FlySafe School, Ltd.

Science Fiction, fantasy, anything in between, most of these stories focus on the big problems. Really big problems, with plenty of drama. Save the village, save the world, save the universe! Life as we know it is over! We read them to dream, to let our imaginations wander. To reconnect with that sense of wonder we felt as a child learning about the world around us with wide eyes and a mind full of more questions. I was thinking about this yesterday as I dealt with Drama at my house. Well, to be specific, at a Taco Bell and a BMV. It’s not entirely my story to tell but it left me thinking about life’s little dramas, and how they might play out in a SFF setting.

In a world full of space ships, who needs to deal with Driver’s Ed any more? Well, how are you going to get around that vast space station/strange planet/hollow asteroid? Public transportation in space will be, I strongly suspect, as dodgy as it is here on this mudball. I taught my daughters how to ride the bus a year or so ago, and it didn’t take the novelty of being able to go places without parental care and wheels long to wear off. They figured out that buses will mysteriously not show up when they are supposed to, or at all. The people riding the bus can range from, ah, overly friendly to just plain strange. Although, you know, how would a down-and-out alien get around without the ability to produce identification for a driver’s license? Explains much about bus riders! But I digress. My girls finally came around to the realization that these driving lessons we’d been trying to nudge them towards weren’t so bad, after all. The Ginja Ninja (my redheaded and oldest still at home) got rather enthusiastic when offered an option to move out predicated on getting a driver’s licence and a car. Which is where the drama came in yesterday…

So how do you teach flying spaceships safely? This seems like it would be more flight-school-esque, which I have a small, tiny really, experience with. I was in Civil Air Patrol and flights were something you get to do as a cadet. There are definitely things I’d like to see my daughters learn about driving that pilots do. Pre-flight inspections of the exterior of the vehicle, for instance. Heck, I know to do it and don’t bother often enough. I’ve had a kind fellow driver honk and lean out his window to shout ‘brake lights aren’t working!’ at me. But how do you do an external on a space ship? Does it have to be done often? What about micrometeorite damage?

It’s hard enough to drive on a two-dimensional plane and try to teach ‘turn here. Not so wide. Not so much gas that early. More gas at the end!’ but what about trying to do that in a busy flight lane of flying cars stacked two dozen deep over a domed metropolis of the future? Sure, self-driving cars/flying saucers might make that easier, but you still need to teach for failures. And just how much is flight school going to cost? Used to be, DriversEd was taught in schools. Now, you pay out of pocket for it, it’s required if you’re under 18 (and makes good sense if still a teenager) and it’s not cheap. How does this affect the socioeconomics of your SF world? Do only the rich or better off (at least) get to move about? Makes for a good story if the poor boy has to work his tail off for the privilege of getting a license to fly and escape the mudball he was born on.

It’s been an adventure, teaching my girls to drive. They were very reluctant – the younger Jr. Mad Scientist is still reluctant, although willing to bow to parental dictates – but my son is raring to go. He’s got a year, until he’s eligible for his learner’s permit, and he’s already planning on it. The First Reader and I have been exchanging nervous glances behind his back (we can’t do it over his head any longer, the Boy is too tall). It’s not like the girls didn’t break my car. They did, a little bit, on a too-wide turn taken too fast that wound up arcing over a deep frozen rut. Sigh. Life comes with sacrifices. Besides, I now have little story tidbits to chew on while I ride along as my daughter does the driving and I try not to clutch the Jesus bar too often.

There’s a big test in our future. I’ll let you know later if you ought to stay off the sidewalks!


  1. I’ve seen plenty of full grown adults that still haven’t learned that they need to put more gas in at he end of the turn… I swear sometimes people drive like the <> function is locked out by the <> function…

    1. I mess with the people behind me as I got to Day Job by letting my car decelerate going into the two tight curves (lake and house avoidance), then accelerating out of the curves. I’ve been told by students that the lack of obvious hard braking discombobulates some people.

      1. I’m another one that is very light on the brakes. In forty years of driving, I’ve only had two brake jobs done between buying and selling (or junking) a vehicle. (Both of them on one Ford Taurus. That is one of my “never again” models.)

        I keep telling the wife that if this writing gig doesn’t start panning out fairly soon, I’m going to pack it in, take out a loan, and open a brake shop in this town.

    2. Might depend on where they’ve been driving– I learned on really bad roads where goosing it coming out of a turn gives you a good chance of triggering a shimmy, at least.

      Normal folks who aren’t usually on freshly graveled roads are probably never going to hit, that, though.

        1. Sounds like our street got last winter. I kept reporting potholes, complaining that the area in front of our house was a checkerboard of potholes, and it still took DPW until spring to get their butts out here and get them patched.

          I’m not looking forward to this winter’s performance.

        2. My daughter had to spin us both around on the gravel before she would listen to me. I was just praying that I’d get heavenly credit for trying to teach her.

          1. When I was learning to drive (in my Mother’s International Scout II, standard shift), she took me out on a deserted ranch road. Neither one of us realized the rancher had recently put up a nice big gate at their property line…

            I barreled up to it at about 40 MPH – I don’t know how, but I managed what was VERY close to a bootlegger’s turn. After that, I have never been fazed by anything, even learning to drive a rural NH winter without anyone to give me instruction in those conditions.

              1. I think you still paid extra for automatic when she bought it in ’71 or ’72 – but you’re right.

                She would pay the extra anyway, today. The most direct route from downtown to our house involved a hill – that you hit the bottom in fourth, and (if you were good) only shifted twice before getting to the top.

                My little experience didn’t faze her all that much either, because that hill was apparently dirt when they first moved out here in the mid-50s. From Kansas. My older sisters told stories…

  2. Although I’m sure I’m not the first to have come up with this one, I invented a new word when my sons were learning to drive. “Un-turn. Un-turn!” He knew exactly what I meant.

    One weird thing going on in their brains was that they’d mapped to video game turning, where one claimed there was a one-to-one correlation between the turn of the wheel and the imaginary vehicle. This was, of course, different with a real car.

  3. And, sadly, the sidewalks are safe, folks. We will be trying again in a couple of weeks – the state requires her to take a class before she can try again, since she’s over 18.

    1. Give her a hug. That driving test is nerve wracking. I ran a stop sign on my first try. (Hey, it was on the left side. Totally ought to have been over on the right!)

    2. Ugh.

      I was warned that they were going to be pissy about that, so I audibly counted to three “under my breath” at every stop sign. It is apparently a “thing” where they really, really want to fail folks on stop signs.

      The guy tried to fail me for stopping TOO LONG at stop signs, and it took the other guy on duty realizing that I was going to demand where that was in the law to stop him.

  4. The obnoxious answer is that in practice, a society’s distribution of facilities will be shaped by the practical ability to use vehicles. That practical ability to use vehicles will be limited in part by what can be learned easily.

    Several questions plot the trajectory from that.

    What practical limitations do you assume for your autopilots? How much has the vehicle tech plateaued, and how stable are the handling characteristics as you look across make and model? The latter plot kind of tells you how intensive or specialized the education has to be. For atmospheric flyers, handling characteristics are partly dependent on useable design tools, partly on range of atmospheres designed for, and partly on understanding of fluid dynamics.

    At the extreme parts of the education curves/surfaces, you have two choices. One is addressing the educational needs earlier at a younger age. Which may be practical, or it may be cheating. Call this the Gundam protagonist answer, and it may not be feasible for a wide cross section of society. Another is saying that very few people learn the flying cars, or that they are learned late in life. So ground car users are second class citizens, or you are a first class citizen late in life, if the infrastructure has been designed for the assumption that people who need access to everything will have flying cars.

    Unusual education systems across a whole society are also sci fi, but tend to be softer because easier to cheat with due to more immeasurable factors.

    If the standard vehicle is a psionically controlled giant humanoid robot, kids probably play games with psionically controlled dolls ala Angelic Layer.

  5. My Cynical Little Voice opines that the real reason for the thrust toward self-driving cars isn’t safety, or efficiency, but for teaching incompetence and helplessness while under external control, cuz the helpless won’t protest, and can’t revolt. Witness how neatly it dovetails into the helicoptered helplessness so prevalent among the younger generations today…

    No thanks. I’ll drive my own car (er, truck) and make my own mistakes. Which I’ll warrant are less dramatic than the self-driving mistakes. (My fave so far is when the self-driving car ran over the self-volitional robot.)


    If the problem is remembering all the crap for the written guessing, er, test — have her copy the entire state rules booklet in longhand. Does a much better job of imprinting it on the brain.

    I retaught someone who came with driving habits variously juvenile, broken, or entirely absent, and that was step one, without which she’d have never gotten the license. (At the time CA wasn’t accepting out-of-state licenses and you had to start from scratch. At least, if you weren’t an illegal qui no habla ingles, who can get a DL with zero documentation, let alone testing. I’ve personally witnessed that.)

    1. no, the problem was not stopping long enough at the stop sign. She says she stopped, but it was deemed insufficiently long, and an instant fail. So we have to go through a class, a lot more drive time with adult in the car, and she can try again. Probably in two weeks. The written test, in this state, is done at the time you get your temporary license and start practicing driving legally.

      1. Might be time for a “Russian dashcam.” Due to the way liability and insurance work there, most people put their phone into “movie record” mode and stick it in a dash mount while driving.

        The nice things are that, other than the dash bracket, it’s “free” to anyone who already has a smartphone, and since you take your phone with you when you leave the car, you don’t need one for each car, and no scum will smash a window out trying to steal it.

    2. By and large, the hard core advocates don’t come across as having the intelligence, background, and analytical skills to have established ‘safer’. I’m suspicious that the efficiency argument depends on what assumptions you plug in for routes and schedules.

      People dependent on transportation that can be controlled by an outside source are people who cannot effectively flee if an external factor is committed to murdering them.

      I tend towards the self-driving and electric vehicle push being motivated by a desire to control or murder folks.

    3. They might try, but car culture is embedded in the American psyche. I don’t see it being dislodged any time soon, especially when you still have pop culture showing off how fun cars are. “The Fast & Furious” movies as one example. Then again, a sign a dystopian regime is on the horizon would be making it a requirement that every car on the road has to be self-driving, with another “cash for clunkers” deal. And your Hollywood / Journalisters going on a blitz of making cars out to be particularly evil, like something out of “The Marching Morons.”

      But for benign intentions, I thought of self-driving cars as useful for people who want the independence of driving a car, but are disabled in some way. An old person who still wants to drive can compromise with that kind of car, too.

      1. If I had the money, & self-driving cars were available/legal, I’d consider one.

        Right up until I remembered someone else had tried to program it for ethics (or will they call it morality?), at which point I’d make straight for someone safe to vomit, then revert to traveling on buses (sure, they’d probably have the same programming, but I refuse to take responsibility for the decisions of a service provider when I don’t have a better option, whereas by buying the car I’d be endorsing, & probably accepting liability for, the programming & results thereof).

  6. I had to be forced to learn how to drive. My father (G-d bless him) then later complained that I drove like a flat-lander. I had to point out that I’d been in the back seat during all of our mountain trips, and the local driver’s ed instructors had to work to find a hill steep enough for students to practice on! He allowed as how that might pose a problem yes. (He learned in Chattanooga. In a stick-shift. When he was officially too young to get a license. G-grandfather never let details like that get in the way, apparently.)

    1. Well, here in Ohio there’s nothing but bumps, so she will definitely be driving like a flatlander! Also, since we don’t own a manual vehicle, she’s spared the stick.

    1. The handle over the window in most vehicles. The way I was told, it got the name from parents clinging to it with both hands saying ‘oh, jesus!’ as their offspring took a turn at speed.

          1. And it’s as useful as that invisible brake pedal on the floor of the passenger side. I recall tromping it through the floor a couple of times.

            1. It took me YEARS to realize that my mom was reacting as if she was in the driver’s seat for stuff– in fact, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t an incredibly terrible driver until after I was the only one driving for years and caught myself twitching when I finally got to be a passenger in the front seat again.

      1. Chicken handle out here, and yes, they often have indentations from “Aw, it’s not that slick/deep/tight of a curve!”

        1. Most of the indentations on mine were from when I said “YEEEEHAW!” and stood on the loud pedal.

          I have matching indentations on the right side of my head, same reason. ~:D

  7. I can understand the failure on the stop sign, because the tester was probably waiting for the forward momentum to cease first. I was almost hit locally by two different drivers, one zoomed a corner on her red signal (never stopped) and one who rolled through a stop sign, stopped with rear wheels at the sign only after being honked at. Both were grownups. There are times I think a periodic refresher test is needed, maybe a random pull like jury duty. Stop now means maybe yield, yield means don’t get caught, and go means “ooh, bunny!” Harrumph.

    We taught our daywalker to drive stick, and that’s what we bought for her. Really cuts down on the number of friends who want to borrow your car. πŸ™‚

    1. Some states still have the random “You can’t just renew, sir, you need to ride with the nice officer,” tests. Some are adding driving checks for drivers Over a Certain Age, (or if a family member or legal guardian-type requests it.)

  8. Learning to drive is two things. How the vehicle works, and how the traffic works. The Phantom solution to driver education is off-road vehicles.

    Young Relative the First was started out on trials bikes. The rules of motorcycle trials are pretty simple, no putting your feet down. Braking and clutches are mysteries rapidly solved when climbing your bike over fallen trees.

    Young Relative the Second informed one and all that Hell would freeze over before they would ride one of Those Infernal Things. That one is a bit nervous of things that go by themselves, Therefore Young Relative the Second will be taught to drive the lawn mower and the tractor. Braking and etc. are figured out by about the third bucket full of gravel, or the third hour of mowing the immense lawn.

    The nice thing about off-road is that all the failure-states are survivable. Even if you roll the thing over, you’ll probably walk away. Getting stuck or sliding in the corners are all valuable life lessons. Drifting in the parking lot builds confidence. ~:D

    Later on, when they get to the actual road, they’ve already mastered the vehicle movement and management part, they know if they’re going to slide, they know what to do in the snow and all that stuff. Then they can concentrate on the traffic rules and the other drivers.

    Plus you get to see the kid laugh like a hyena doing wheelies, which is always good.

    1. The Jr. Mad Scientist learned to do the riding mower very well, and actually enjoyed it, much to the First Reader’s pleasure in sitting on the porch watching her work. She does better behind the wheel, although she’s nervous on the roads. I’ll take nervous over cocky.

      1. Agreed, cocky is bad. And aggressive is bad, both traits that falling off your bike at speed will knock out of you very fast indeed. Ask me how I know. ~:D I am the cocky aggressive idiot who needed to fall off many times to know that pain is the inevitable cost of being a dumbass.

  9. There are definitely things I’d like to see my daughters learn about driving that pilots do.

    And some not, Hal Clement was a bomber pilot in WWI. He learned to fly before he learned to drive. He claimed that his biggest hurdle when driving a car was learning to go around obstacles rather thanover. Yes, I know, not what you meant. πŸ™‚

    1. When I flew far more than drove, I had to be forcibly reminded that one does not turn a car with both pedals and wheel. Especially not on Peachtree Street in Atlanta!

Comments are closed.