Retired Air Force General Charles “Chuck” Yeager, first man to break the sound barrier, grounded from flying because of his age, has opened a student driving school.
After I heard that my hero of heroes, Chuck Yeager, had opened a driving school, I jumped to join it. After all, Chuck is the fastest man alive, right? I figgered Chuck would teach us to drive balls-out and hammer down!
After an emergency burger run, I arrived at ‘The Right Stuff’ drivers ed class 3 minutes late, and found an empty chair at the back of the room. Flustered, I sat down, and looked up at two steely glaring blue eyes.
“Glad you could make it, pard!”
It was Chuck himself, bedecked in fur collared leather flight jacket, flight hat and a chest full of medals, his hat tipped forward, his hands jammed tightly in his pockets.
Chuck tensely picked up a fresh instruction book from his desk, and smoothly sauntered back to me in a stealthy cat-like stride.
“Last time I was 3 minutes late was at Edwards AFB back ’47. Colonel Boyd busted my ass up, down and sideways for 3 straight days, pard. You think this is shits and giggles, dontcha son? Keep in mind I’m the one who passes you, and the last thing I want on my record is some dumb sumbitch’ like you bustin’ up a 20 thousand dollar piece of precision tax payer machinery!”
Chuck feather-whacked me in the head with the booklet, sucker punched my arm and cuffed me by the collar
“And I don’t give a hootin’ hell if you bust your own sorry ass, but I’ll be gosh danged if I got any part of you takin’ out someone ELSE’S neither!”
I managed a barely audible Y-Y-es sir, S-S-orry sir!, and pulled my T-shirt back down over my head.
Chuck returned to the head of the classroom, flipped off the lights, and turned on a projector.
“Lesson number one. If you want to grow old as a pilot, you’ve got to know when to push it, and when to back off Here’s some good gun camera shots of a bunch of weenies who took to the road, got in way over their heads, and managed to get their asses busted for all the effort!”
For 45 minutes, Chuck showed us gory footage of car crashes, using the words dumb sons-a-bitches, bought the farm and augured in every minute or so, using his leather swagger stick as a pointer.
Shaky as Linda Tripp in court, the room full of us gasped and groaned, some holding hands with each other for strength.
A number of us found love there that day…
Chuck flipped off the projector and handed out the written exam.
Here was question number one:
If you are merging onto a freeway, and some weenie decides to block you from getting on, the right course of action is to:
1. Use your car as a rolling weapon, and batter the sumbitch ’till he peels off.
2. Check your six, drop flaps to slow down, maneuver behind him, put the hammer down and ram his tail until he busts open a like a can of sardines.
3. Pull over to the side of the road and drink a fifth of corn whisky with a buddy.
4. Roll down your window, honk your horn like crazy, and swear right into next Sunday’s service.
After I finished, I turned in my paper, and incredibly ,Chuck gave us all passing grades without even grading them. After another two hours of war stories and shots of two-dollar corn hooch, Chuck autographed copies of him and the X-1 Glamorous Glennis, reminding us, “It’s the man, not the machine!” and turned us loose.
Driving home in triumph, I wondered about Chuck up there in the clouds, and put the hammer down, charging past two Georgia State Troopers.
As they chased me in my little Chevy Chevette into the setting Georgia sun, I recanted Chuck’s words over and over again, in my head:
“It’s the man, not the machine!”