Driver’s Ed CrankaTsuris


Driver’s Ed CrankaTsuris

Address the CrankaTsuris in the Car

People would come to me, and ask me about “effective” versus “ineffective” crankiness, and when I try to explain, some like to argue with me that there is no such thing as “ineffective” crankiness.  I am told “You know what?  I just want to blow off some steam.  And when I blow off a little steam, I feel a whole lot better.  There’s nothing wrong with that!”

Yes.  We absolutely all have to blow off some steam.  But, steam can still burn.  Who are you to be the expert on what is the exact amount of steam to blow off?   Do you let a bunch of steam pile up inside before blowing a ton of steam?  Or, do you let just a small amount of steam blow off?  Just a little at a time, just to ease the pressure a bit?

Who do you blow the steam on?  Let’s say you blew so much steam, you need to take back some of the steam?  Do you know how to do that?  And, let’s say you blew off some steam on someone who did not want the steam and already complained about the humidity?  Let’s say that the person who you blew steam on starts blowing their own steam on you?  You say that you finally needed to blow off steam, and the second you blow off the steam, someone blows a whole bunch of steam right on you, and the person had their steam mixed with your steam, so when this person blew steam on you, you ended up with twice the amount of steam that you started with!!!

And, because now, you have twice the amount of steam, and you were not able to handle half the amount, you start blowing off all the extra steam, and the cycle continues until we have a serious global warming situation, and all the ice caps begin to melt, and civilization ends as we know it.  Just because you wanted to blow your teensy teensy bit of steam!!  Oy!!!

So, you couldn’t afford to go to a sauna or a steam room for a little schvitz?  It’s $10 for half an hour.

The answer is that we never really know the exact right amount, and that is why I talk about training ourselves by putting all of our crankiness into this “CrankaTsuris”, and once we visualize this physical blob inside of us, we can then decide when, where, and how to deposit it.   And, while you do it, you can think of yourself as a chef, and take a little taste.  It needs a little sugar, or it needs a bit of salt.  You get to play with it until it tastes just right.  Now, you can go and blow the steam effectively.

“Cooking in the kitchen” is a fun and useful metaphor when thinking about this, but my favorite one is “Driver’s Ed School.”  Now, when I talk about Driver’s Ed School, I am not talking about a kid being taken out by dad and mom, first driving on country roads and in empty parking lots in cars that have that “go-kart” quality to them.  I am talking about the unique experience that I and all my friends had learning how to drive in the Bronx in the mid to late 1970s.  It is different from anyone else’s experience except maybe the kids from Brooklyn.

The kids from the Bronx drove on the Grand Concourse and Moshlou Parkway.  The kids from Brooklyn drove on Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Parkway.    So, I am sure the kids from Brooklyn had their own marvelous adventures!

Why is it this New York City 1970s kid experience so different, you ask?  My answer is everything.

First, you have to understand that my parents did not know how to drive.  They took the train and the bus.  I didn’t think anything bad of that because all of my friends’ parents didn’t drive either.  We were all going to learn on our own.

Now, we would have to go to Driver’s Ed School.  This was not the hour “one on one” session that some lucky kid in the suburbs was able to get.  No.  We could only afford to do group lessons.  My friends Stewie and Alan and I reserved three months of lessons on Thursday afternoons at 4 PM.  We went to Bronx High School of Science and walked over to Cardinal Spellman High to meet our teacher.  The four of us were all equally terrified, knowing that our lives may soon come to an end, with all of us trapped in a flaming two-ton fireball.

Think about this for a second.  Our situation was not unique.  It was pretty standard.  So, imagine that every afternoon in the Bronx, exactly when rush hour was about to start, hundreds of student drivers would hit the road.  People who worked in the Bronx and drove in the Bronx knew that if they got out at 4 PM, they did not want to be on the road at 4 PM because on top of the crazy cab drivers, unlicensed drivers, and City buses, you were going to run into the hundreds of cars with the Student Driver sign placed on top of the car.

Every day, you see a traffic jam, and sure enough, it was a six-car collision with three student driver cars.

“Ooops.  I guess someone else didn’t make it this week!!”

So, because of this, you still got traffic.  It was also because all of us student drivers probably didn’t go faster than 4-5 miles an hour.  And, when you are 16 years old, do not have a clue at what you are doing, traffic is their best friend.  Especially, when the equally terrified Driver’s Ed teacher had two main rules: Press on the gas pedal really really gently, and press on the brake pedal really hard.

In fact, I remember our first three lessons were the same.  We did not actually drive.  We would just sit in a parking spot and practicing stepping on the gas and brake pedals.

Eventually, we would drive slowly and carefully, squeezing the wheel as if we were expecting juice to come out of it.  And these were 1970s cars that would shake, rattle, and roll.  We had a hard time figuring out that if I turned at the wheel a bit to the left, the car would go a lot to the left.

“So, when do I turn the wheel all the way to the left, and when do I turn it back to center, but how do I know it is back in the center.  Oh no.  I turned back all the way to the right.  It is going right.  Now, how do I straighten it out?  I can’t straighten it out.  Now, we are going too far to the left!!  We are going to crash.”  In a panic, I scream “I can’t find the brake pedal.  I can’t even feel my foot!!    Finally, the Diver’s Ed teacher shouted the most beautiful words a teenager with three other lives in his hand could hear; “Pull over!!”  When that fails, he takes control with his controls and gets us safely pulled over.  WHEW!!!

So, I leave the driver’s seat with all the blood removed from my face, shaking, and completely in shock, and my two friends Stevie and Alan got their turn to do the same.

We all survived this wonderful experience.  We did not kill any old ladies.  We did not destroy any parked cars!  Yes.  We did learn various curse words in four, maybe five different languages.  Yes.  I understand that our Driver’s Ed School teacher quit his job immediately thereafter, and found a safer vocation.  He signed up with the Army. But, we all got our driver’s license after all of that.

The story does not end just there though.  You have to understand that the kids all got their licenses when the parents did not know how to drive.  What happened with me happened with all of my friends.  All of our fathers would get jealous, and demand that teaches them how to drive.  They did not want to bother with Driver’s Ed School.  They already paid for our school, and they expected that we would become the teachers.  I did not realize at the time that when we would get our driver’s license, we would be simultaneously getting the driver’s ed teaching license as well.

If learning how to drive in the Bronx was a terrifying experience, teaching our fathers how to drive was the same terrifying experience on steroids.   Yes. We did try to take our fathers to learn to drive in an empty parking lot, but that never worked out.

“I pay for your lessons to drive on city streets, and you think you can teach me in a parking lot? What kind of son do I have?  I want to drive on the highway!!”

“And, don’t close your eyes when I drive!!!!  Why are you so nervous?”

Yes.  My father’s first driving lesson was on Interstate 95.

My eyes were closed shut the entire time.

And we all survived, and while my father and all of our fathers got their driver’s licenses, we all must have been terrible teachers because they were all terrible drivers.  But, that is another story.

So, when I talk about “effective crankiness”, the CrankaTsuris is this car we drive around.  It is because we all want to blow off that steam, the CrankaTsuris is never about driving 200 miles per hour at a NASCAR race.  Sometimes, we go to the left, and sometimes to the right, and sometimes, we just have to pull over.  But, with developing our CrankaTsuris muscles, we really do need to teach each other.  It is because when we get into the CrankaTsuris car, sometimes we are the driver, and many times, we are also the passenger.

“So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris or TyrantoKvetchaTsuris too often.  Just the right amount to keep the planet happy, and not too cranky.”

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