To Whom It May Concern:
My dad said he’d get me a Corvette if I got my license on the first try, or a Range Rover if I got it on the second. Because of the shameful training I received at Mr. Tambellini’s School of Driving, I didn’t manage to pass the driving test until my fourth go, and then I got my dead grandma’s Camry. I’m writing to complain about Mr. Tambellini’s program.
It wasn’t the one my school recommended, but Tambellini’s boasted more on-road instruction—that’s why my mom says she picked it. She employs a primitive style of child-rearing, though (classic example: teaching a curious youngster about the dangers of fire by allowing him to jump through a large bonfire, then refusing plastic surgery to minimize the massive scarring, for fear of encouraging self-love), so I think that choosing Mr. Tambellini’s program was just another way for her to express her special parenting method.
Every Tuesday, I’d meet Mr. Tambellini in his basement apartment for an hour of training, then we’d go out for three hours of driving. Based on what I’ve heard from my friends, typical driver’s-ed instruction consists of lectures and videos. Mr. Tambellini’s instruction involved an old episode of Cops and him holding his hands up to an improvised steering wheel, encouraging me to “go like this.” During the commercials, Mr. Tambellini would offer me juice to drink, which I accepted. Meanwhile, he would drink many cans of beer.
Following training the first day, Mr. Tambellini turned off the TV and went to the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, he returned, claiming he was OK, but it was clear from various sensory cues (retching sounds, dank intestinal smell) that he had been puking. He told me to “get in the car,” and pushed me a little on the back of the head, like I’ve seen mean dads in movies do. Now, I thought that was weird, but I wasn’t about to mess up my chances of getting behind the wheel by saying something about boundaries. After a brief introduction to his Mitsubishi Galant, Mr. Tambellini asked me—begged me, really—to drive, mumbling something that sounded like “They close at 9.” I noticed at that point that he was holding a spaghetti-stained MapQuest printout of directions to Ikea.
The Pennsylvania driving test doesn’t require any freeway work, as I’m sure you’re aware. I mention this to explain my surprise when Mr. Tambellini directed me, within minutes, to the freeway. Chancing a little criticism, I suggested we start on a quiet side street. This is when he gave me a motivational speech—something about salmon dying after they mate—and urged me to “lose myself in the moment.”
After an hour, we found the Ikea and I pulled into a parking spot. Before he got out of the car, Mr. Tambellini handed me a note and said it would keep me busy until he got back. It was a simple word scramble and I deciphered the message almost immediately: “The gold is in the glove.” Figuring he meant the glove compartment, I opened it up and looked inside. If gold is a Lands’ End catalog and a stack of Mallo Cup rebates, I am a leprechaun.
Mr. Tambellini came back one hour later, tottering under the weight of boxes. I got out of the car and helped him load the seven floor lamps and two corner sofa beds with storage into the trunk. As I did so, he muttered over and over, “Atta girl.” I was pretty pissed about the wait, so I said, “I’m not a girl.” Mr. Tambellini smiled and raised his eyebrows, like he was implying that his claim that I am female might not be unwarranted. (My scarring is extensive, but you can easily tell that I’m male.) I assured him in no uncertain terms that beneath my gnarled flesh I was all boy. He shrugged and we drove home in silence.
That was pretty much a typical day with Mr. Tambellini. Sam’s Club was another frequent destination; I’d sit in the car while he bought groceries and DVDs. I was always on the brink of quitting, but it was only after he tricked me into taking him to Hilton Head that I swore I’d never go back there. Now, he doesn’t even have a license (it was suspended after his second DUI; I drove him to the arraignment and the hearing), so you can’t take it away. I just think you should warn people. Also, someone at school found out where my car came from and now I supposedly smell like dead matriarch. A letter from you to my parents and I might smell like new Range Rover. God knows it’s the least you could do.
Thanks for your time,