Monday, May 4, 2015

Mentors who changed my life - Rudy Emmel

I've met people who were so afraid of losing their jobs that they were stingy with their knowledge.

Then there are the people who freely share their knowledge with you hoping to make you a better, smarter person.

There are key people in my past that helped me become the person I am today. I'm not sure any of them know how big a difference they made in my life.

Rudy Emmel was a driver's education instructor back when schools taught driving. The class was divided into sections for the written driver's test, for simulator, and for actual driving. Mr. Emmel did not teach any of the sections for my class time.

I was acing simulator and the book work. I was not acing the driving.

The driving instructor I got was a gruff coach who shall remain nameless. He seemed irritated that my parents had never once taken me driving. Or that I was a girl.  Or both.

There were 3 of us girls in the driving section. I don't recall how either of them did. I only know that I was not learning as quickly and easily as he wanted.  It didn't help that he yelled at me whenever I made a mistake.

The final straw was when I was trying to do what he told me to.  Okay, maybe I was pissed off, but I was trying really hard to do what he asked. He stomped on his brake, stopping the car abruptly, and told me that I was done. He would not take me out driving again.

One of the girls in the back seat traded places with me and drove us back to the school.

I was going to flunk driver's ed. I would not be able to get my license at 16. I would have to wait until I was 18.

I was humiliated.

I was at a loss for what to do when I showed up for my next driving section. That's when Mr. Emmel took me aside and said he would teach me how to drive.

He took me out by myself and devoted the entire class time for the remainder of the semester to teaching me how to drive well enough to pass.

He was patient, and persistent, and explained things in a way that I understood. And he never raised his voice.

He even succeeded in teaching me to parallel park.

I don't know if he realized how important it was that he didn't treat me like I was stupid.

Driving was a step toward adulthood. Driving was freedom. Driving was the ability to get a job.

One of my many careers was driving a semi-truck.

I couldn't have done any of the things I've done without Rudy Emmel's compassion and patience.

Thank you.

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