A Lighter View … The driver’s permit

Whose idea was it that parents should teach their children how to drive a car? Don’t get me wrong, I am not a slackard.

My kids have been trained to be responsible adults. I’ve told them to never touch anything in a public restroom. They know the importance of clean underwear, in case of an unscheduled visit to the emergency room. And they’ve been repeatedly warned not to lick the mailbox in the winter, or any other season for that matter.

But I draw the line when it comes to teaching them how to drive. Letting a 16-year-old, who doesn’t know how to turn off a light switch, behind the wheel of a car was never mentioned in the baby books.

What was wrong with the way I learned? I saw a movie at school and then I drove with my dad to the DMV while he yelled at me not to hurt the car. I passed the test and then didn’t drive again for another four years. Those were good times.

When our firstborn, Leslie, handed me her driver’s permit, I felt like I had taken a fastball to the head. Our driving lesson lasted four blocks. You don’t really know fear until you’ve climbed into a car being driven by someone who gets hysterical when her bangs curl the wrong way.

It took Leslie 10 minutes to back out of the driveway and up over the curb. Then she stopped the car in the middle of the road to check her hair in the rear view mirror. When residential traffic started passing us, like an abandoned vehicle, I told Leslie about the other use for the mirror.

We inched along until we stopped at a red light. I realized we weren’t moving when the jogger we’d been keeping pace with was two blocks ahead.

Our objective was to turn left into a parking lot to practice turns. Leslie flipped on her blinker and then waited for the oncoming traffic to get closer. This way, they could get a better look at our faces as we crossed directly in front of them.

Half way through the turn, she rethought her decision and hit the brakes, giving me an unobstructed view of the cars aimed at my door. I screamed, “Gun it!” and added, “You are sooo grounded.”

She did a stutter step with the car across the intersection and then illegally parked in a ditch. After everyone quit honking and yelling obscenities at us, I drove home. The next year, I had my gall bladder removed and blamed it on her driving.

When Leo came home with his driver’s permit, I was shocked. How does someone whose favorite movie is Who Stole My Car? get a driver’s permit? Leo didn’t know anything about cars. This was my child who burned the tips of his fingers by sticking them into the cigarette lighter.

I tried to be brave and put on my game face as I placed my life in the hands of a kid who couldn’t park his bike in the garage without hitting the mower. Before we’d reached the end of the driveway, he was doing 60 mph.

We were like a runaway train, leaving a sonic boom in our wake. Leo gave the phrase “going along for the ride” a whole new meaning.

He stopped at a light with one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator revving up the motor to impress the girls in the car next to us. Nothing says success like a teen-age boy behind the wheel of a ’91 van with a V-4 engine and his mom sitting next to him wearing a bicycle helmet. We rocketed from that light, went a few feet and stopped again for some more revving.

When I complained that the floor pedals weren’t designed to be used simultaneously, Leo rolled his eyes. By the third stop light, I had developed a serious case of whiplash, and informed Leo that the only transportation he’d be taking from now on was the shoe leather express.

I demanded he turn around and take me home, so he promptly made an illegal U-turn. To punish Leo, I made his dad be his designated passenger. I later had an emergency appendectomy, which as everyone knows is caused by revving.

Our last child, Morry, has dreamed of driving a car since he saw his first Nascar race and ran up and kissed the TV screen. He’d spend hours entertaining everyone by darting in and out of a room imitating a Chevy with bad wheel bearings. And when Morry handed me his driver’s permit, I told him to talk to his father. I just didn’t have enough surplus organs left to lose.

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