I read a phrase today that I think should be used more commonly. Where I saw it, though, I do not remember. It appeared to be a typo, but if it was written like this on purpose, it looked like an artful accident. The writer described a learning experience as a “learning curb.” How great a pair of words is that?
I like collecting phrases like that. I enjoy proudly coining them myself even more, so I wish I could claim credit for this one. But I can not. I wish I could credit this writer—but does he or she know that there were was this epic phrase in their post? As I said, it looked like an accident, a typo. In the context it looked like they thought they had typed “learning curve.”
Many of my learning experiences did not have mere learning curves or even steep learning curves; indeed, there were “learning curbs,” on which I banged my forward progress to a sudden stop or flipped my vehicle.
Learning to drive, of course. An easy example. My first driving teacher was my father, and he is still with us and driving, and I am still here, so he must have done a good job. (I no longer drive, because of my spinal muscular atrophy; more than once I have watched my right leg move when I meant to move my left leg, my left for my right, and neither leg when motion from either one would have been good, which sucks and is sufficient to keep me unambitious about driving again. There are cars with hand controls, though.) My sole memory of my father teaching me to drive is his selection of an unreasonably steep hill in the City of Poughkeepsie (Noxon Street) to test my parallel parking skills. It was smart in that it made the lesson difficult and made the point: For my dozen years as a driver, I successfully avoided all parallel parking situations. I parked across town and walked to avoid parallel parking. I still have dreams in which I fall off the side of a city.
My next driving instructor was a coach at my high school, and he made me aware of something that I have struggled with my entire life, and not only when driving: I am a control freak, to use that overused expression. He gazed on my white knuckles pushed against the steering wheel, my fingers spread wide to enclose as much of the wheel as I could hold in my hands at once, and said, “Relax your hands. Those cars have drivers, too. You can only drive this one.”
I failed my first driving test. Of course. Sixteen years old (or whatever age) and a white, preppy-ish, suburban kid, like the boy-child I was? If anyone reading this is a driving tester, I hope you please flunk anyone matching that description, at least once. I earned my license on the second test, which my memory tells me I took later that same day, but knowledge of how things actually happen on Planet Earth tells me that this could not have been so.
I am a control freak. And I usually fail the first test, the tests in life where any coincidences between information in books and the facts in reality are revealed to be rare or nonexistent. (Any script that any retail manager has given me, no matter how well I have memorized it, has been blown up by the first real customer on the sales floor, who inevitably asked me something that did not appear anywhere in the script. Like if I knew the location of a bathroom.) But life has given me more than my share of second chances at these tests, more than I deserved or expected, deserve or expect. Eventually I learned that you can drive your vehicles far better than I can drive yours for you, as long as I pay attention to mine. Life gives us some steep learning curbs.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 25 declares, “Our free-write is back by popular demand: today, write about anything—but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.”