My first experience teaching my sixteen-year-old, Meghan, to drive ended in the near expiration of two garbage receptacles. I tried to avoid taking her out again, but she convinced me, by that I mean that she badgered me unmercifully 24 hours a day. She began by laying on the guilt, “You always took Michelle driving. I knew you loved her more.” Then, she graduated to threats, “My job needs me at 6 am every day, and since I don’t have my license, you’ll have to bring me.” Finally, she resorted to horror, “I really don’t care if I ever drive. I’ll just live with you forever.”
That did it. Even dragging my pendulous abdomen, I beat Meghan to the car. Our first venture outside of the neighborhood was to the local market, which was a mere mile away. The entire time I offered running commentary. “You are drifting to the right. You are leaving the shoulder of the road. Ah! You’re going to rear end that grazing bovine.”
We made it to the store in one piece. On the return trip, Meghan had to make a left turn at a curve in the road. There were cars coming toward us, but that didn’t faze her. She just flipped on the directional and turned the steering wheel. “Hit the brake!” I yelled. As we slammed to a halt, Meg said, “But Mom, I didn’t have a stop sign.”
The traffic passed, and she performed her turn. Unfortunately, she was driving in the left lane. “Where the heck do you think you're going?” I shrieked. “Home,” she said.
At the house, her dad asked, “How did it go?”
“Mom makes me nervous,” Meg told him.
Meghan took advantage of my ability to repress traumatic memories and asked if she could chauffeur me to a meeting at the local library. I agreed, and the excursion was uneventful until we neared the village.
When Meghan spotted the intersection to the main street, she activated the car’s right blinker. Sadly, we were quite a distance from Main Street, but we were fast approaching the entrance to the food store plaza. A woman exiting the shopping center deduced that it was our intention to visit the grocery store and pulled out in front of us. She quickly realized that she had been hoodwinked, as Meghan barreled toward her car door. I threw my hands up to my eyes and danced on an imaginary brake pedal. “Stop!” I shouted. I opened my eyes just in time to see the woman drop her hand after a forgiving wave. “That was not a wave,” Meg told me.
Once on the main road, I instructed Meghan to enter the turn lane near the library’s parking area. She veered into the center lane, so did a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. Meg didn’t brake and neither did the other driver. She was Kevin Bacon playing tractor chicken in Footloose. Our opposition flinched first. Meghan sped up the library’s steep driveway, leaving chunks of muffler on the pavement.
I peeled my fingernails from my face and crawled from the car. “I see that you’re teaching your daughter to drive,” a library colleague observed. “Help me,” I said in a small voice.
Afterwards, my husband John became driving tutor. In the olden days, he had taught his sister to drive on the treacherous dirt roads of Oklahoma farm country. On one of their jaunts, the car hit a sandy patch. “Hold tight to the wheel, “ John told her, but the steering wheel jerked from her hands, and the car spun. Instead of pressing the brake pedal, she stomped on the accelerator. The auto raced into a ditch, bounced out and became airborne. The flight was complete when the front bumper hooked onto the top of a barbed wire fence post. “Nothing will ever rattle me after that,” my husband told me.
He chose to challenge Meg with a journey to the area mall. During the forty-five minute trip, he called me on his cell phone 14 times. The conversations went like this: “Hi, it’s me. Slow down. Do we need another Garden Weasel? Argh! You almost broadsided that guy. I’d better go.”
When they returned home, Meg said, “It was weird the way Dad kept calling you.”
“I wanted to be sure that your mother’s voice was the last one I heard,” my husband told her.
I suppose it would be impractical to warn others off the road until this training is completed. However, steer clear of a lanky brunette piloting a red Buick, who is accompanied by what could be a handsome man if his face wasn’t plastered against the passenger’s side window, seeking escape. And if you are close enough to see the cell phone that he’s clutching in his white-knuckled hand, heaven help you.