The Mobile Classroom

By on Sep 24, 2010 in Humor

Distorted road

Ten minutes into the first lesson I see one of our cars on the road. I’m not sure who is instructing, but it’s probably Thomas. I abandon my route for the moment and have my student turn each time Thomas does.

Five minutes into this tailing, my driver asks, “Are we following that car?”

“Yup,” I say, “it’s one of ours. You two want to have some fun?”

“Sure,” the driver says.

Her sister in the back keeps quiet. Thomas’s car turns left and we follow, maintaining our distance.

“Now,” I say as we stalk our prey, “you guys know how much you hate getting honked at, right?”

My driver glances over and says, “Definitely.”

“Okay, this is a learning exercise,” I say. “We’re going to practice what not to do by doing it. Should we ever honk at someone just because we’re in a hurry?”

“No,” the girls respond in unison.

Thomas’s car turns right after halting at an intersection. Focused on her slow pursuit, my driver does a California stop, rolling past the stop sign. She does check for cars, so it’s safely illegal and I let it slide. We’ve got bigger fish to fry here.

“What do we do when someone honks at us?” I ask.

The girl in the back doesn’t say anything, but her sister up front says, “Ignore them and only do what’s safe.”

I’m impressed and tell her so. Thomas’s car stops at a four-way intersection and we slink up behind it. I glance at the girl driving.

“Okay, honk. But do it gently.”

I forget that she’s probably never used a horn before. She punches the center of the steering wheel, and it blares out a sharp, extended honk. The girls erupt in laughter, and I see a face pop into the side mirror. It’s Thomas all right, but I doubt if he knows it’s us. Our car lacks the required student driver marking on the front, so we probably appear to be just another impatient jerk in a run-down car. A few seconds later Thomas’s car turns right, and we turn left. We all agree that his driver handled the situation perfectly.


Later in the day I’m cruising down a commercial strip with three kids when we see a person inside a yellow, foam rubber outfit waving at drivers on behalf of some business. A puffy box surrounds his torso, including his head. His arms and legs, clothed in yellow fabric, jut out from small openings in the foam rubber. The pitchman looks like Spongebob without the face.

“Man, that has got to be hot,” I say as we approach Foam Rubber Person.

The kids agree. We all look closely as we drive past.

“Did that guy have an opening for his head?” one students asks.

No one can seem to remember.

“Okay,” I say, “we’ve got to figure this out. Take the next right.”

We swing around the block, doing four rights and ending up back on the main drag. I tell the driver that, as much as I’d like to let her look, she needs to keep her eyes on the road. I don’t know how I could justify a crash if it happened. She agrees. We stop at the light and everyone leans forward, squinting at Foam Rubber Person. He’s spinning and waving at passing cars, and we can’t answer our question. The light turns green, and we approach our target. At the last second he spins away from us. We all let out a groan.

“Okay,” I say, “let’s try again.”

We circle the block and approach our yellow target one more time. On this pass I have the driver slow way down, and we crawl up to the person. Looking over, we see a small mesh screen at eye level, an opening probably six by six inches. The advertiser looks straight at our car and stands still. Behind the mesh I see two unblinking eyes as we drive past. The car fills with vicious, dark laughter, the kind that comes when you know it might be your turn next.


At 5 p.m. I plod back from Starbucks and find my last student waiting in front of the recreation center. It’s the eighth lesson of the day, and I’m exhausted. I’m wearing bright white tennis sneakers, only worn once, since my regular shoes got soaked during a run last night. The sneakers make me look like I should be working in a hospital. My student gazes at my footwear.

“Man, those things are bright!” he says.

I take a huge swig of coffee and look over at the kid.

“My regular job is as a nurse,” I reply. “I’m just doing Driver’s Ed until the lawsuit is settled.”

My student furrows his brow, but when I smile, he flashes a wide grin and laughs. I love the sound. It’s the main thing that keeps me going.


Portions of this piece appeared in Prick of the Spindle Vol. 3.2.

Heat Wave Contents


Thomas Sullivan lives in Seattle. His writing has appeared in Word Riot and 3AM Magazine, among others. He is the author of Life In The Slow Lane, a comic memoir about teaching drivers' education. Information on this book and links to more of Thomas’ published writing can be found on his author Web site.