License to Thrill

Driving Lessons & Life Lessons

Reading time: 2 1/2 minutes

My son took the driver’s test (twice I learned later, overhearing his conversation with his aunt) and got his permit on Friday. If anyone within a five-mile radius reads this, you’ve been warned.stop sign down

The first thing to know is this: I’m his instructor. The reason is: My wife majored in Anxiety with a minor in Worst-case Scenarios. No way can she hang in the car with a new driver. The reason is not: Because I’m a really good driver and he can follow my example. Yes, that is NOT the reason. I’m not a good driver. I’m the opposite. I get how it works, I understand the rules, I just have a hard time with the paying attention part of it. Also, left turns.

So we venture out for Day One. After a few spins around the high school parking lot, I deem Gabe ready. It’s the weekend. Few cars. What can go wrong? I explain the controls on the dashboard to him – the ones I understand anyway – and we shove off. On a scale of 1 to 10 where blind leading the blind is 1, we’re a momentum-gaining 0.8, which happens to be the legal limit for blood-alcohol content in our state, so we talk about that for the first couple miles when Gabe makes his first of what will turn out to be many suggestions.

“They should put something on cars so you can tell the person behind you if you’re going to turn.”

I look at him. Try to decide if he’s being facetious, which is often his way. Sarcasm to this teenager is like calories to your body: a necessary evil.

“They do,” I say. Mental note: make sure he uses his blinker. Did I remember to point that out back at the high school parking lot? Likely not. “It’s called your blinker.”

“Oh,” he says. It’s more a question than a statement.

Long pause. “So it’s like an appendix,” he says at last.

I give him a longer look, but for the same reason about his sarcasm. “Um… what?”

“Everybody has one. But nobody uses it. How come nobody uses a blinker if they have one?”

My turn for a long pause. All I can think is these are going to be interesting rides. I’m still on my long pause, by the way. Haven’t come up with a sufficient answer yet.

God didn’t pause. Sent down a torrential rain. Did I mention I drive a convertible? We went back to the high school parking lot. I took over, careful to remember to use my turn indicator on the way home.

Day One count: We hit zero pedestrians. I’m not tallying the number of curbs hit yet. But if I was: two. The first ride is deemed a smashing success. Looking forward to Day Two. Come along for the ride … if you’re brave enough.

7 thoughts on “License to Thrill

  1. I taught both of our kids to drive. Here’s a hint: In the parking lot, practice driving over bumps and things to hit them with one or the other set of wheels. This helps the driver get a sense of just where the wheels actually are. Mostly, though, it’s just a matter of putting in the hours. Good luck!

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  2. Do curbs count as bumps? Yeah, I was afraid so. I think we covered that, just not in the parking lot. Maybe I’ll have him go back and revisit the parking lot. We’re heading out right now. Duh duh … duh duh … duh duh…

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  3. I flattened a tire on a curb. My stepfather did not appreciate it. He paid for my stunt on his car. He paid for the clutch I burnt after he leant his VW Rabbit to me so I could take my friends to a Grateful Dead Concert in D.C. I love my stepfather for the patience he showed me. It cost him.

    I love him for letting me drive the entire family to D.C. in the repaired car.

    And now more than ever, I love not owning a car. But when I go home my step father never hesitates to loan me his car. Fathers are heros.

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  4. I might have to frame your comment, Angie, but I couldn’t do it right now. My hands are too shaky from the ride with my son and resulting near-death excursion. Whew, he’ll have some tales to tell before this is all over. Assuming he isn’t over when this is all over.

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  5. Like any other kid, right after I got my permit, if we needed a loaf of bread, it was , “I’ll go get it!” I recollect hopping in the car and my Dad came along to see if I could actually drive safely enough to suit him. I fiddled around with “stuff” and then put the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing. I immediately became ruffled/nervous/defensive and when I tried again, my father, with a hint of irritation said, “You put the thing in Drive before you tried to start it.”

    He said nothing when I’d done this…and I have no idea why I’d done that – likely nerves. I felt like an idiot and I’m sure that instilled as much confidence in him as your son’s question did for you. Btw – we call them…turn signals down heah. 😉

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    1. Turn signals is a little too hoity-toity for us. You must be one a them upper crust folk. Or maybe that would be “turn indicator,” but I don’t think anyone except the guy issuing the driver’s test calls them that formally.

      I’m sticking with appendix.

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