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Driving Me Crazy

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Illustration by Dewey SaundersI’ll be the first to admit that it snuck up on me. Then, suddenly, BAM! It hit me smack in the face: My teen passed the test for his learner’s permit. I knew what was next.

Terrified, I muttered to myself, “He’s not ready for this responsibility.” And, quite frankly, neither was I. How could he possibly be ready to drive a motor vehicle when his dirty clothes have yet to find a hamper? He’s lost his cell phone repeatedly—broken it, too. The dog has chewed his retainer four times.

No matter. Ready or not, here it comes.

Unnerved, I found myself in the passenger seat of my own car, squirming as I offered instructions on how to back out of the driveway. Abruptly, my body jerked backward as I heard a thump. I was propelled forward as my son slammed on the brakes. My mailbox was, well, compromised—and, apparently, it was my own fault for having it installed so close to the driveway.

I decided it best not to argue. Instead, I offered vocal thanks to the person who invented seat belts. Alas, my sarcasm went unnoticed by my student.

His second attempt at backing out went much better, and we found ourselves on the open road. I prayed that no cars, people or pets were in the vicinity, gazing at the rosary beads hanging from my mirror as I sent up my silent prayer.

When I said, “Slow down,” he sped up. He thought he was crawling along; I felt like we were approaching warp speed. For some reason that made sense only to him, my son decided he needn’t brake at the stop sign. Helpless, frantic and sweating, I stomped my foot on a phantom brake pedal—knowing full well that there’s no such thing on the passenger side. The only weapon I had was the guttural wail that erupted from my thoracic region.

Both of us momentarily deaf at that point, we exchanged glances and agreed to head back. We’d had enough for one day. Once home, we slammed our respective car doors. My son ranted that he’d never get in the car again with his lunatic mother. I stepped over the dismantled mailbox, entered the house, stumbled toward the refrigerator and gulped down some water to replace all that missing saliva. Mumbling something along the lines of, “Never again, never again,” I sat down to reflect.

Together, we arrived at the brilliant —if glaringly obvious—conclusion that it would be better to pay a professional driving instructor (no matter what the cost) than to go through that nonsense again. My advice to parents is to set aside a little money for such a purpose. It could save your mailbox (and your life).

With help from a very patient pro, the big day did come—too quickly for Mom, not fast enough for her son. He passed his driving test.

Me, I have mixed emotions. He’s growing up. The sooner I accept it, the better it will be for both of us. Learning to drive is a hair-raising rite of passage—and this is his time.

MLT contributor Joanne Cannon always keeps an eye out for student drivers.
 

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