Driving Instructors Tell All: Stories and Tips for Parents

By Alex Perdikis

If you have a teen driver in your family, or will soon, sit down and take a deep breath. Now is not the time to panic. Parents everywhere survive this moment and you will, too. All it takes is a little fortitude.


“It’s hard to believe, but some people choose to teach teens how to drive. Thank goodness for driving instructors, though. Otherwise, it would all be on you.”

— Alex Perdikis


One thing driving instructors don’t run short on is stories to tell. Here are a few of the funny and sometimes bizarre happenings from the day in the life of a driving instructor.

It’s a Beautiful Day to Die

Instructor Mac Demere jokingly claimed those words as his motto over the course of his driving instructor career. Anyone who sits in the passenger seat next to an unskilled teenager can relate.

Demere sees this story as a cautionary tale for parents. It was the first lesson for a 15-year-old. As the teen pulled up the first stop sign, he hit the brake hard. Both driver and passenger lurched forward.

Recovering from the abrupt stop, Demere suggested a gentler approach to braking next time. Unfazed, the teen managed to brake hard no matter what Demere said or did for the next 30 minutes. Realizing the futility of continuing that day, Demere went back to the teen’s house and invited Dad into the driver’s seat.

Demere’s plan was to give Dad some pointers to help his son practice before next week’s lesson. As Dad approached the same stop sign where his son slammed on the brakes, guess what Dad did? He slammed on the brakes. Pounding the brakes was apparently a family tradition.

An Army of Jack Russells

Drivers have to be ready for anything, but driving instructors try to eliminate distractions on the first lesson. Most instructors head out to the country or find a quiet, little-used road and give first-time drivers a low-pressure experience.

With this in mind, the instructor took his young student to a quiet road. A large bush lined the road on the left, but the lane was free of traffic. “It’s the perfect starter road,” he thought.

Though a bit nervous, his young student was ready to take her first short drive. She set off and reached a speed of approximately 10 mph when three Jack Russell terriers shot out from the bush and surrounded the car, yapping away.

Seconds later, their owner jumped out from the bush as well looking very much like the Incredible Hulk. The young driver slammed the brakes; the instructor controlled the stop and, happily, everyone survived. The instructor earned a few gray hairs, though.

Pajamas and Pit Stops

After instructor Saeed arrived at a student’s home and sent a text message letting her know he was there, he was surprised when she didn’t come out. She was usually right on time.

Saeed knocked on the door of the student’s home.  Her mother answered. Mom said her daughter was still in bed but would wake her up and send her out. Saeed went to the car expecting to wait at least 20 minutes.

Instead, Saeed’s student came out immediately — in her pajamas. It was a first for Saeed, but he decided to go with the flow.

Not surprisingly, the student needed to make a stop to use the restroom before they’d gone too far. They stopped at a nearby restaurant, and the student went in. Saeed waited and waited, but she didn’t come out. He texted her. There was no answer. What could’ve happened?

She finally reappeared after 40 minutes. What was her explanation? When she dashed inside to use the restroom, she saw the guy she had a crush on eating breakfast with friends. She hid in the bathroom until he left. After all, she couldn’t let him see her that way, could she?

Tips for Parents from Driving Instructors

Driving instructors are never at a loss when it comes to stories, but they’re also a great source of tips for parents. Each state requires a minimum number of driving hours to get a license, but the more time you devote to helping your teen drive, the better driver your teen becomes.

Follow these tips from professional driving instructors:

    • Stay focused: Remember, you’re sitting next to an inexperienced driver who’s in control of a very large vehicle. Focus your attention on the task at hand.
    • Rest up: This one goes for both you and your teen. Don’t practice if either of you is overly tired.
    • Review before leaving the driveway every single time:  Pay particular attention to reviewing brake and accelerator locations. Your teen might protest, but it’s worth the trouble.
    • Don’t push too hard: There’s no law that says a teen has to get a license at 16. You know your child better than anyone. If driving seems a bit too difficult or too much at this stage, don’t push.
    • Practice for a reason: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that letting your child drive you on errands is practice. Set aside two hours of practice driving time per week. Spend extra time on skills your child needs to work on.



Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.


Planning a Family Road Trip? Don’t Miss These Offbeat Roadside Attractions

By Alex Perdikis

The family road trip is as American as apple pie. What better way to spend time with the entire family than embarking on an adventure? And, what better destination could there be than one of the many roadside attractions the U.S. has to offer?


“Whether you’re taking the family out just for the day or making a few stops on a longer trip, here are some captivating places you shouldn’t miss.”

— Alex Perdikis


DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

What does a guy who discovered his first shipwreck at 14 do after 40 years of diving? If you’re Dale Clifton, you turn your collection of personal treasures into the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum.

Thousands of ships wrecked off the Delaware coast, and many still lie at the bottom of the ocean. Nor’easters, hurricanes and natural phenomenon took their toll, but pirates were also to blame.

Thousands of ships wrecked during what’s called the Age of Sail, the time period from approximately 1571 to 1862. Many carried gold, jewels and other treasures. Pirates lured ships to shoals with fake lighthouses. Ship after ship crashed. The pirates quickly recovered the spoils.

The owner of the museum is a one-of-a-kind character. As a kid, Dale visited museums with shipwreck displays. Few had actual artifacts to show because they’d sold them. Dale decided he not only wanted to discover shipwreck treasures but he wanted to keep and display them for the world to see. That’s exactly what he did.

Artifacts on display include everyday cookware, sculptures carved from human bones, a FeeJee Mermaid, treasure chests, weapons, coins and silver and gold bars. Dale changes the display each January, so there’s always something new to gaze at.

The DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum is located on Fenwick Island. The museum sits over a shell shop in a strip mall. Admission is free.

Museum of Wonder

You don’t even have to leave your car to see awesome sights at the Museum of Wonder in Seale, Alabama. Artist and collector Butch Anthony created this masterful mix of art and oddities and the museum brings visitors from across the country.

Butch began collecting curiosities as a child, but his artistic destiny began when a turnip with an oddly human-looking “face” turned up in his garden. Butch’s friend, John Henry Toney, drew a face on the turnip. The friends jokingly stuck a $50 price tag on their masterpiece and placed it for sale in a local shop. Imagine their shock when someone actually bought it.

Butch became a well-respected and prolific artist. With fame came attention, however, something an artistic mind like Butch didn’t relish. He came up with the idea to turn shipping containers into outdoor display cases.

Butch installed windows and went to work on his exhibits. When it opened, the Museum of Wonder was the world’s first drive-thru museum. It was so popular in fact, that when word got out, so many visitors drove through that Butch had to repair the road.

Although Butch changes the displays periodically, some of the artifacts you might see include the World’s Largest Gallstone, the turnip & face that started it all and a terrifying collection of Sunday school instructional “aids” created by a minister in the 1930s. Apparently, the minister thought homemade models of his version of hell would keep children on the straight and narrow.

The Museum of Wonder is open 24-hours a day. Displays are backlit at night making some of them even more dramatic. The “self-service” museum requests a $1 per adult donation.

The Monster That Wouldn’t Die

If you and the children are up for a little monster fun, check out the Monster That Wouldn’t Die in West Virginia. An eerie experience in 1952 led to the creation of several must-see stops in and around the small town of Flatwoods.

In September 1952, beautician Kathleen May and National Guardsman Gene Lemon climbed to the top of a hill with five younger boys. They’d seen what appeared to be a flying saucer and hoped to get a better view from the hilltop.

They saw something, but it wasn’t a flying saucer. The terrified group looked on in horror as a monster came out of the mist and headed straight for them. The group ran, but later described a monster with a green body, searchlight-like eyes and a hooded head. A couple of witnesses also described clawed hands.

Although the sighting stirred up attention when it first happened, it was nearly forgotten over time. But, when Andrew Braxton became the Braxton County Visitors Bureau director, all that changed.

Andrew knew how the legend of the Mothman brought tourists and their dollars into another West Virginia town. Why couldn’t Flatwoods do the same with their monster?

His first step was to pay tribute to the monster, which he dubbed “Braxxie,”  with giant chairs. He painted the chairs with unique designs and placed them in strategic monster-related settings around Flatwoods and the surrounding area.

Andrew commissioned the same company that made the Mothman statue to create a Braxxie mascot. The Braxxie mascot debuted at the tourism fair in 2017. It was a huge hit.

To experience the Monster That Wouldn’t Die legend yourself, begin at the Flatwoods Monster Museum. Then take a tour of the monster chairs and end up at “The Spot” for some food, ice cream and a monster photo-op.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

5 Musts-Dos to Sell Your Used Car Right

By Alex Perdikis

Maybe you bought a new car and don’t need your old one. Or, maybe you inherited a car that’s not an antique, but not exactly something you want to drive, either. Whatever the reason, you’re thinking of trying to sell it yourself. But, where do you start?

Get Ready

Before you start placing ads everywhere, get ready. Prospective buyers need information before they hand over their hard-earned money for your used car and you’d better have it. You also have to protect yourself legally.

Here’s what you need to do before listing your used car for sale:

1. Write down the details. Document the year, make, model, mileage, average miles per gallon, number of previous owners, accidents involving the vehicle, maintenance records, mechanical problems and any other detail you know about the car in question.

2. How much is it worth? Look at the Kelly Blue Book (KBB) or Edmunds Appraisal sites to determine your car’s worth. To get an accurate assessment, answer the form questions honestly. Don’t set your sights on the price you get, however. More on that later.

3. How much are people in your area willing to pay? Check local print ads and sites like Craigslist to get a feel for prices where you live. Don’t look at dealer sales, but private party sales instead. That is the type of sale you’re engaging in.

Here’s a great tip. Check eBay’s used car sales. Particularly pay attention to prices on completed sales for cars similar to yours.

4. Check your title. Make sure you have a clean title. You will not be able to sell the car without a title and any liens have to be taken care of before you sell.

5. Meet inspection requirements. If you live in a state that requires inspections or certifications of any kind, check the laws governing your sale. Your car might have to pass inspections before you sell the car to someone else.

Price Me!

You have the KBB or Edmunds worth estimate and, if you did your research, you know how much people in your area pay for similar vehicles. Also, take into account the economic health and demographics of your region as you think about pricing.

The boring old sedan is in high demand for those with families on a budget. Sports cars and convertibles sell better in the summer and spring. Work trucks and vans are popular and can be competitively priced. Collector cars take longer to sell and are tricky to price, but the potential is high if you find the right buyer.


“Take into account any new parts, such as a new engine or tires. Also consider any negatives, including dents or rust spots.” — Alex Perdikis


Ask yourself how fast you want to sell it. If you don’t mind waiting, settle on a slightly higher price.

Initially, ask for more than you’re willing to settle for. Expect to negotiate with people. If, for example, you’d like to get $10,000 out of the deal, ask for $11,500. Most people offer down in $500 to $1000 increments. Asking more gives you a bit of leeway.

Pretty Me Up

Before you start showing the car, pretty it up. Take the time to wash it, vacuum the inside, clean the trunk and compartment areas, polish windows and wipe the steering wheel and dashboard down so they’re free of dust. If you’re up to the challenge, make low-cost repairs before you sell.

As an added buyer incentive, have your maintenance documentation and a vehicle history report ready to show. Even better, get a report from your regular mechanic about the car’s condition to show potential buyers.

Show the Car, But Protect Yourself

As people answer your Craigslist and print ads, it’s your job to evaluate them. If you don’t want people coming to your home, arrange to meet them in a public area.

Go with potential buyers as they test drive the vehicle. If they want to take the car to their own mechanic, take the car yourself or ride along. Let other people know where you are if you go anywhere with a potential buyer.

How Much?

Think ahead of time about how to handle the price negotiations. Below are a few examples of what buyers often say when they negotiate:

  • “What’s your bottom price?” Don’t see this as a sale if you greatly reduce your price. Stick to your asking price for the time being.
  • “This is my price. Take it or leave it.” Unless the price is acceptable, thank the person for coming and let them go. If they’re bluffing but interested, they may not leave after all.
  • “Will you take (specific amount)?” This person is interested but leaves the door open for you to counter offer.

Once you agree on a price, avoid problems by taking either cash or a cashier’s check. Don’t agree to accept payments over time or take a personal check.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.