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So, I’m driving my son’s car. It’s a long story that involves more cars, motor oil, German fuses and a tuba. But that’s beside the point.

Let me back up. When I began driving in the 1980’s — that era when Tom Cruise sank a Porsche in “Risky Business” — cars still had carburetors and you could improvise repairs.

My first car was a faded green AMC Hornet hatchback. The coolest thing about it, other than it was a car and I was 16, was the Hornet medallion on the nose of the hood. This thing was a manual transmission with three on the tree, which is a weird way to shift, but I figured it out after the incident.

I had just gotten my driver’s permit and was home alone on a school day afternoon. The Hornet was collecting dust in the garage. Dad replaced it with a shiny new blue AMC Concord, another stubby version of a station wagon. It even had faux wood panels. It also had an AM/FM radio with a built-in CB that had us kids pretty stoked because our Grandma Baxter talked on her home CB all the time. Her handle was Horse Collar. I chose the handle Cottage Grove Kid, which translates to mean “little dork who won’t have anything to talk about if you answer.“

The car dealer that Dad bought this wondrous machine apparently did not want the Hornet in trade. Maybe he sensed that AMC was as doomed as a Romney presidential campaign. So there sat the Hornet, my destiny.

It was going to be hours until any licensed driver who could go with me on a drive would be home. The key was just hanging there by the kitchen door.

Here’s the thing about teaching yourself to work a clutch and a shift lever that’s mounted on the steering column and not the floor: It takes your full attention. And the engineers knew that. They knew a kid home alone would try to back that Hornet out of a garage and would hook the garage door wheel track with the bumper. They knew that kid would be too distracted to notice until the right side of the garage made a loud, drawn-out crack.

I was already a dead man. So I used my newfound skills to push the corner of the garage back into place with the Hornet, and I went for a drive.

So you see I can figure things out.

Then comes last Tuesday night driving my son’s little car that he repaired by scouring the Internet for an odd little bracket that Ford discontinued years ago. The car every once in a while does a Hula shake. We don’t know why, but because of that and the fact a tuba is unlikely to fit in the backseat or trunk of it, I sent my larger car to college with my three children to keep them safe.

So, I’m driving my son’s car, which I don’t fully understand. One thing I haven’t grasped is how to turn on the brights, which led me to accidentally flash my brights at a sheriff’s deputy while driving my daughter home from her drivers education class.

He pulled us over less than a quarter-mile from our home. He said he stopped us just to make certain everything with us was OK.

My daughter in the passenger seat, gleefully said what a great learning experience it was to be pulled over.

I do know how the brights work now.

Contact Chris Baldus at He does not give driving lessons.