Driving Lessons – Part 1

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The Middle Age Follies

A Slightly Skewed Look At Life

By And For Those Of Us On The North Side Of 50

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Teaching teens to drive is a primary cause of aging in older Americans. In fact, most adult parents would still be in their late-twenties were it not for the fact that we have to teach children how to drive actual cars—the kinds with engines and steering wheels and everything—and on roads containing other real cars!

Most parents in the uppermost brackets of the immature ages period of life face the terrifying prospect of having to teach one child how to drive, followed by a sufficient period of recovery and proper use of “medicinal supplements” so as to permit them to endure the process all over again with younger children. But oh no, not in our household!

My daughter is three weeks older than my stepdaughter, which means I had the pleasure of teaching two girls. Teenage girls! Two teenage girls. Two teenage girls at the same time! Better still, we (and by “we” I mean the “No freakin’ way am I doing that!” colloquial wife and I “we”) had the pleasure of doing that again in—I was quickly informed—two years, nine months, eleven days, sixteen hours, twelve minutes, and four seconds … with a teenage BOY! You know about them, right? The kind of person with no brains. (There will be an entire book on that adventure.)

My wife (a/k/a “Mrs. Big Chicken”) decided after one experience with her daughter that it would be better if I handled the “lessons”. I did not speak to her for nearly three months. Come to think of it, I don’t recall hearing her complain about that. Excuse me for a moment.

Okay, then! NOTE TO SELF: Screaming continuously inside an automobile, like an eight-year-old on her first roller coaster ride, is brutal on the vocal cords! Risk of permanent speaking damage: High; Annoyance Factor to Teen Driver: High (P.S. Excellent payback strategy!).

Of course, most lessons usually consisted of me cringing in the passenger seat and trying to appear calm as I issued “suggestions” to our sixteen-year-old ICB (insurance company benefactor), that same someone who, upon settling into the driver’s seat the first time, asked: “So the one on the left is the brake, right?”

“Right.”

“Right?”

“No, left is right.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Right.”

“Right?!”

“Never mind. Just let me finish zipping up my protective gear and then you can start the car.”

The conversations then tended to run something like this: “Now, honey, it would be best if you turn the wheel just a bit to the left and then gently hit the accelerator … nice and easy … don’t worry about the little jolt … that will just be the car running over Mr. Johnson’s other leg … I know, I know … he shouldn’t have been sitting in his living room so close to our driveway … that’s good … a little slower would be okay … you’re right, thirty-seven miles per hour is a perfectly safe speed, but we try to save that for streets, not backing out of our driveway.”

One benefit, however (although I cannot promise the same honor will be bestowed upon you): Our dashboard—now containing the impression of my fingers dug more than three inches into the material—was recently featured at the Smithsonian, along with large clumps of my hair and a short feature demonstrating how my eyes can widen to the same circumference as my mouth (at the same time no less), while I’m screaming near-world record lengths of inventive and quite elaborate four-letter words without using verbs or semi-colons.

Of course, once they actually get their state-approved licenses—perhaps the only strong argument in favor of Fascism, by the way, since no way did Benito Mussolini allow teens to drive—your “young adult” (Ha! Ha! Ha! I just kill me sometimes! “Young adult” … that’s a good one!) will want you to purchase an actual vehicle for his or her use—cars they can actually pilot on actual streets inhabited by actual people and other actual cars not made of actual marshmallows and thus perfectly capable of acquiring actual dents whose costs-to-fix are roughly equivalent to the actual GNP of Guatemala. (Is that still an actual country, by the way?)

And then there’s the trauma of insurance premiums!

As soon as we paid our “revised” insurance bill I know for a fact that our insurer promptly rushed off and put a deposit down on Florida. NOTE TO READERS: not an office in Florida … the whole state! Apparently they want a “winter headquarters.”

This was accompanied by much hollering and high-fivings among the staff after we signed the mortgage papers. We did receive a gift certificate to a nice local restaurant, however. As best I could determine amid the laughter, our home was the 1000th the agent acquired this year from the parents of teens. Free medium pizza for us … look who’s bragging now!

A tip I’m happy to share with parents who will soon enough experience this heart-stopper. Invariably, each new driver will make this request: asking permission for the first time to use your car. Just to make it easier on all of you, do what I did.

I of course said yes, lying (to the maximum degree allowable with city limits) that I absolutely trusted them and that there was no need to worry. That’s step one. Step two might seem harsh, but you’ll soon appreciate the wisdom.

Before handing over the keys with all of the appropriate suggestions about not leaving them in the ignition with the car running while your young adult [still a good one!] cavorts and frolics with their other ICBs far, far away from the vehicle, take a moment to be alone with your car. Hug it, take happy photographs of it sitting placidly in your garage, thank it for all of its wonderful shared adventures, and then drive it down the street, smashing it repeatedly into a row of telephone poles and as many parked cars as is possible within forty seconds.

Do that, and suddenly you’ll feel a sense of calm cascade over you, gently washing away the fears and worries which hurtle into your consciousness at breakneck speeds before your new driver completes that first dreaded request. Not to worry, once they actually do take the keys and actually leave your home with the actual intent of actually driving your actual car by themselves, the fear returns.

You are quite welcome.

ABOVE: Our first motorized test dummy [pre-totalled]