I’m sure many of you have taken a Defensive Driving class. Having driven on Old Country Road for a few decades, I think the course should be mandatory. Yes, it is a 6-8 hour day, but it’s well worth being reminded of the rules of the road and cautionary driving practices. As an added bonus, you also receive a 10% discount on your car insurance. So with all this in mind, my wife and I registered for the course. What could go wrong? Then again with me, nothing is ever easy.
Betty, the instructor, noticed my eyebrow shift when she an announced that she was Sister Betty and wanted to know if I was suffering from nunphobia. “Well, I was taught by nuns for eight years at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Brooklyn. All I can say is — ‘Regrets, I had a few.’”
“Why don’t you share with me one of those ‘regrets’, Mr. Sinatra? I mean, Fred.” she said. I told Sister Betty about the time when in the fifth grade I played the drums on my locker door during quiet time.
“It was actually the other Freddy in the class, but Sister Julia didn’t believe me,” I explained. “I had to write, ‘I must not play the drums on my locker door’ 400X’s and have it signed by my mother.”
I went on to tell Sister Betty that since I didn’t think this was fair, so I wrote the sentence once and then proceeded to fill the pages with thousands of ditto marks. I asked my mom to look at my “art project” depicting the weather conditions in the rain forest. She proudly signed it, but Sister Julia didn’t appreciate the dittos and now ordered me to write the sentence 800X.
After hearing this, Sister Betty said that if it were her, I would have had to write the sentence 8,000X – in capital letters. She looked at my wife with an, “I feel sorry for you,” expression. My wife simply uttered, “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Sister.”
During the class, Sister asked me to relate the details of the last summons I received. I felt like I did enough reminiscing for one day so I pleaded the Fifth Amendment and said I have the right to remain silent. Sister read me my rights and added that if I didn’t respond she would report me to the AAA as an “unwilling class participant”. In other words, no 10% discount on my car insurance. I immediately and enthusiastically shared my story.
“I parked in front of The Space across the street from the Dunkin’ Donuts on Post Avenue and left my flashes on. That was my way of saying that I would be right back. I sprinted to the store and ordered my favorite donut — a plain Big Stick. The lady looked in the back for one and returned five minutes later empty-handed. I chose another belly bomb and with an iced coffee in hand rushed back to my car where I found a $25 orange ticket on my windshield.
Of course I went to the Village Hall to protest the fine. My plan was to wear my tomato garden outfit and speak in a barely audible pathetic voice that would leave everyone with tears in their eyes. It worked! Even the officer who issued the ticket was weeping. He also thanked me saying, ‘If you didn’t leave your flashes on, I wouldn’t have spotted your car and met quota for the month.’ The judge asked for my proof of purchase from DD and immediately took $2.76 off the summons. I gladly paid the $22.24.”
Sister Betty stared at me for what seemed to be an hour. Then asked JoAnn to stand up, turned to everyone and said, “Class, repeat after me: St Christopher pray for her.” After I reminded Sister that good old Chris was no longer a saint, she asked me what I wanted the class to learn from my story. I rose to my feet tall and proud like the good nuns taught me.
“Well class, if you ever have to appear in court and want a successful outcome, you should do what I did – Speak softly.” Even Sister nodded in approval. Unfortunately, I continued like any wise guy would. “And when you go to Dunkin Donuts remind them that they should carry a big stick. Thank you Teddy Roosevelt.”
I wouldn’t say Sister Betty had a mood swing, but her nostrils looked like two bagpipes ready to explode. I thought she was going to crack my knuckles with a ruler or at least have me write, “I must not tell idiotic stories” 8,000X – in capital letters. Sister announced to the class that because of my long-winded stories there wouldn’t be enough time to see the film about head-on collisions.
Despite everything, the class was enjoyable until the last 60 seconds. That’s when Sister Betty uttered the most feared words anyone could ever hear, “JoAnn, see me after class!” A minute later I heard JoAnn saying, “Okay, Sister see you Monday.” When I asked what was Monday all about she gave me the bad news. “Sister Betty thinks that I need to take her Defensive Marriage class and when I asked her if you should attend she strangely answered, ‘Ditto.’”