Of my three kids, two are old enough to drive and both have successfully completed driver’s education class. Neither actually has a driver’s license. My ES (estranged spouse) made countless unfulfilled promises to teach them to drive since I’m a bit…high strung. Too…high strung…to teach teenagers to drive. Despite having the previous four summers off from work, ES never managed more than having kid #1 sit behind the wheel of an unmoving car. (ES also never taught kid #1 to shave, which I thought was some kind of secret man initiation. Consequently, everything kid #1 knows about shaving comes from my 35 years of leg shaving experience.) After ES went on walkabout, my dad got out his notepad and made a list of all sorts of things that needed doing. Close to the top of that list was teaching kid #1 to drive and buy him a car.
My mom, a lovely 70-something woman, found a cheap, well-maintained used car on Craigslist. (Seriously, my 70-something year old mother used Craigslist to buy a car! And she got a great deal, too. And nobody got assaulted or murdered!) I set about getting kid #1 prepped to take the written driving test for his learner’s permit. Everything’s online, so it’s not hard to study. He swore he studied. He failed the first time he took the test. I was pissed. Then he actually studied and passed the second time.
Now he was ready to begin driving. My dad took him to the local mall’s parking lot. I took him to the local community college’s parking lot. I dialed down my…high strung tendencies… as much as possible, but may have shrieked, “Brake! Brake!” more than once. The first time I drove with him, I had to keep telling him to brake going into a turn, accelerate coming out, because we were flying widely into turns only to sputter to a stop as we straightened out. By the next time we drove together, he’d made vast improvement. After about eight hours of parking lot driving, he was ready to try street driving. The first time he drove on the actual road, with other cars, was taking me to the Urgent Care following an unfortunate thumb incident. He did great. I was so pleased to see the improvement and fantasized him driving me to the grocery store, Costco, everywhere, like my very own Morgan Freeman.
I scheduled his first driving lesson with a professional driving instructor. She took him out for two hours and he drove all over the city streets. He even drove on the highway. She was effusive in her praise. She encouraged me to let him drive me on errands. Well, alrighty then, let’s roll. A couple hours after his first professional driving lesson, he drove me to Target. On a Sunday afternoon. When everyone in Suburbia is going to Target.
Heading down the busy street, I reminded him to slow down as we came up on other cars at traffic lights. He got snarly. The entrance to our Target parking lot starts with two turn lanes, which merge into one lane just before you encounter a speed bump. I may have hollered, “Brake!” just before he rearended a $50,000 Lexus at the speed bump. The Lexus pulled right over, but kid #1 kept driving. That’s when I may have really lost it.
“What are you doing?!? You have to pull over so we can talk to her!”
He pulled over. I walked back to the Lexus where the driver was minutely examining her bumper. She was pissed. I apologized profusely and explained he was a student driver. She muttered, “I guess it’s his lucky day,” and got back into her car. Thankyouthankyouthankyou, I really didn’t want to have to call the insurance company (and grandparents) and report this.
Kid #1 was too rattled to drive anymore, so I took over. After Target, we went to the Post Office parking lot, which was empty on a Sunday. I had him take over for the drive home. He promptly pulled out of the parking space going the wrong direction, proceeded to run a stop sign into oncoming traffic, and completely lost his cool. I drove home.
It’s going to be a long summer. And I’m gonna need a lot more wine.