Driving Lessons & Life Lessons

On the Road with Gabe – Day Two

Reading time: 3 minutes

It doesn’t take me long to forget that Gabe is on Day Two of driving. After less than a mile, I pull my phone out and start checking scores. I’m always curious to see if Albert Pujols is breaking out of his slump and starting to hit again. I’m an Angels fan now, which drives me wife crazy.

As I’m about to announce that Pujols is 1-for-3 with a two-run homer, Gabe pulls up at a stoplight and announces this: “I’m starting to understand why they require you to drive six months before you get a license.” Uh-oh. Clearly, I missed whatever spurred this announcement.

I think: Oh my Dog, that’s right, this is Day Two. I gotta pay attention. But I say, “You’re doing sign downgreat, you won’t need six months. Let’s go get your license right now.”

Gabe, of course, stopped taking me seriously when he turned three. He ignores me without a glance or skipping a beat. He starts to ask a question as the light turns green. I stop him mid-sentence.

“Get through the intersection first,” I say. “No questions till you get across Lindbergh. It’s a boulevard. Boulevards should strike fear into your heart.” (He didn’t hear that last part above the honking from the guy behind us.)

That’s when I decide we’re going to come up with rules of the road for Gabe’s driving instruction. Each day, one new rule, I tell him.

He wants to know if today’s rule is this lame bit about no questions while you’re going through an intersection. Of course not, I tell him, that would be lame. Also, I get to retroactively make yesterday’s rule.

“So yesterday’s rule, the single most important rule: Hit no pedestrians. If it comes down to hitting a pedestrian or crushing my car, smash my car. I’m not a car guy anyway, I’ll only be pissed for about twenty minutes. Half-hour tops. After you move out of the house, it’ll be a funny story.”

After the intersection, I forget he was asking a question. He forgets to ask it. The rest of the day’s lesson is uneventful. Or I stopped paying attention. As we get home, he muses aloud that he’s getting turns down pretty well. I have absolutely no idea, so I say, “Back out of the driveway, we’ll see if you have turns down in reverse.”

He looks at me. Puts the car in park. Says, “Mom’s calling.”

“Calling you or calling me?” I say, knowing the answer is neither. He smiles, knowing he’s caught, and gets out of the car. This is the best we’ve gotten along in six years. I decide I’m going to take the instruction very slowly. There’s a lot more at work here than learning to drive.

8 thoughts on “Driving Lessons & Life Lessons

  1. John… Bringing back memories!!! Can clearly remember Zach’ s face sitting the living room waiting for me … Meanwhile aj had this big old grin…Zach had managed to park the car through the garage wall into the kitchen!! Minor damage, but the look on Zach’ s face was priceless–scared sh&@less!!
    Good luck!!

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    1. Ha! That’s awesome. I told Gabe I know at least three people who have started their car, looked over their shoulder to back out and then let off the brake only to go forward and lurch into something without even looking.
      Who? he asked.
      I have no idea, I told him. I just know that a ton of people have done it and I’m sure I know at least three of them. Well, now I know two by name! Zach, you just joined elite company, my friend … ME!


  2. Hm. Between the descriptions of your distractions, and Gabe’s tentative questions/statements, I’m glad I’m about…oh, what is it…a thousand miles or so away? 🙂

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  3. I love these stories! My friend Chi that I wrote about had a great driving story. My friend and she was supposed to get their license the same day except during Chi’s test the test guy told her to take a left at the third stop sign and she ran through all three stop signs to take that left…so she failed. 😂 she got it the second time! I’m looking forward to reading more of these!

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    1. That is hilarious! And I can picture it vividly. Her running the stop signs. And the test guy slowly shaking his head. I wonder how often he gives that same command … and sees that same response. I’m cracking up again imagining!

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  4. I was your wife when it came time to teach my Kate to drive. I dreaded it. And now there are a lot of men in my life that I owe for taking up the challenge. Once she learned it was great because built in errand runner, designated driver. Now she’s a bartender (with college degree) and we take Uber everywhere. For you and your son, this sounds like a great time. It was the same with my brother and my father. Those bonding opportunities – there are fewer and fewer as your children grow. Echoes of Harry Chopin’s fantastic ballad of The Cat’s in the Cradle echo through your story. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, you nailed it so well. That song is gonna be playing through my head now when we go out for a ride today. Unless we decide to take a day off to get all frayed nerves securely back into place. It has been a bonding experience unlike anything I would have imagined.


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