I have a cranky back. I also have a daughter who is just learning how to drive. Can anyone else see how this is a combination that should generally be avoided? Yet, if I allow my husband to teach her to drive, there will be two people in the family whom I deem uninsurable.
As we sit in the boxy aluminum can hurdling down the local highway to and from town, I hear myself repeating the same phrase, only in varying degrees of pitch: “Stay in your lane.” Place an exclamation point after it, emphasize any of the four words, or put the whole thing in caps, and I’m sure the picture will become increasingly clear.
“I am in my lane,” is the usual response.
“Yes, you are, but you’re also in three others, and I can’t begin to understand the physics of how that can be, but let’s just stick with the lesson on courtesy for right now.”
This budding driver is a girl who understands all the functioning components of the International Space Station and squirrels away ideas on how to improve them, but somehow believes that if she says, “Whoa,” to the car, it will do her bidding.
“Hear the kathunk, kathunk, kathunk sounds beneath us?” I point out to her. “That’s called driving by Braille. We highly discourage people from doing that.”
“But isn’t that discriminating against the visually impaired?”
“Yep, in favor of supporting the continuance of life. Blind folks are not allowed to drive. And you are not allowed to use this vehicle like it’s a bumper car. Now pay attention and stay in your lane.”
Yes, it’s important for teens to learn how to drive. It fits nicely into the ‘teach them independence’ category. Yet I did not appreciate the length of time it takes to teach this skill. And I’ve come to realize that not all people make good teachers. In fact, I’m positive there will be no gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or the local teacher supply store as a thank you token at the end of this 45 hour teaching term. Chances are, if my daughter springs for anything, it would be a book with a message from the 99ȼ bin in Target, like Top 10 Ways to Avoid Your Intervention, or a tissue wrapped once-used unicorn soap from a fourth grade princess party. I’m not expecting much, because I really don’t deserve it.
I’m mostly grateful that my husband is not around when I’m in the passenger seat,
rolling my eyes and sighing with more emphasis than a thirteen-year old girl gazing at a Justin Bieber poster when I have to repeatedly bark out the phrase, “Watch your speed!” This is because I’m forever chastising him for losing his temper with the kids at finding shoes on the stairs or sweatshirts strewn about. I wouldn’t blame him one bit for locking me out of the house the next time I utter the words, “Learning is layering, honey.”
Shamefully, I’ve become more than adept at creating believable excuses for why we can’t switch seats on any particular day. The better ones are:
- We have to be there in twenty minutes and I don’t want you pressured by time. It’s an unnecessary stress. In fact, if we get there with time to spare, I’ll buy you a smoothie.
- I can see that school has totally wiped you out this afternoon. Why don’t you put the seat back, close your eyes and I’ll play some Zen pan flute music from Pandora?
The worst ones are:
- I took your driver’s permit inside to the kitchen to help scrape the frost off the freezer door and forgot to bring it back into the car with me. Sorry, it’s the law.
- There’s something funky going on with the car’s alignment, so I’m going to run a few steering wheel tests on the way. Next time, okay?
- The Department of Transportation has just issued a Federal mandate announcing that no one under the age of 21 should drive today. They’re collecting safety data for some new research. Ah, the government. My hands are tied.
Maybe you’re shaking your head at my unforgivable deception. Maybe you’re jotting down notes for when it’s your turn. It doesn’t matter. I’m not terribly proud.
My only excuse is that it’s increasingly difficult to think clearly and rationally when so much of you is clenched and remains that way for a duration longer than the length of a sneeze. Our bodies are not meant for that kind of continuous trauma. Surely this is all a result of blood circulation failure to the brain.
In the end, she’ll get her license, I’m fairly certain. And in the meantime, I have been reconnected with many of my dead relatives, who keep making pop-up appearances, smiling and open-armed, usually at busy intersections. Maybe it’s me, announcing my imminent arrival, as I’ve come to make a habit of shouting, “OH MY GOD, WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”
Or maybe they’re just there as a gentle reminder, telling everyone else to Stay In Your Lane, so that won’t happen.