NEW YORK CITY– A driving instructor who commutes by trains and buses does not give a fuck how his students drive. According to his students, forty-five-year-old Russell Porter automatically passes everyone despite paying little to no attention to their driving skills.
One former student, Michael Giordano, told reporters that “all he does is read the newspaper and play with his phone.” Other students, like Linda Harro of Bushwick, confirmed Giordano’s claims, saying, “Just recently, Russell and I were driving on the BQE. There was a stalled vehicle in front of us, so I asked him whether I should go around the guy or wait for the other cars to go first. Apparently, he was watching a movie on his phone because he told me, ‘Hold on. This is the part where Deadpool shows his wife how badly he was burned.’ “
Fanter’s story doesn’t surprise Todd Reade, a former student of Porter’s who encouraged Reade to use his cell phone while taking his driving test. “My phone rang,” said Reade, “and Russell asked me, ‘Aren’t you going to answer that?’ I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ And he actually said to me, ‘No. Pick it up. It might be important.’ ” Reade refused to answer it, thinking it might be a “trap.” But after the phone started to ring again a minute later, Porter insisted that he answer it. “He told me that he wanted me to answer it if for no better reason than that he hated my ringtone, and was sick of hearing it,” Reade told reporters. “So I had a short conversation with my sister. After I hung up, for the rest of the driving lesson, Russell did nothing but show me different ringtones on his phone. There was absolutely no driving instruction at all. But he passed me regardless, and now I have my drivers license.”
Passing his students regardless of their driving skills (or lack thereof) is a common occurrence with Porter. One exception was when a student ran over a pedestrian in 2014. According to the driver, Patrick Downs, Porter told him, “I’m going to have to fail you this time around. I don’t actually care that you hit that guy, but I can’t make it too obvious, you know? You understand, right?”
Porter was finally terminated on Friday after his boss, Lu Han Park, set up a sting operation involving his seventeen-year-old nephew, Cho. “We had Cho pose as a student who wanted to take his drivers test,” said Park. Cho told reporters, “At one point, I started driving in reverse on the Belt Parkway. With about a thousand cars honking at me, Russell very calmly looked up from the New York Times crossword puzzle and told me, ‘You might want to go forward instead of in reverse. Other than that, you’re doing fine.’ I asked him, ‘Does that mean that I passed my test?’ He said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ ” Porter was fired minutes later.
When asked how he could be so lackadaisical about his student’s driving, Porter said, “I take public transportation. Why would I care about how these people drive? It’s not going to be my car they’ll be smashing into.”
“That’s a really selfish attitude,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. “He might not drive, but others do, and putting unskilled drivers on the road is dangerous.”
Porter dismissed Foxx’s comments, saying, “Some people might not think that it’s wise for me to automatically let all of my students pass their driving tests, but when you think about it, how wise is it to let an Asian man own and operate a driving school?”