May 3rd, 2010

Where’s Driver Ed When You Need Him?

Linda Kennard

Six months ago, Jay got her permit and between that permit and an actual license were 50 hours of required practice driving time—with me. I should tell you that I’m not patient and I’m at the high end of high strung, so the thought of 50 hours strapped into the passenger seat coaching my Student Driver scared me. (How many therapy sessions might these 50 hours cost Jay later?)

The first few weeks of practice went beautifully. At my request, we’d cruise to the grocery store because it was one route I knew I could handle: between our house and the store is only one mile, three stop signs and two left-hand turns, the first of which doesn’t count since it’s turning from one quiet road to another. Jay could undershoot or overshoot that turn and I wouldn’t even wince.

Three weeks and 7.5 hours later, Jay got antsy. “I’m never going to learn to drive if I only ever go to the store, Mom!”

She was right, of course, so I agreed to branch out, and that very day we hit a 55-mile-per-hour four laner. We were heading downhill (at 45), approaching a busy intersection, when the light turned yellow.

“You need to slow down,” I said as calmly as that airport lady who announces Code Orange. I complimented myself on my composure, but Jay didn’t slow down.

“Honey,” I said calmly, proudly noting my restraint. “You really need to slow down.” But she didn’t.

“Slow the %(*&$ down.” Admittedly, I screwed up on word choice, but you should have heard my tone. It was flawless, so smooth that I thought maybe Jay hadn’t noticed the one word that soiled my Stepford-Wife composure. We zipped through that intersection with me slouched in my seat, right foot pushed into the floor like I was leg-pressing 250 pounds, and Jay wide-eyed and teary, crying, “I can’t do this!”

But she can, really. Aside from that isolated near-death experience, Jay is a painfully cautious driver. She follows all of the rules, which turns 10-minute jaunts into 30-minute ordeals. At every stop sign, Jay slows then stops just shy of the sign, and nods her head with each count to three, just as she’s been told to do by her real driving instructor (who by the way got off easy with only ten hours). One time when she was doing this, I was gripping the OMG bar (out of impatience, not fear) when a guy in a Prius ripped past us on the right. “He’s totally out of line,” I assured Jay, who was looking very rattled. “Just ignore him!”

But truth is, I felt that Prius man’s pain.

We’ve survived more than 50 hours now, and Jay has her license. I don’t even have to drive with her anymore. Talk about scary.

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This Weeks Tip

Leave the beach at the beach

Kids covered from head to toe in sticky sand? Reach in your diaper bag for the Baby Powder, give them a good shake-down (with the powder, that is) and “Poof!” they’ll be clean as a whistle (and smelling powder fresh to boot!)