Driving Lessons

My daughter, who is 19 now, was headed out to rent a movie the other day and I said I would tag along. That’s when I realized that my son had taken my truck somewhere and the Durango was with my wife. The only vehicle available to us was my daughter’s car. I hesitated.

You see, I’m the one who spent the majority of the time giving her driving lessons. I know what’s been unleashed on the streets. When she took her driving test I fully expected her to fail. Never did I consider she would pass and immediately jump behind the wheel and put innocent citizens at risk. What has our society come to when they are simply rubber stamping kids at these tests? Don’t they know what they are doing? I do!

Now I love my daughter to no end, but her attention span is about as long as the life cycle of a gnat. This fact wasn’t made fully clear to me until our first lesson. Actually, although it was my first lesson with my daughter it wasn’t her first lesson. Her Mother had previously attempted to give her a simple lesson on backing out of and into the driveway. My wife was the one who guided our oldest son as he was learning, so it was natural to assume she would also teach our daughter. That first lesson ended with a visit by the paramedics, structural damage to the garage, and my wife swearing never to get in a car with her again. Thus I was appointed as driving instructor.

The lessons (which I now affectionately refer to as The Black Summer) began just after school let out for the summer. I ignored my wife’s warnings and filed her previous experience under the “hyper-criticism making the daughter nervous” category and forged ahead. She was enrolled to take Drivers Education in mid-June, so we only had a couple of weeks to get her comfortable enough to drive with a smelly gym teacher sitting next to her. I count patience has one of my favorable qualities, but little did I know just how much I was about to have that tested.

For our first lesson I drove with her in my pickup (we didn’t have her car yet) to the high school parking lot. That’s where I learned how to drive my first car and I figured 1) what was good enough for me would do her fine, and 2) what can you tear up in a parking lot? We switched places, I gave her a few simple pointers about accelerating, braking, turning, and the use of turn signals, and we were off. OH MY GOSH! You know what is in and around parking lots? Light post, curbs, a few parked cars, and surrounding fences and walls. She found them all! It was like they were all magnetized and pulled the truck to them. I never thought that an area as vast and empty as a parking lot could suddenly be fraught with dangers everywhere. I quickly realized this was not going to be easy.

Of course I didn’t want to give my wife the satisfaction of saying she was right, so I stretched the truth a little and told her things went OK for her first time out. Ok, I bald face lied. But I regrouped and vowed to double my efforts. My daughter and I went to the parking lot for a couple hours a night for two full weeks. Over the course of that time I lost 10 pounds, large clumps of hair, developed carpel tunnel from clenching the dashboard, and a case of hemorrhoids from puckering my sphincter so tight.

The week she spent in Drivers Education was uneventful. She commented each day that everything went smoothly and that actually she thought she was the best driver among the three girls who were in the car. That sent shivers up my spine. I made it a point to talk to her instructor (the smelly gym teacher) on her final day. He was full of compliments and praise for my daughters driving and said that she just needed more practice before she would be ready to take her test for a license. I think he was a bit put off by my blank stare.

We continued to go on our nightly drives for a couple more weeks, staying to the back roads so we could minimize the number of potential targets. Finally she announced she felt ready to take the test and although my initial reaction might have been to scream NO, I fought back this urge and decided to let her fail the first test so she could get a sense of how much she still needed to learn. Brillant plan you idiot!

It was bad enough knowing she was out there, patrolling the avenues, lanes and boulevards. Now I faced becoming a willing passenger. How could I tell her that what I really wanted to do was get a flashing yellow light and lead interference for her just like they do for wide loads.

We made it there and back without incident, so maybe the driving public (and our insurance rates) are safe. But the miles she’s driving can’t compare to the ones she’s added to the road I’m living. Sometimes they’re a bit bumpy, or take sharper turns then we’d like, but you gotta love the ride!

1 comment

  1. what a wonderful account, Don. i still have the most sacred memories of my dad teaching me to drive. once in the church parking lot i couldn't get the car (an avacoado green 72 Pinto) to stop spinning backwards until Dad opened his door and bailed out.he always had great ways of teaching me tough lessons.

    a loving, involved and brave dad is something a daughter will always treasure. yay YOU!

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