 20
    greennotGreen says:

    Betty, I’m assuming you mean a semi-rural graveyard with roads as opposed to the one where my family is buried that only has the road in the front or the one where the ancestors are buried which has pretty much been swallowed by forest or the one in the pasture my sister and I own that can’t be seen from a road. Because driving on top of people’s graves is just tacky.

  21. 21
    joel hanes says:

    In skiing and driving, there are some kids/fiances/spouses/friends who should not be taught by their parent/fiance/spouse/friend, and some parents/fiances/spouses/friends who should not attempt to teach their kid, fiance, spouse, or friend to ski or to drive.

    It’s important to know when you’re a party to one of those situations, and to let professionals do the teaching. I’ve seen many a promising relationship, and a couple marriages, go bust on the rocks of “you don’t need to pay for ski lessons, honey … I’ll teach you to ski.”

  22. 22
    Betty Cracker says:

    @greennotGreen: Of course. The little roads run throughout the graveyard, which is part of the attraction to the place since it gives the kid the opportunity to practice stops, turns, curves, etc. I wouldn’t drive over anyone’s grave on purpose, though I suppose we’re all walking and driving on graves quite frequently without knowing it!

  23. 23
    gbear says:


    Oh, and that push down to get into reverse they have now. Fuck that engineer with a 2×4.

    I wish my manual 5-speed Vibe had that feature. You can absentmindedly try to shift from 5th gear into reverse, and it’s not the most precise shifter to begin with (which may have been the fault of the previous owner, who knows). I ground the gears pretty good a couple times getting used to the shifter.

    @Dolly Llama:

    Try teaching a friend how to drive a motorcycle when she not only hasn’t driven a motorcycle, but has never driven a manual-transmission car.

    Try to talk that friend into a scooter instead. I love my 300cc Kymco. I decided that, at 55 when buying my first motorized 2-wheel vehicle, I was less likely to kill myself with a scooter than a motorcycle. At 59, I’m not going to switch.

  24. 24
    lojasmo says:

    I taught my son to drive last summer. It was tentative at first, but he caught on quickly. He is a very good, very careful driver, and recognizes his limitations.

    Looking forward to teaching him to three-pedal when I get my miata this summer.

  25. 25
    Betty Cracker says:

    @seabe: Good point. I should note the quote above is an approximation of my INNER monologue. I managed to be fairly cool during the actual driving lesson (or at least mutely catatonic with terror), though I did tell her to leave the radio alone.

  26. 26
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Some of my best memories of my father are when he taught me how to drive. We started in an empty parking lot on Sundays months before I was eligible for my learner’s permit. Just him and me — he was patient, he was informative, he was cool. Of course, he taught me how to drive a motorcycle on private roads two years before, so I knew the basics.

  27. 27
    West of the Rockies says:

    @Elizabelle: Gack! What a self-satisfied putz….

  28. 28
    R. Porrofatto says:

    I worked as a licensed driving instructor during college. Just a suggestion, but if you have an automatic transmission handy I’d teach her how to drive on that first. Once she learns how to control the vehicle and safely maneuver streets and traffic, then teach her the stick shift. It’s a lot to process otherwise — not impossible, but not easy.

    The thing I used to tell my students was to remember that the road test is a performance, and what the inspectors are most interested in is, again, to see that you can control the vehicle and that you drive safely. Newbies of any age tend to think it’s all about parallel parking, but if you don’t turn your head to look behind you when you back up or signal when you’re leaving the curb (and turn your head then, too, mirrors are not for seeing where you’re going, ever) chances are you fail.

    Good luck. It was the scariest job I ever had.

  29. 29
    cg says:

    The brake is too hard to reach from the passenger’s side; be prepared to grab the wheel.

  30. 30
    Napoleon says:

    The place I grew up in hosted the largest county fair in Ohio (second in size only to the state fair) so the huge fairgrounds is where I learned. It was perfect. Hundreds of acres laid out with a city grid of streets with no people or traffic.

  31. 31
    MattF says:

    Open thread, how to grow a pineapple:


  32. 32
    Old Dan and Little Ann says:

    I tried to teach my wife how to drive stick in my little neon green Geo Metro about 15 years ago. She was yelling at me within two minutes for me to strop screaming at her. Which I wasn’t, of course. The lesson did not last much longer and and to this day she still can’t fucking drive a stick shift. sigh…

  33. 33
    Mark says:

    Just remember that it’s important that your insurance needs to be paid up when your daughter drives the refrigerator and freezer through a wall into your utility room. Not that I know anything about that kind of thing.

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:

    Couldn’t figure out a stick until driving a friend’s Beetle (olde school), which was very forging in the Seattle hills. By now it’s fifteen years since my last manual (that’s not a motorcycle) so doubt I’ll get a chance to teach redhead.edu how to navigate one.

    One thing for certain–mom is not teaching her to drive. There are some habits that simply must stop at this generation, for the sake of everybody else.

  35. 35
    tybee says:


    i’ve got pineapple plants in the yard that are 5 and 6 years old and have made no effort at all to fruit.

    i read somewhere that the plant had to have 19 leaves or so to support the fruit but i can testify that either the number is wrong or the pineapple is sterile. :)

  36. 36
    trollhattan says:

    @R. Porrofatto:

    Completely agree. 90% of driving is awareness of one’s surroundings, and when you’re sorting out what the hell this thingie or that doohickey is on the car you’re NOT observing your surroundings. This is why the first 90 days of motorcycle ownership is so very, very hazardous.

  37. 37
    MikeJ says:

    @R. Porrofatto:

    Once she learns how to control the vehicle and safely maneuver streets and traffic, then teach her the stick shift. It’s a lot to process otherwise — not impossible, but not easy.

    I’d disagree. Better to ingrain right footed braking from the beginning, and the best way to do that is with a clutch.

  38. 38
    burnspbesq says:

    Was much easier on all of us to pay a professional (there’s a school here in OC that uses retired CHP officers as instructors). Spouse and kid would have killed each other. Three years later, I still have to bite my tongue occasionally when in the passenger seat of his car. And every time he comes home, and I can hear his infernal music from halfway down the block, well, that’s a story best left untold.

  39. 39
    gogol's wife says:

    @R. Porrofatto:

    I agree with you. That’s how I did it — first learned to drive (at age 30) on an automatic, then took a different set of lessons for the standard. But my driving instructor for the standard transmission didn’t really know what he was doing, so my then-husband took over. I think that’s why he’s now my ex-husband.

    But do you notice how many people who apparently have licenses just back up without looking behind them?

  40. 40
    burnspbesq says:

    Stick, phooey. Modern trannies with paddle shifters are the way to go. If it’s good enough for F1, it’s good enough for me.

  41. 41
    Betty Cracker says:

    @MattF: There were pineapple plants at our house when we moved in. We were so excited! Until we tasted them; they were goddawful. They looked like pineapples and had pineapple-like texture, but no sweetness at all. Maybe it’s the crappy soil, I dunno. My hubby eventually pulled them up and planted other stuff.

  42. 42
    Suzanne says:

    My mom was too high-strung and ended up paying for me to go to a driving school. It was for the best. She says I didn’t listen to her; I still contend that “AAAHHHHRGHHHHH!” isn’t actionable communication.

    She tried to start me off on a stick, but I think a year of driving an automatic would have been a better way to start.

  43. 43
    The Other Chuck says:

    @West of the Rockies: The Germans have a lovely word for people like Eric Cantor: Backpfeifengesicht, which means “face in need of a fist”.

  44. 44
    Maude says:

    You are a brave woman, Betty.
    This would send me through the roof of the car.
    She should know how to drive stick.

  45. 45
    Betty Cracker says:

    @R. Porrofatto: I’m firmly in the learn on a stick camp, though my hubby doesn’t think it’s all that important. I was taught on a stick, and I can drive anything, anywhere. My sister learned on a automatic and had to learn to drive a stick later as an adult, and it was tough. She got it eventually, but she’s never been 100% confident about driving any kind of vehicle the way I am, and I think that’s why. I could be wrong, but it’s hard to beat the power of personal experience.

  46. 46
    E says:

    You’re absolutely right to have your daughter learn on a manual transmission, for many reasons. At the top of the list for me was making sure my sons’ stupid friends could never ever borrow the car. But after doing this five times, I really came to value the other reasons, such as the fact, which even the kid understands, that she’ll need to practice for a really long time before she feels comfortable enough to take the test, which gives you a lot more time to sit next to her and drill home philosophy and, um, rules. Most important of all, there are very few situations during the teenage years when the parent knows how to do something well and the kid really wants to learn it but is making a total fool of herself failing at it. Those teachable moments are precious. If you can be patient, they will actually be grateful. And in a graveyard or wherever you’re practicing and practicing away from traffic, it’s not all that stressful–it’s just a clutch…..

  47. 47
    JGabriel says:

    Betty Cracker:

    … I did note aloud that the person whose grave we stalled out next to at one point was only 36 when he died and speculated that maybe it was a CAR CRASH that killed him…

    That poor girl is gonna be traumatized for life.

  48. 48
    Yatsuno says:


    Modern trannies with paddle shifters

    :: bites tongue so hard it bleeds ::

  49. 49
    Amir Khalid says:

    Remember that road safety video that the Welsh police made a few years ago? The one with a carful of teenage girls, and one of them is texting while at the wheel with gruesome consequences? You might want to make sure your daughter sees it.

  50. 50
    greennotGreen says:

    @Betty Cracker: And breathe in the air that was someone’s last breath! The circle of life isn’t complete without death.

  51. 51
    Suzanne says:

    @Yatsuno: LMMFAOOOO.

  52. 52
    Comrade Jake says:

    @burnspbesq: blasphemy!

  53. 53
    RSA says:

    My wife learned to drive a stick in Germany. From back roads to the Autobahn in a couple of days. (Okay, she already knew how to drive.)

  54. 54
    Hill Dweller says:


    Stick, phooey. Modern trannies with paddle shifters are the way to go. If it’s good enough for F1, it’s good enough for me.

    Some of the high end automatic transmissions, which haven’t fully trickled down to moderate price cars yet, actually get better gas mileage than the manual. For example, Porsche’s PDK(double clutch) transmission has their obsessive owners proclaiming it’s better than the manual, which would have been considered sacrilegious a couple years ago.

  55. 55
    JGabriel says:

    West of the Rockies:

    Okay, so I am not sure that I really am referring to actual nose-breaking violence here, but which politician would you really like to slap/punch?

    Not just conservative politicians but their donors and propagandists too: i.e., the Koch brothers, Dick Armey, Sean Hannity, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Shelley Adelson, et. al.

  56. 56
    muddy says:

    When my son was 10 I taught him to drive stick (private road), he was big enough at that point to use the pedals, steer and see. We lived in East Bumfuck, and I did it for safety reasons, that was the only vehicle available. Just enough for him to be able to drive in an emergency, if I was injured or wev. He wasn’t great at shifting past 2nd, and I said that driving slowly like that was better than being stranded. No cell phones in olden days.

    What was great about it was that he got all the explanations at the wonderful age of 10, still thinking I’m the smartest coolest person ever and soaking it in. When he got his permit at 15, his brain overloading on hormones, he had the basics down already. I think there could well have been more assholery if I was trying to get him to listen when he was at the stage of being omniscient.

  57. 57
    R. Porrofatto says:


    A car isn’t a go-kart, so there should be no such thing as left-footed braking, clutch or no. You control the vehicle with the brake and the steering wheel. The gas pedal only makes the car accelerate and maintain speed, but it won’t help you control it, and except for circumstances so rare that they aren’t worth talking about, you should never have one foot on the accelerator and one on the brake.

    It’s not at all impossible for a teenager to learn how to drive on a stick-shift — before automatic transmissions there wasn’t any other way. But I found that a lot of kids (and adults) could barely focus on learning safe driving skills. Having to deal with a stick shift at the same time would have been a huge distraction.

  58. 58
    donnah says:

    I’m on Son #3 with driving. My oldest son is a terrible driver. He truly is; he kind of takes liberties with traffic laws, as if they were merely suggestions. Fortunately, he rides a bus to work and lives downtown, so he doesn’t drive often.

    My second son took to driving as easily as a duck takes to water. After Son #1, Son #2 was a joy. He’s a very good driver.

    Son #3 takes more after #1, unfortunately. He is impulsive and he doesn’t take criticism well. My husband has had better success with him than I have. Like all driving instructors, I sit in the front passenger seat and stomp the imaginary brake the whole time.

    Good luck, Betty. She’ll be fine!

  59. 59
    JGabriel says:


    Modern trannies with paddle shifters are the way to go.

    Well, I think there’s a few bars here in NYC for modern trannies with paddle shifters and the men who love them. They probably advertise in the Village Voice if’n yer interested.

    Editied to add:

    @Yatsuno: Heh. Okay, you got there first.

  60. 60
    Maude says:

    You beat me to it. I LOL’d.

  61. 61
    Yatsuno says:

    @JGabriel: @Maude: It was a low hanging curveball. I’m just amazed I got there first.

  62. 62
    R. Porrofatto says:

    @Betty Cracker:
    You know your daughter best and what she’s capable of, so if she can learn it all at once more power to her. I was dealing with people of unknown abilities, and those abilities weren’t all that encouraging when they became less unknown. I “learned” how to drive a stick on my way home from the dealership I bought my first used bug at, so it isn’t all that hard. At least that’s what my old man said when he left me there.

  63. 63
    Ruckus says:

    I have one adage that I think about every time I ride.
    When the key turns I become invisible. I’m still a solid object that bleeds but no one can see me. Well except for cops. They see me every time. But everyone else…

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    I was supposed to go grocery shopping but I got sucked into The Muppets.

  65. 65
    WereBear says:

    @Betty Cracker: You have to have clay; thick volcanic soil; something like that. Pineapples need to marinate; the largely sandy soil of Florida (crumbly limestone) is far better for strawberries.

    I learned to shift on a motorcycle, and to this day, I’m far better at that (hand clutch, foot shift) than I am with cars.

    Taught a teenage girl; I’ll expect some foil beasts out of the experience…

  66. 66
    fuckwit says:

    I just read that “Reid’s Dad” thing, and I have to call bullshit. He’s emotional because his kid died; I suspect that he’s not dealing with science or reality, even though he says he is.

    There’s a reason why the military puts 18-year-old kids in the pilot’s seat of supersonic fighters ON PURPOSE. They prefer younger pilots! Why? Because kids can process and deal with information faster than adults can.

    Ever watch a kid playing any kind of game? There’s information being blasted at a prodigidous rate. My old-ass brain can’t make sense of it all fast enough. Kids can.

    Yeah their judgement sucks. That’s teachable though. Again, the military has a lot of experience with this, and seems pretty confident of their ability to instill discipline in those 18-year-olds just fine. Maybe we could learn from them, maybe driver’s training needs to be more like basic training.

    So I dunno. I think his idea of restricting driver’s licenses until age 24 is insane, given the suburban nightmare we’ve built out. It’s just not practical or possible.

  67. 67
    MikeJ says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I’m firmly in the learn on a stick camp, though my hubby doesn’t think it’s all that important. I was taught on a stick, and I can drive anything, anywhere.

    My gfriend never learned stick. She came over to Yurp to visit while I was on assignment and we rented a car a drove around the countryside. Except she could never drive because standard transmission are the standard over there.

    So if the daughter gives you any stick about it(hah!), point out she won’t be able to drive in Europe without it.

  68. 68
    mellowjohn says:

    @Yatsuno: 1st thing i thought of, too! perhaps because i live in chicago’s boystown.

  69. 69
    MC Simon Milligan says:

    Learn HOW to drive with an automatic. Learn how to DRIVE with a clutch.

    The high end flappy paddles are amazing (drove one of my VWGoA boss’s R8 a few weeks ago. Truly awesome), but even with those you can’t clutch-kick to force the car to rotate. Sure you very, very rarely need it, but I still like to have all the tools available.

    My brother has made me promise to donate my 20 yo Miata to his daughter when she turns 16. She’s been in love with the car since she was wee, for all the fun it is it’s actually woefully underpowered, there’s not a better car in the world to teach one how to DRIVE… and no back seat! (even the aluminum hood and trunk-lid are incapable of supporting two sweaty teenagers) I’m not so sure though. You have to drive it like a motorcycle, people miss seeing the little thing awfully easily.

  70. 70

    @R. Porrofatto:

    if you have an automatic transmission handy I’d teach her how to drive on that first.

    I second that.

    It’s a big jump from golf carts and scooters to a real car, even without including stick shifting in the jump. I love driving a stick, but I’m glad I waited until I’d been driving an automatic awhile to learn to drive a stick.

  71. 71
    Juju says:

    I learned how to drive in my 1969 VW convertible, which I still have. My bug needs some work to get it up and running again. I miss having it for late afternoon summer drives. Sniff, sniff.

  72. 72
    Comrade Jake says:

    @fuckwit: it’s funny what different people take away from things. I read a few of the posts and watched one of the videos. For me the key message was that the 40 hrs experience the DMV requires is nowhere near enough. I suspect even the military would agree with that.

  73. 73
    Tom_B says:


    Remember, zombies have the right of way.

    Like Hell they do!

  74. 74
    Ruckus says:

    There are 18 year old officers?
    Your point is still valid that youngsters have generally better reflexes and brains that CAN work faster, not that they necessarily do. What the military does that you probably can’t is have their attention pretty much full time and they can make decisions about what the person gets to do and when they get to do it without nearly as much backtalk/grief. Also, no one has to fly a plane, few of us can say that about being able to drive a car. Failure is, or should be, not an option in either case but starting the motor is.

  75. 75
    burnspbesq says:

    Pervs, the lot of ya. Get yer minds outta da guttah.

  76. 76
    trollhattan says:


    no one can see me. Well except for cops. They see me every time.

    :) Isn’t that the truth!

  77. 77
    gVOR08 says:

    I finally decided my son was advanced enough to go out into real traffic. He stalled it right across two lanes crossing a busy four lane road. The outer voice and face were doing their best to very calmly and slowly say, “Don’t worry, plenty of time. Put it in Neutral. Push the clutch in and start it.” And so on. The inner voice was screaming, “We’re going to die!” Actually, the kid did OK.

  78. 78
    Ruckus says:

    You lead us there. Some were just pointing that out.

  79. 79
    R. Porrofatto says:

    @MikeJ: I just noticed my reply to you might seem pedantic. My apologies. The lesson I learned as a driving instructor was never assume that anyone knows anything (which has since come in handy dealing with right-wingers). I had students who looked like they’d never even been in a car before, no less behind the wheel. It got to the point where I had to give every new student instructions on where the brake pedal and steering wheel were located and what they did, just in case. Seriously.

  80. 80
    trollhattan says:

    Want to take the time to grumble…105 yesterday, 107 predicted today. Too much, too soon–it’s not even officially summer. But the tomato vines are going nuts after sitting there in a full-on grump the last month. It’s now a race between tomatoes and bermuda grass for garden domination.

  81. 81
    MikeJ says:

    @R. Porrofatto: No worries.

    Everybody learns things differently. Some are better at being thrown in the deep end, some prefer to wade. The deep end people often assume everyone is one of them.

  82. 82
    trollhattan says:


    Hey, we’re talking teenage drivin’ here–the whole works is in the gutter!

  83. 83
    vogon pundit says:

    My oldest is 15 and eligible to start lessons. I plan to take refuge in a man-sized safe.

  84. 84
    Ruckus says:

    @R. Porrofatto:
    I have found over the years the only way to instruct people in anything that requires skill and physical ability, however easy it is, is to teach the glossary and the physicality first.

  85. 85
    Violet says:

    @trollhattan: Do you get tomatoes in temps like that? We don’t. Once the nighttime temps are above 70 degrees (or thereabouts) the tomatoes don’t set fruit. That’s why they’re about done. Can replant in summer for a fall crop, though.

  86. 86
    NickT says:


    Yeah, people are talkin’ about burning crotches and so forth. I tell you, that never woulda happened when that nice young Bush was around.

    *ducks into the shrubbery and scurries away*

  87. 87
    West of the Rockies says:

    @JGabriel: Oh, I’d love to see Hannity take a right cross to the beak… wipe that smug smirk right off his stupid face!

  88. 88
    John Biles says:

    The last time I drove with a teen, she mocked me for obeying speed limits and stop signs. I am glad I am not her father (I’m her uncle) because she’s going to be queen of moving violations, I can see.

    (That being said, the only accident I’ve ever caused was when I was a teen driver and skidded off the road, across a lawn and into a parked truck. As I didn’t understand the whole ‘slow down in rain’ thing.)

  89. 89
    sacrablue says:

    @trollhattan: It is already 97. I’ve got four cats scratching to go out and one feral cat crying to come in. I want to let him in, but he insists on marking my furniture as his territory. I gave up on tomatoes after last year’s pathetic effort. Apparently, I should just stick to peppers and some herbs.

  90. 90
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    Oh, I definitely agree that Florida cemeteries are the best places to teach driving, and I had to insist they learn on stick or they will never learn it ever (been there). My youngest took one look at my reconditioned Honda Prelude (stick) and wanted it. I had to leave for Bermuda for a few days, so I tossed her the keys and told her if she could drive it by the time I got back, she could have it. Ha! Just 4 days later she was taking turns like Mario Andretti, and I was out one of my favorite cars.

  91. 91
    Redshift says:

    Back in the days before constant high security, we used to practice driving in the Pentagon parking lot. On weekends, it was a vast expanse of concrete with no obstacles, and since it wasn’t a public street, a teenager could drive there even before getting a learner’s permit.

  92. 92
    Todd says:

    The fun isn’t in teaching them to drive. The fun is in dealing with the wrecks after issuance of the license.

    Three daughters, ages 18-23. Daughter 1 had three wrecks, finally totaling out sweet little convertible I’d held onto for her for years – and I’d just gotten a new top. The leather interior was perfect, and it ran like a dream. Daughter 2 has had at least 4 wrecks, and I may not be able to make the nice little garage kept Camry we found for her work. Daughter 3 has had two or thee wrecks, including a recent scrape on a brand new leased Honda.

    The reactions are always the same – “why are you being so mean to me? Quit yelling. It was an accident, I didn’t mean it, and told you I’m sorry. I didn’t wreck because my radio is loud, it helps me concentrate”. (followed by an eye roll)

    It’s the sort of thing that makes one think about hating children.

  93. 93
    Redshift says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni: I didn’t learn on stick initially, but when I bought my first car, it was a stick shift, so I had a crash course. The first time I drove any distance in it by myself (over to my girlfriend’s house), it didn’t feel very smooth, but by the time I drove back, I figured out that when I thought I was shifting into fifth gear I had actually been shifting back into third…

  94. 94
    TG Chicago says:

    My most memorable experience with learning how to drive was when I encountered a man who was teaching his wife to drive. He chose to put her behind the wheel in traffic in the middle of Chicago. On a Saturday night. With her mom and their two kids in the back seat.

    And when I say “encountered”, I mean: they ran into me. Because she was at a T intersection, but elected to go straight. Into my rear driver’s side door and wheel.

    Ironically enough, I was on the way to a party to celebrate the recovery of a friend who had been hit and run as a pedestrian. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in my collision, though I never drove the car again.

    Point being: daytime cemetery is a much better option for driver training. (and water is wet)

  95. 95
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    I’m working with my second teenager. Teaching both of them on a stick, I think they both like knowing a skill that their friends don’t have.

    What’s making me age rapidly is teaching them how to watch out for traffic, figuring out which light is yours, not turning left when you don’t have the light, etc. etc. And for both of them I’ve had to say forcefully, “Do NOT accelerate into brake lights!”

  96. 96
    Jebediah says:


    The reactions are always the same – “why are you being so mean to me? Quit yelling. It was an accident, I didn’t mean it, and told you I’m sorry. I didn’t wreck because my radio is loud, it helps me concentrate”. (followed by an eye roll)

    After they total a car, on they on their own as far as getting another car to drive/insure? They can roll their eyes all they want at the insurance company and/or used car dealer.
    “Doesn’t matter if you ‘meant it’ or not, dear – you totalled your car. Want me to help get your bicycle working again?”

  97. 97
    JWL says:

    I once answered a want-ad for a driving instructor, and went out for a ride with a pro and two teenage kids. To quote the character in The Hunt For Red October who was asked how he felt after his jet landed onto an aircraft carrier: “It would be a great way to interrogate prisoners”.

    May God be with you.

  98. 98
    Violet says:

    @Todd: Set up ground rules before handing over the keys. If they get in an accident and are found to be at fault by police or insurance, they pay for the repairs and cannot drive until they are paid for. If they can’t explain the damage, like a door ding or scrape, they pay for that too. They want to drive your cars or have you pay for insurance, they pay for anything that happens to them.

    Make sure they understand the rules–even have them sign a contract if necessary–before ever handing over the keys. They follow your rules or they don’t drive.

    Otherwise, if they want to drive so badly, they can buy their own car and pay for their own insurance, upkeep and any necessary repairs. Have them check into the costs of those. That’ll sober them up right quick.

  99. 99
    PsiFighter37 says:

    I remember when I first started learning how to drive…would have been roughly 11 years ago. My parents basically took me to the parking lot at SUNY Purchase on the weekends, which was pretty deserted. Plenty of space for you to do something stupid and hurt no one or the car. My fiancee hasn’t driven in forever and wants to learn how to drive again (she got her license but rarely drove before college)…if I can convince her that paying someone else is a waste of money, that’s exactly what I’m going to do – take her to an empty parking lot. Definitely the best way to start off.

    That said, all I can tell you is that once you set the kid free with the car, they’re probably going to do things in it you’re not a fan of. I routinely gunned it on local roads and highways once I got my license in high school. It was only after I went off to college that driving very fast lost whatever weird appeal that it holds to the high school set.

    Aside from that, working up a shopping list to get some goods for a GoT cookout tomorrow evening. On the agenda: guacamole, Mexican rice, spicy tacos al pastor, and chicken tomatillo tacos. Yum…

  100. 100
    NickT says:

    Some sad news:


    Ray Bradbury — author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and many more literary classics — died this morning in Los Angeles, at the age of 91.

    And some not entirely surprising news:


    Jonah Lehrer is facing questions about plagiarism once again — this time over his book proposal, which just netted him a book deal.

  101. 101
    concerned says:

    I tried notifying you via email, but I suspect I got blackholed. There is GPS data encoded in your photos. As a result, I can tell you that the name of the cemetery you are practice driving in starts with an R and ends with an N. I highly recommend stripping this data from photos before posting them to the blog.

  102. 102
    Yatsuno says:

    @NickT: Sounds like we’ll need a petition to launch him to the stars, which were always his home. Baruch Dayan Emet.

  103. 103
    Violet says:

    For those looking for a good empty parking lot for your teenager to practice driving, the DMV parking lots are empty on Sundays and maybe Saturday depending on their hours. They’re also empty in the evenings. I went to one to practice parallel parking in the actual place where I would be taking the test. Made me feel a lot more comfortable when I went to take the actual driving test.

  104. 104
    BGinCHI says:

    Betty, you might want to rewatch Groundhog Day. Useful scene for a driving lesson.

    “Side of the eye. Side of the eye.”

    “Don’t drive angry…”

  105. 105
    Gretchen says:

    I once took my son out for a practice drive in the school parking lot after I got home from a run, still wearing my heart-rate monitor. At one point he accelerated directly at a fence, and when he stopped a few feet in front of it, said “what’s the heart monitor read now?” I did pay somebody else to teach him to drive on the freeway.

  106. 106
    Gretchen says:

    @seabe: @seabe: @seabe: @seabe: That’s why I got stuck with the driving-teaching duty in my family. My husband would gasp and flinch a lot, which made them nervous. I felt like gasping and flinching, but kept the mask, so it got to be my job.

  107. 107
    ruemara says:

    I always recommend large amounts of drinking for the parent and the number of a good driving school to take the failfall.

  108. 108
    Betty Cracker says:

    @NickT: Wait a minute — hasn’t Bradbury been dead for quite some time? Or am I in a Twilight Zone episode?

  109. 109
    JPL says:

    One summer a niece was visiting and the ex taught her how to drive. They would return from their lesson and he would just rave about her progress. Long story short, she and I went shopping several miles from the house and she asked to drive home. OMG her driving ability was terrible. When we arrived at the house, I went immediately to the bathroom. That’s how I handle stress. When I saw the ex I calmly asked how he could have been praising her driving ability. He said they had only driven around cul-de-sacs and empty parking lots. Would have been nice to know that earlier.

  110. 110
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Betty Cracker:
    The first anniversary of his death just passed. His Wikipedia article begins: Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012).

  111. 111
    ruemara says:

    I’m watching The Sessions and it’s really quite remarkable. I hate starting movie day with a very good one. All I have lined up is Jack Reacher and Warm Bodies. I don’t think it’s going to get much better.

  112. 112
    hildebrand says:

    I learned how to drive a manual whilst working as a valet parking type at a very nice restaurant. First car I climbed into was a three-on-the-tree manual. I smiled politely at the older gentleman (and his exceptionally young female companion, who I desperately hoped was his grand-daughter, but just knew in my bones was not) and actually coaxed the thing into first gear like I knew what I was doing. He tipped his hat to me, and I started breathing again.

  113. 113
    Yatsuno says:

    @Betty Cracker: @Amir Khalid: Derp. Never mind me then. :)

  114. 114
    Steeplejack says:

    One of the greatest things my father did for me was to teach me to drive—at age 12. In Texas in the ’60s you could get a learner’s permit at 12 and a full license at 14, which I did. Fairly often my father would let me drive him to work and then drive myself to school. Only years later did I appreciate what nerves of steel he had. Oh, yeah, I learned on a stick.

    The downside was that when I was 15 we moved someplace where the driving age was 16 and my license got yanked for six months until I came of age. Longest six months of my angsty teenage life.

  115. 115
    NickT says:


    Me too, apparently.

    The Jonah Lehrer thing is still true though.

    (Have I just plagiarized myself, myself?Hmm.)

  116. 116
    Walker says:

    When I was learning to drive, my father was really unhappy with my tight turns. So, he would put a can of coke on the dashboard. The goal was to keep it up there. And whether it kept up there or not, I had to drink it afterwards.

  117. 117
    Ruckus says:

    He said her progress was good?
    If progress was good that doesn’t say anything about actual skill. If she started at the bottom(had no skill whatsoever) she could make huge progress and still be terrible. Bush made progress as president(didn’t pardon scooter libby) OK extremely little progress and he started in way minus territory, but still, credit due is credit due.

  118. 118
    Yatsuno says:

    The moment when you remember nutmeg is a hallucinogen and you just ate quite a bit of it. That would be my life right about now.

  119. 119

    After about a week of the boy nearly getting me killed, I got my dad to teach him how to drive. He did a better fob listening to Grandpa than he would have me, and Grandpa was a lot calmer and relaxed than I would have been.

  120. 120
    gelfling545 says:

    Pay a driving school. Everyone concerned will be happier.

    I learned to drive on a standard & still, 40-odd years later, sometimes find myself looking for the clutch pedal with my left foot. Not too frequently, just often enough to be disconcerting.

  121. 121
    lojasmo says:


    There’s a reason why the military puts 18-year-old kids in the pilot’s seat of supersonic fighters ON PURPOSE. They prefer younger pilots! Why? Because kids can process and deal with information faster than adults can.

    The youngest jet fighter pilot would be in his or her early twenties (23-24)

  122. 122
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Yatsuno: Sounds exciting. Enjoy (?).

  123. 123
    Bump on a Log says:

    My brother taught me to drive a stick shift, and insisted on wearing a helmet throughout.

    Advice: keep in practice with sticks. I didn’t, forgot how, and ended up praying that our carpool driver, who had a stick, wouldn’t faint when he got sick on the way home. (Thank God, he didn’t.)

  124. 124
    trollhattan says:


    Am no expert but yes, they seem to love our kind of heat. Am led to believe they won’t set fruit below a minimum overnight temperature and above something like 85 overnight, won’t turn red. We don’t stay humid-hot overnight here (65 last night) like everywhere not the West. It’s (checks NOAA) 103/22% and I’m having visions of IPA.

  125. 125
    West of the Rockies says:

    @NickT: Oh, that is a loss (Bradbury)! I loved Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked… in particular. I thought he really captured that sort of “second birth” that takes places we we hit about 13.

  126. 126
    Poopyman says:

    @gelfling545: I drive a 5-speed Jetta TDI most of the time and a Tacoma automatic when hauling stuff. This morning I punched the shifter in the Tacoma into neutral at a light. Not the first time I’ve done that. Never hit the clutch (aka emergency brake) and never thrown the automatic all the way forward to “P”, thank FSM.


  127. 127
    JustRuss says:

    @R. Porrofatto:

    Having to deal with a stick shift at the same time would have been a huge distraction.

    Which is why my daughter’s first lesson was in a big empty parking lot, and the first hour was just about using the clutch, until it was so easy she was bored with it. Then we moved on to other things, but shifting was never a stresser because we made sure she had it pretty much mastered before working on anything else.

    I learned on the auto-then-stick method, and had some pretty harrowing moments on the “stick” part.

  128. 128
    Hungry Joe says:

    I knew I wasn’t the guy to teach our daughter to drive when she bicycled in the street for the first time and I, following behind, heard myself saying — and I couldn’t stop — “Cars can come out of alleys too you have to watch for alleys that car parked up ahead has somebody in it he could open the door so you THERE’S A CAR COMING FROM BEHIND you didn’t even look at that alley THE CAR’S STILL COMING FROM BEHIND so you have to DO YOU SEE THAT GUY BACKING OUT OF A DRIVEWAY? you’re too close to the parked cars somebody could YOU HAVE TO LISTEN FOR CARS COMING FROM BEHIND YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW there’s a stop sign up ahead WHY ARE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET? try not to go over grooves in the road they can catch your tire and … ”

    She’s had her license for about six months now, and I still insist that she drive every time we go anywhere because time behind the wheel — especially with an experienced driver in the car — in crucial. And I mostly keep my mouth shut. Mostly.

  129. 129
    LanceThruster says:

    My dad taught us in the massive parking lot of Santa Anita Racetrack on off days (before the mall was added).

    I hadn’t learned stick by the time I bought my first car and the first step to getting it home was to drive out of an underground parking lot with a steep ramp and stop at the top.

  130. 130
    John Casey says:

    I’ve taught 3 teenage daughters to drive, and we all survived the experience. They also went to driving school, because in CT you pretty much have to, but the majority of their behind-the-wheel time was with me.

    We started in a church parking lot, and the first thing mastered was controlling the throttle. Then turns, and then, on their 16th, on to the road. Since it was just a regular car, I didn’t have an instructor’s brake. I did have the phrase, ‘brake… Brake! …. BRAKE!!!’. That worked OK.

    The most excitement was with daughter #1: She turned into the wrong lane of a two lane divided street (poor guidance from the instructor); calmly, I taught her quickly how to execute a K turn. Fortunately, traffic was light.

  131. 131
    dance around in your bones says:

    My husband-to-be taught me how to drive (yes, I was still a teenager) on dirt roads on the outskirts of Albuquerque (before the city spread to and up the foothills) and in large deserted parking lots. Yes, V-Dub bus, stick shift.

    When our kid was a teen, we taught her on the dirt roads on our farm. Didn’t lessen the total fear we felt when seeing her on the road with a bunch of friends as we passed by and internally made the sign of the cross, even though we are not Catholics. You basically just have to hold your breath for a couple years and hope for the best.

    May your teen pass through these learning experiences w/o incident, Betty Cracker.

  132. 132
    Wvskir says:

    Taught both children to drive on stick shift. Big problem with that is they had to look down to change gears. Naturally your hand follows your eyes. I smoked then and we would have to stop for cigarettes. I would chain smoke n pound holes in the passenger side floor trying to hit the brake pedal.

  133. 133

    I learnt to drive on a stick shift and I still catch myself looking for a clutch from time to time.

  134. 134
    Narcissus says:


    odern trannies with paddle shifters are the way to go

    I thought the best part about trannies was yanking on the stick

  135. 135
    mclaren says:

    Pardon my French, Betty, but you are fucking batshit insane.

  136. 136
    JWL says:

    I’ve driven cars or trucks with stick shifts since I was 16. Years ago, a friend who wanted to learn to drive a stick asked me to teach him. I said sure, and we went out early one Sunday morning in San Francisco’s outer Richmond district. That was my mistake.

    Long, sloping streets with a stop sign every few blocks, at near blind intersections where you better stop, because the cross streets are through traffic. Cars and people get clipped on a regular basis in that neighborhood. It’s the way it is, has been for many decades, and always will be.

    We were headed down a long slope at a decent clip, towards a stop sign. But instead of the brake, my friend punched the clutch- and then froze. We missed a car that had the right of way by inches. He gained control, pulled over, got out without saying a word, came around to the passenger side door, and said “take me home”.

    The moral being spacious parking lots are definitely the best places to teach rookies the ropes.

  137. 137
    Mousebumples says:

    I remember learning how to drive – vaguely. When I turned 15, I took our family’s truck for a few laps around our property (multiple acres), which mostly involved an adjustment of how sensitive the accelerator could be. My first “time out” after I had my temps was at the local county fair park – which was deserted in mid-April, so we could turn and stop and even work on some parking stuff.

    Of course, growing up, I really enjoyed go-karting, which has some similarities to actual driving. Obviously a much smaller car (with much, MUCH less horsepower), but it helps you figure out steering and braking and the like, to some extent. I’m sure it’s a nerve-wracking process for you, though, so good luck!

  138. 138
    opie jeanne says:

    @greennotGreen: Are you in the Ozarks? Because you just described most of the places my MIssouri-Ozarks family is buried, and that’s everyone up to my generation except my mother and my grandparents

  139. 139
    Ruckus says:

    A smart man knows his limitations.

  140. 140
    tybee says:

    “a man has got to know his limitations”

  141. 141
    Redshirt says:

    Turn left and put the pedal to the metal.

    Seriously, I did all kinds of dangerous things in cars for many years as a teenager. Try and train yours otherwise, for reals.

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