Newton Driving School


     The Russian one, on Needham street. This is where I spent my break. 9-3:45. Monday-Friday.  Private driving education is something the Newtonian Russians actually have a monopoly on. Whether you go to the driving school on Needham Street, like I did, or the one at Newton North, or the one in Brookline, don’t be fooled. It’s the same people.

     A small building in the strip mall with the gas station on Needham Street (which one? amirite?) is home to the NDS. Inside is the smallest waiting room you’ve ever seen, and it actually has a fake wall separating it from the time-receiving, education-giving classroom next door. The classroom is probably the hardest room I’ve ever been in. It’s pretty impossible to describe the vibe of the NDS without just saying some of its peculiarities.

by Kimia Tabatabaei

Sketch of Gregory                                         by Kimia Tabatabaei

First off, it starts at 9:00 am every day. It seems that if you get there at 9:08 every day the instructor (Gregory, as I later found out) doesn’t really mind, but if you were to arrive at like 9:15, you would be publicly shamed. I noticed this every day as I found the sweet spot, the latest possible time to arrive.

     The first session on Monday, like I said, I arrive somewhere like 9:07 or 9:08 and take a seat in a plastic foldable chair at a plastic foldable table. There’s a decent number of people I know there, but also a nice amount of rando’s. Not the kind of people I want to make any type of relationship with… but it was nice to know there was some insecurity. Some people have a brand-new notebook lying on their desk with a sharp pencil right next to it. Why? What do they expect? I sat straight up in my seat, with my sleeping bag-replaceable jacket zipped up to my nose, for the better part of an hour. The nice, smokey-suited man finally comes to a good stopping point after talking about the education we would be receiving, the inspectors we would need to prove our education to, and the probably maybe Honda Accord we would need to keep safe while driving. I ask the first question of the week.

“What do we call you?” This question shocks him. I don’t know why.

     “Gregory. Not Greg! Not Mister Gregory! Not Mister! Gregory.”

This was the moment I knew I would learn a lot at the NDS.

     Passing time is hard. One of the best ways I found is to push my urination cycle to its limits by filling and re-filling my water bottle several times a day and excusing myself to the restroom as much as possible. Besides the frequent water and bathroom breaks I take, we are scheduled a 15-minute snack break and and a 30-minute lunch break. These breaks may seem piteous or sad, but really are great ways for me and some young men I had enrolled with to explore all that Needham Street has to offer. That’s always our go-to break activity. Some other participants, the Russians, were more inclined to taking a smoke break and talking on their phones by their many Honda Accords.

     Everyday we would travel south, exploring further and further into the stripmall jungle. We started slow and kept it relatively classy, containing ourselves to only places like Tedeschi’s or, later during lunch, the Greek Food Place. (On day one, I actually burned every taste-bud off my tongue by eating too many sour-patch kids.) Eventually, we were pushing the realistic boundaries of timely travel on Needham Street by purely going for abstract adventures during lunch. By the end of the week, we were masters of Needham Street. We were the “locals,” the “regulars.” I knew National Lumber like the back of my hand–and no, not the commercial store in front of the yard. I knew the contractor’s Lumber Yard in the back. I had skimmed through the romantic novel section of the supposedly “mobile” book store several times.

Baza Market Graphic by Eli Beutel

Baza Market
Graphic by Eli Beutel

On the furthest expedition we undertook, there was, ironically enough, another Russian establishment, BAZA. BAZA is a market, hidden away behind Petco. Nothing good there for us, but I did see chicken hearts in the flesh.

All of the 30-hour mandatory classroom education, led to the test I would have to take, and pass, on Friday, after lunch. A 100 question multiple choice test.

     Long story short, we all passed the test, and we all had the pleasure of enjoying the lime jello.

The NEWTON DRIVING SCHOOL is a milestone and a right of passage, and although it may seem bad, it is bad, and you have to do it. 

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