The punksters gathered around the conference table, ranging in ages, but all under that quarter of a century threshold. For most of them, this was a mandatory class to rehabilitate them to become cautious and responsible young drivers. Speeding was the main culprit. Slow down.
Upon arrival, the teachers played tough cop. No one would be allowed to enter the classroom after 5:00 pm. Name cards littered the table and eyes rolled. This was going to be a long four and a half hours.
The two gentlemen pedagogues introduced themselves as Officer Brian and Officer Jim. They served as nice foils to one another. Policeman Brian was built skinny in Wrangler jeans, with a decidedly white trash face. His looks suggested that he dabbled in meth and Penthouse magazine. His sneakers were the brightest of whites from brushing with Colgate toothpaste. Contrastingly, Jimothy was red in face and spirit. He ate his feelings. He was an aggressive pudge that didn’t take no kind of sausage baloney, in his words of course. Both were outfitted in matching red, short-sleeved, button-up shirts. On the right breast of the shirt was embroidered with the Alive at 25 logo. The Grease Monkey Logo sat on Jim’s other man boob.
Jim took the lead roll. He had long believed that the way to assert alpha dog rank, was to single out someone and intimidate. Nathan, a young and under-qualified student, happened to take on this role. He was an easy choice- not only was he 3 seconds late, but his pants hung low, and his IQ lower.
“Please tell us why you are late. Why you are wasting our time. What have you been smoking pot? Because don’t even try that on me. You guys need to know that I’m gonna get close to you and smell you. That’s what cops do. And if I smell any booze or marijuana, you will be out of this class faster than I can snap my fingers.”
One of the sassy u-18ers chimes in “Oh so if someone in the class is under the influence, you’re gonna tell them to drive home?”
“No. I’m kicking them out of the class.” Jim firmly replied. “Continuing-in this class we are going to laugh about dead people. That’s just how it is. Don’t be offended. I want to get through to at least one of you. In this class, we need you to be honest. And in return Brian and I will be honest with you.”
Brian looking forward to a speaking part interrupted, “Yeah. If you want to know why cops go to donut shops. I’ll tell ya. Obviously I’m not one of those cops hanging out at Dunkin’ Donuts,” any remark he could insert to compliment his figure.
The sassy children shuffled and sighed. This was going to be a long four and a half hours. The heat and the dry erase board fumes weren’t helping matters.
The first activity was for each student to share with the class his or her infraction, and then explain what the hardest part about being a safe driver was. Nathan’s answer was obviously amiss; “I’m Nathan. I got a ticket. I don’t know what for. I think that the hardest part about being a safe driver are the people on the side of the road that have signs that they spin around for pizza and stuff.”
No one in the class felt comfortable laughing at Nathan’s dimwittedness, or perhaps they suffered from malaise of the brain as well. It is unclear.
Brian said, “Good. Yeah distractions are a big problem with safe driving. I have killed two deer myself on duty. And I wanna tell you something. You gotta promise me. I want you to brake and hit the animal in a straight line. I can tell you a story here. I was at an accident where some girl was driving and oh no! A puppy is in the middle of the road. Instead of hitting the puppy in a straight line, the girl swerves and goes through a chained link fence and hits a two year old that was playing with the puppy. Now think- what would the parents liked to have happened? You think they would want the puppy dead or their two year old dead?”
This was the beginning of the police story-telling field day. Officer Jim and Officer Brian continued to one up each other.
It didn’t take long for the conversation to circle back to dead people, and the hilarity that frequently ensues. Officer Jim stepped up to the plate to recount an accident that happened to a bunch of dumb youngsters the past weekend. With marker in hand, he took a measurable amount of time to draw out the crash. There were four passengers in the car. All young. All dumb. Some of the lucky ones wore seat belts, as the drunk driver swerved into the median. What happened to those poor unfortunate souls that chose not to buckle up?
“Kids, their heads just popped of like melons.”
Officer Brian snickered and added, “Yeah I’ve heard you kids. You think you want to die young, because you will have a nice looking corpse. That ain’t the case. When you are in a car accident your guts get spread all over the road. That pretty face is so gashed, a mother couldn’t recognize it. That is, if your head doesn’t pop off. Trust me. Those suckers pop off.” Fun fact- almost 1 out of 3 deaths of 15-24 year olds are caused by traffic crashes. Next is suicide. Don’t think that Officer Tim forgot to throw that in the crock-pot.
Both policemen had extensive experience shedding light on how to stay alive to the ripe age of 25. Their tried and true speaking techniques engaged their young delinquent clientele. Participation was mandatory. Instead of anxiously waiting for a hand to raise, it was opportune to call on students that looked like they were dreaming of better days. Sometimes using class members to demonstrate a point, was necessary, even though often inappropriate.
“Mika. Do you think that I want to go knock on your parents’ door and tell them that you were in a car accident? That you died? That your head popped off like a melon?”
And the four and a half hours began to dwindle.
“Ok you two sitting next to each other. Let’s pretend you are boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Force mass equation. Tell me how much do you weigh?”
This class wasn’t for nancies. If one was to accept the responsibilities of operating heavy machinery, then one needed to know the gory truth.
“Trains always win. Do not race trains.”
After the fear tactic and ostracism section was complete, what better way to get the class going but a good old-fashioned VHS tape? The video, expertly filmed by the Denver Police Department, highlighted accident cleanup and corpses. Accordingly, it was set to indian flute music, which Officer Jim insisted on turning up. At the same time, students were told to complete three long write up sections in their workbooks. The conference table of punk kids were disappointed that they were unable to watch the buckle-it- up-propaganda more closely.
Officer Brian drank more of his 52-ounce big gulp.
Nathan wiggled in his chair and dissected his ballpoint pen.
The teachers were confident that some of the students were absorbing this scintillating lesson. Impressions were made on the fifteen year olds, who were only enrolled to get their learners’ permit. Their eyes’ grew with the melon comments and driving statistics. It’s always good to get somebody scared before they turn on the ignition. People perform better under pressure?
Nathan was bored. Nathan was resentful that he was forced to take this class. When Nathan felt victimized, he reacted by causing good old-fashioned trouble. Or rabble rousing. Nathan chose Officer Jim as his prey. With Jimbo’s abrupt attitude shifts and proclivity towards dramatics, he seemed an easier choice to get a rise out of.
With great purpose and speed, the young miscreant put his feet up on the table.
Officer Jim winced as he looked over his shoulder slowly, his thick neck in the way. “Feet down governor. This makes a nice seg way to what I am trying to get through to you numbskulls. You need to start taking responsibility for your actions.”
A deep burp smelling of Slim Jims and Bubbalicious materialized from the gut of Nathan.
Redness oozed from the steak of Mr. Policeman Jim’s face. “Nathan. Since you seem to forget to bring your manners to class today. Let’s talk. Let’s see if anything has gotten through to you. Let’s see if all that pot smoking and drinking hasn’t eaten up all your brain cells.”
Officer Brian kept sipping on his 52 oz of peeing-like- a-race-horse-elixir, while nodding his LA gelled head.
All props for this class were donated by 7-11.
“Nathan,” barked Jim, “What do you like to do for fun?”
Nathan arrogantly cocked his head, “I like to ride dirt bikes. And to go fast.”
“Ok son, let’s say you are with your buddies. And there is a family picnicking on the side of your trail. It has been raining and the trial is muddy. Your friend you are riding with goes and revs his engine and splashes the family and their picnic with mud. What are you gonna do?” Officer Jim inquired.
“Probably laugh and high five him,” Nathan replied.
This did not please Officer Jim. Anger and frustration bubbled in his belly. “You’re just not getting it Nathan. Let’s try again. Let’s say I’m feeling really nice and I let you borrow my 1967 Ford Mustang to drive a good looking lady to the movies. On the way, a Corvette pulls up at the stoplight. They wave to you to race the car. What are you gonna do?”
“Um. Well I would dust him.”
Officer Jim defeated and exhausted, put his hands around Nathan’s shoulders, “That’s not the right answer.”
With one last slurp of the 52-ounce Big Gulp, the four and a half hours were over. Certificates of completion were passed out to all of the enlightened youth. Officer Brian had to piss.