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A life-changing decision

Back in 1978, if anyone had told me I’d be teaching people how to drive for the next 35 years I’d have said they’d slipped a cog. At that time I had a good job with the largest company of its kind in the world. How about 40,000 employees worldwide and billions in annual sales?

My job included a lot of writing about company products, corporate capabilities and other stuff, as well as writing speeches for some of our top dogs. And, that reminds me of a funny thing that happened on the way to the boardroom.

One time I wrote a speech for the chairman of the board, a blustery, big man we affectionately called “Hey You!” (just kidding) and who was, by this time, getting up there in age. The speech was for delivery at an annual shareholders meeting. While I may not have been the world’s greatest speech writer, I did think it was one of my better efforts.

One tries to energize such speeches but, no matter how well-written, they can get pretty boring unless you happen to be a major stockholder with beaucoup profits at stake. It wouldn’t be hard to keep this audience interested though because, for the first time in the history of the company, annual sales had topped $3 billion and we were in a rip-roaring, horn-tooting, tell-the-world mood.

Things were going along nicely when, about halfway through his speech, our exalted leader dropped his chin and went silent as if in deep thought. “A nice meaningful pause,” I thought at first, “good job, chief!”

But, then the seconds ticked by and when he stayed that way I began to panic. This was too long for a deliberate pause! Long enough for the several hundred stockholders, employees and other interested folks to start murmuring and giving one another looks. I almost ran up there to see if he was still breathing.

After what seemed like a millennia, his head came up and incredibly he picked right up in mid-sentence and continued speaking. I started breathing again. The boss had fallen asleep in the middle of his own speech and hadn’t missed a syllable! What a guy! I always thought this incident either said a lot for his presence of mind or not much for my writing ability.

Anyway, it’s another day now and I’m in a meeting with some high level-types. We are briefing a division senior vice president for a long anticipated meeting with a far east head of state. My turn hadn’t come up yet. I looked around and for the first time really took notice of what corporate pressure was doing to some of my friends. Fred was on deck. Upon looking closer I could see that his face was way too flushed and his hands and voice were shaking.

Fred had been with the company for a long time, dealing mostly with these high-level, pressure cooker situations and the stress was affecting not only his demeanor but his health. I looked at him that morning and thought, “This guy is a heart attack looking for a place to happen!” I asked myself if I could be headed for that. I didn’t like the answer.

I made a decision that morning that would change our lives forever.

We promptly set about looking for a small business. My wife had a successful business of her own at the time and by chance through one of her customers, we found a little driving school for sale and bought it.

“Little” is understatement. We’re talking about a one-man, one-car, leather-helmet-on-the-hat-rack operation.

With hard work and good management though it took off and in short order grew to become a well respected and very successful enterprise. Later we moved to another state and did it all over again.

As a provider of state-approved driver education, most of our students have been teens. But, as our reputation grew we began to attract others such as adults getting first-time licenses, for example, and seniors seeking help with the state road test. One of our most rewarding experiences was the 10 years we taught our classes in Spanish.

Then another interesting thing happened. The word got around that we were also long-time motorhome owners. We began getting inquiries from folks who were acquiring their first motorhome and feeling the need for some friendly advice on how to handle this new and exciting but unfamiliar type of transportation.

By combining our traffic safety experience with 35 years of RVing and three motorhomes, we’ve managed to help quite a few, mostly couples, to ease into this new and different world of larger and heavier vehicles.

As is the case with any kind of driving, the number one cause of RV mishaps is inexperience. No matter how much driving experience we have in other types of vehicles and no matter how good we think we are, when moving into the larger and heavier vehicles, lots of practice is imperative!

About Robert Sears

Robert Sears is a professional driving instructor who once owned a company that trained more than 70,000 people to drive. Today he is an author working on several non-fiction books and writing traffic safety articles for consumer and special interest publications. He is a 30-year motorhome owner who has logged several hundred thousand miles of RV driving experience.

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