Chacos column: The rules of the game

Andrea Chacos
Enjoy the Ride
Andrea Chacos

At the edge of town, we have a stubborn red traffic light that refuses to turn green, especially on Sunday mornings. This is when I chaperone a car full of neophytes to their driver’s education class. Part of me wants to wait hours, if not days, for the traffic light to turn green because it’s the law. The other part of me wants to unleash an inner rebel that craves some action. She wants to simultaneously run the red light and yell obscenities while watching it fade away in the rearview mirror.

On a recent Sunday morning, I decide to be a law-abiding citizen in front of these young men and wait at the never-ending traffic light. Although keeping order is fundamentally mundane, it’s the right thing to do. I also reason that rules can give these boys a sense of safety in a life laden with unpredictability. They will need all the life lessons they can get at their impressionable age, even from me.

I begin my driving lesson by advising these youngsters that we’re all probably being recorded by a hidden camera tucked away in a tree somewhere and say something about “karma” finding them if they choose to break the law. I’ve spent most of motherhood explaining my rebellious nature to my children while trying to keep my unsavory behavior in check around their friends. When I falter, I cobble together a passable rationale that has the look and feel of a tattered quilt. These are the type of boys that will share my misdeeds when they get home, so I hope my message sounds lofty enough to satisfy their parents. I want to scare them a bit, too.

Awkward minutes tick by in the car. Silence ensues. My coffee is now cold. Finally, to tame the building tension, I ask my son and his friends what their omniscient, all-knowing driving teacher would do in this situation. I don’t really care what they have to say, nor do I really care what their teacher recommends, but the feisty one sitting quietly in the backseat surprises me and whispers I should “gun it.” He’s now my favorite friend.

As I’m about to come unglued, common sense prevails. I summon a mantra I stole from Hugh Laurie’s salty character on the tv show, House, M.D., take a deep breath, and follow his words like he’s the second coming of Christ. “Rules are just helpful guidelines for stupid people who can’t make up their minds,” and take my chances. I drive through the stubborn red traffic light that refuses to turn green. It’s orgasmic.

A few minutes later, my heart skips a beat and I frantically look in every direction but it’s only the sirens in my head alerting me to explain my recklessness to the others in the car. The boys are waiting expectantly, even the feisty one now beaming in the backseat. I talk in an existential way as if my decision-making skills have been ordained from above. They don’t understand what I’m getting at because knowing when to follow and when to break the rules is a debate for the ages. They’re also only fifteen years old and their deepest discussion is how much hot sauce can be put on a plate of nachos before someone’s head explodes.

When my son and his friends finally get out of the car, I want to leave them with a deeper meaning about rules and order. All I can muster this early in the morning is a quote from Banksy that says, “Some of the greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules, but by people following the rules.” The boys nod their heads like aggressive bobbleheads on the dashboard of a vintage VW van, close the car door, and I swear my snarky son mutters, “She’s crazy.” They run into class without even waving goodbye.

The compliment from my son boosts my mood and what elevates me a bit more is evading the cops once again. However, if I’m being honest, what fuels me home is that I’m not considered ‘stupid’ by a despicable, fictional character no one even remembers from a television show cancelled years ago. 

Andrea Chacos can be reached at

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