It was my son’s first driving lesson. I stood and watched from the driveway as he carefully pulled away from the curb, his instructor next to him equipped with an emergency brake pedal. I was excited for him and as they disappeared around the corner, I couldn’t help but reflect upon my first driving lesson, and how I remembered it like yesterday.
As a teenager, learning to drive was one of the most exciting things I experienced. Once I got my license I used to enjoy the freedom of exploring, and would happily zoom along the narrow, winding country roads of Kent, and also through the tropical rain showers along the unpaved, potholed roads of Sabah. It was thrilling. It was an adventure.
I used to enjoy conversations that revolved around cars, V6 engines, torque, pistons, spark plugs and so on. Not that I understood the intricacies of car mechanics, but I knew about the best performing cars of the day. I drove my fair share of cars that were exciting to me.
The most exciting car I drove was when I purchased my 1966 Ford Mustang, 20 years ago. The car’s freshly waxed, Cherry Red paint glistened in the Californian sunshine, and its emblem, a shiny chrome galloping pony across the grill, leaped out at me, as if beckoning me to buy it. I knew that car was meant for me. Its engine roared and sounded powerful and rugged.
Every time I drove that car, I thought about the galloping mustang, with its mane and tail flying in the wind. The Mustang accompanied me on many an adventurous road trip north, south and from coast to coast across the United States.
I thought about the adventures in store for my son, as he embarked on his series of driving lessons.
A few days later, my son shared with me some difficulties he was having staying focused during his driving lessons. He asked me if I had any tips. That evening, I challenged him to a game of chess.
As we sat down across from each other, we set up the chess pieces on the board. I referred to my knight as a galloping pony. My son played white. As he moved his pawn forward I said to him that in many ways chess was a lot like driving. Chess has rules just like driving. In chess, you need to be focused, aware, accurate and decisive, just like driving. The pieces on the board, I continued, were like the cars on the road, unpredictable. One needs to be razor sharp at all times. One small error can be fatal.
I observed my son throughout the game and saw him think, analyze and forward plan his strategy, in a measured, calm and objective way. I suddenly realized he was gaining an upper hand in the game. After the constant cross checking of pieces and problem solving, an intricate game emerged where the pieces on the board appeared locked in. The game became intense but exciting, just like driving.
My queen swept across the board and took his bishop. Intentionally, he put my king in check. I maneuvered my king to the corner square. With precision, he took my galloping pony. He won the game that evening.
After my son’s next driving lesson, he said with confidence how he felt more comfortable, aware and focused on the road this time. He added that he has started to really enjoy driving.
Under a large light green, faded cover, in a garage, sits that old Mustang raring to go. It is still as shiny and sparkling as it was that first day I set my eyes on it. The galloping chrome emblem still leaps out at me. I have kept it as a gift for my son to drive. Now, it is his turn. It is his adventure to have.