Driving a car is a lot like being President of the United States. The problem is half of us are below average drivers. You can look it up. We never think that, though. We all think we drive like Graham Hill, the most famous sports car driver of all time.
I should have known I didn’t know how to drive a car. The reasons that never occurred to me is, one, my father told me I could do anything I set my mind to. FYI- just a heads up for parents. Eventually your kid will quote your own words back to you.
Two, I watched my father and memorized what he did. He put the key in the ignition. He depressed the clutch (old car, not automatic), and pushed the starter button. He then let out the clutch while pressing the gas pedal. Another note to parents – your kids are always watching you.
Three, my father who was moving a sprinkler was the one who told me, son, I want to wash the car. Pull it up in the shade of that tree and pointed. My father went on to explain. In this sun you could fry eggs on the hood. He extended his breakfast analogy. I’ll bet even bacon, too. My father was chuckling to himself. He had a turn for a phrase but I lacked an understanding of situational humor. It was a dangerous combination.
Wisely, there are a lot of driving tests you’d have to pass before Graham Hill would let you behind the wheel of his Lotus. You’d have to win some races.
To be President of the United States, on the other hand, requires no test at all. You have to breathe for thirty-five years and be born in America. Why, you could even be a gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, or an ex-Hollywood movie star. That’s about it.
People have to be certified to design jet passenger auto pilot systems and still they have taken shortcuts around the rules that plunged passengers into the sea. We had engineers with degrees design a rocket ship watched by millions of elementary students burst its human cargo across the sky like the most expensive fireworks in history. Following experts’ advice we have accidentally invaded the wrong country. You can look it up.
And then on election day without even a certificate of attendance, whoever is elected President is given the keys to the most powerful machine on earth, The United States of America.
In this example, when the new President started America up, we all went shooting down the street in reverse. Everyone tried to get out of his way. Some didn’t make it.
I didn’t intend to drive our car backwards down the street. I turned on the key, stood with one foot on the clutch and one on the gas pedal. I grabbed the steering with one hand and with the other pushed the starter button. The engine roared to life.
Several people were surprised. My father, for one. My grandmother clutching her heart, was another.
I wasn’t. I was delighted I had gotten the sequence right. I began to release the clutch. That’s where things began to go wrong.
There was a manual for our car back then. It tells you how to care for it. Some people read the manual, noting how often to change the fluids and such. There is a manual for using the streets in your state. You’re supposed to obey the rules. Don’t drive backwards down the street is one.
Our car lurched and I held onto the steering wheel, which turned the car in a wide arc. I was doing a bad job of driving, kind of like the new President trying to steer our country. He should have known he didn’t know how to drive a country. He had no experience. Neither did I, but then I was three years old. My father had to repair the porch I ran into next door.
And just like it so often happens when trying to do something complicated, everyone’s a critic. The new President is trying to help his party. He’s trying to get people to like him. He’s trying to keep the promises he made running for office.
And now half the country wants to put him on trial. He could have avoided all the confusion and saved himself a lot of grief if he had just read the manual. Didn’t you know? Countries come with a manual. They’re called Constitutions. He should have looked it up.