Last week the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Safety Council made me an offer I couldn't refuse. They sent me a cordial invitation to join them in an all-day seminar on how to drive an automobile.

I went.My plan was to "shave points" from my record, but I came away with new-found awe at the collection of human beings who people our planet.

And I got this column out of it.

I'm thinking about billing the Deseret News for a full day's work.

To begin with, I don't plan to mention anyone at the seminar by name, but that doesn't matter. You'll recognize most of them anyway. They're your kids, your grandparents, your spouse and your neighbors. I swear a good 90 percent of them - or people just like them - were in my first Cub Scout pack.

The instructor, for instance, was one of those wry and earnest fellows who's either a blue-collar worker in a white-collar job, or a white-collar worker in a blue. You never quite know. And he doesn't care.

What he does care about is "defensive driving." Oh, he confused the words "linguini" and "Lamborghini" once or twice, and when he lectured on marijuana he called it funny names like "weed blower" and "Mary Jane" - names nobody uses but drug enforcement types trying to sound street-wise.

But give the man credit. He actually got through to me.

He taught me never to point my sun visor at my nose when I drive unless I want a nose on the back of my head after a crash. He taught me to turn on my lights when I turn on my windshield wipers because if I'm having trouble seeing, so's everyone else.

He explained that - despite popular beliefs - STOP does not stand for "slight tap on the pedal" or "squeal tires on pavement."

In fact, he taught me almost as much as the boys at the back of the class taught me.

The Boys at the Back - sometimes known as "Hey! You-boys-at-the-back-there" - have been a pain in the neck for schoolteachers, church leaders, bus drivers, theater owners and concert promoters for a good jillion years - probably since Fred Flintstone was in knee-pants. They're irreverent, rowdy, disruptive and cocky. But worst of all, they're often funny.

And they were born with a God-given gift for slicing through bull.

When one woman in the driving class took five minutes telling us all her personal ideas for safe driving, one of the Boys at the Back couldn't help himself.

"Yeah?" he blurted, "if you're so smart, why are you here?"

Touche, check and mate.

And when someone said it was a good idea to eat popcorn a kernel at a time to stay awake on long trips, the Boys at the Back wouldn't let it die. They had popcorn jokes for all eight films we saw. In one, a young mother straps her toddler into the back seat. "Mommy, Mommy, where's the popcorn?" cried the Boys.

In another, a middle-aged couple debates tapping on the horn lightly to let an older driver know it's really her turn to proceed.

"Whoopee! A Sunday drive with the Jensens," the Boys said. "After the drive, let's pop some corn!"

By the end of the day the instructor was winding down, but the Boys were just getting wound up. "I'll never drive over 35 again. Honest!" vowed one as he took his diploma.

I got my diploma, too, by the way.

So did the woman with all the inside info on safe driving.

And, yes, so did all the Boys at the Back.

I saw them a few minutes after class at the Dairy Queen. They were eating cherry-dipped cones and vowing to never - ever - point their sun visors at their noses again.