On The Road Again

Michelle Driving

It’s happening again.  I’m teaching a kid to drive.  This is the last one.  Praise the lord!  This is just not my strength.

When I dropped her off for her first day of driving with the school instructor, I literally stopped, closed my eyes and prayed for that man.  He was a young father, the infant seat in his automobile clued me in.  It made me sad to think of his demise at the hands of my child.  I don’t know how much you get paid to teach someone to drive – I do know it is not enough.

After his instruction, the baton was passed to me.

If Michelle could just remember the difference between the gas pedal and the brake this experience would be so much more pleasant.

“Dad, doesn’t it makes sense that the gas pedal would be the bigger of the two?”

“Actually, I would prefer you stop more than you go.”

She asked to drive the family to my parents’ house in Fayetteville for Thanksgiving – down Interstate 95.  It was the week after she completed Drive’s Ed.  I said, “Absolutely not.”  She said, “But dad, I have three days experience.”

I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with Michelle and I-95 after three years of experience.

I did let her drive to church the Sunday after the holiday.  Her sisters and I buckled in as she backed out of the driveway.  As we rolled toward the street, I gently said, “Brake.”  She accidentally pressed the gas pedal.  A chorus of shouts came at her from every direction.  I did not get angry at my older kids for the curse words that fell from their mouths.  I understood

“It isn’t helpful for all of you to yell at me!”

I explained that when someone was in grave danger, the response was automated, that we couldn’t help ourselves.

Maybe Acura should take her suggestion and make the gas pedal larger.  Or better yet, put the brake on the passenger side of the vehicle.  That would be helpful.

On her way home from the DMV, where she aced the written exam, we pretended to be in England – driving down Lake Boone Trail on the left side of the street.  To her credit, there were cars parked along the curb on the right side.  She was trying to give them a wide berth.  She did.  She gave them a VERY wide berth.  So wide.

She’s actually not all that bad.  I have a tendency to accentuate the rough spots.  And compared to her sisters, she’s not horribly behind.  Once DJ took a curb so tight after a major rain storm that she doused a jogger running by.  I sank into my seat from embarrassment.  He flipped her the bird.  She also got in a three car pileup on her second day of Driver’s Ed.  At least Michelle got through basic training without a moving violation!

Stephanie struggled with the whole gas/brake pedal conundrum as well majorly accelerating instead of braking while trying to park at the Harris Teeter one day.  I think they get that from my mother.  She’s not very good behind the wheel and can hardly see over the seat.  I haven’t ridden with her since I got my license.  I don’t think my dad has ever ridden with her behind the wheel.  He’s a very smart man.

I am so thankful I don’t have four children.  I simply don’t think I could do this again.  I’m anxious by nature – this parental responsibility is NOT a good fit for me.

Another Hot Rod Tanner

wheres-the-beef

I remember it being a bit traumatic when DJ got her license.  She drove so slow and so close to the right side of the road that I considered getting a second job as a mailman.  Sitting on the passenger side of the car, I could have easily delivered the mail on our route to school, church or the grocery store.  It would have given me something to focus on other than just how quickly I might die.

Now, it has come time for my second daughter to drive.  Yes, Stephanie, all 5’1” of her, is taking Driver’s Ed.  Whew!  Perhaps even scarier than the first.

Although I have yet to warn my coworkers, we have spent some time practicing in my office parking lot.  I can’t think of anyone I’d like to take out at the current moment, but I’d suggest any of you fellow Y employees reading this be kind to me.  We’ve only practiced on weekends when those dudes in the office down the hall are the only ones still at work.  The ones who invented steel kidneys, or some medical miracle, and who are making a bazillion dollars a year.  But if you miff me, I might put her behind the wheel at 5 PM on a Monday when you’re scurrying to your car.

Other than working to help her remember the difference between drive and reverse – she’s going to have to master that – my biggest concern is how close she has to pull the seat up to get to the steering wheel.

When Stephanie gets in the driver’s seat that I’ve been occupying, it looks like a three-year-old who puts on her 6-foot-four father’s business suit.  She can’t even reach the gas pedal.

She proceeds to use the automatic adjustments to raise the seat to maximum height and shift it forward until you can’t fit a baseball between her chest and the steering wheel.  Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, at 7’ 2”, would have plenty of leg room sitting behind her in the backseat of my 2007 Acura MDX.

She kinda reminds me of the Where’s the Beef lady from the 1980’s Wendy’s commercials, or my mother.  All petite.  All requiring me to contort myself when entering an automobile after they’ve driven.

Stephanie will whip around the parking lot and then jump out of the car leaving me to readjust the seat when I take back over.  I try to squeeze in, my head touching the sunroof and my knees tickling my ear lobes.  It’s kinda like leaving the toilet seat up.  Geeze.

Oh well, I guess it’s inevitable, we’re going to be on the road soon.  So be on the lookout for a silver SUV with Rhea Pearlman behind the wheel and a very anxious father on the passenger side.  Rest assured, I’ll make sure the car’s in drive before hitting the highway.

The Cost of having a Driver

car insurance
I recently called my insurance agent to see how much it was going to cost to add DJ, my new driver, to the insurance policy.  Ouch!
The receptionist told me she could give me the quotes.
“I think I might give my daughter my car and purchase a new one for myself.  How much will my insurance increase if I go that route?”
“Let’s see Mr. Tanner.   Humm – it’s going to jump a bit since she’s an inexperienced driver.”
“Oh, she’s not inexperienced.  I’ve driven countless miles with her over the past year.  It’s been weeks since she got out of the car without forgetting to turn it off.  Heck, I even taught her how to take off the gas cap.  Took two or three times for her to fully catch on, but, she’s mastered it now.  Even got her first wreck out of the way – and that was in the Driver’s Ed Car!  She is NOT inexperienced.”
“We’ll, you do have your homeowners insurance with us.  That will help.”
“Yes I do!  And, remember I went to high school with the agent’s brother.”
“Looks like its going to go up by… $2,200.”
“$2,200 a year?  Damn Sam, that’s steep!”
“Oh no Mr. Tanner – it’s not $2,200 a year.”
“Whew!  I thought something had to be wrong.”
“Yes.  That’s wrong. You see, you pay twice a year.  That’s just for six months.  It’ll end up being $4,400 a year.”
“I’m sorry.  I thought I had asked for a quote to add one tiny, sweet, cautious human to my car insurance policy NOT what it was going to cost me to put her through a year of college!!!”
“Pardon?”
“You are an evil woman.”
Things I could do with $4,400:
  •  Fly to Hong Kong with DJ and stay at the Ritz Carlton for two nights
  • Buy 1/4 of a camel in Pakistan
  • Get DJ a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle GLS with halogen projector beam headlamps including clear polycarbonate lenses
  • Purchase 25 bottles of Dom Parignon and cater a party for 100 people to come over and drink it
  • Hire a hit man to take out my insurance agent

Needless to say, we’re considering other options…

Sunday Post 124: On-the-job Training

This is it.  We got up early so we could beat the line at the Jacksonville, NC, DMV.  DJ turned 16 while we were no vacation, and we couldn’t wait two more days to get back to Raleigh.  So, this morning we drove 45 minutes to the nearest town to see if she could take the test that will push her toward total independence.

The kid in line before us slinked out of the glass room with his head down low.

“I failed,” he told his dad.  “The guy said I drove 33 in a 55 mile per hour zone.  I actually went too slow.”

Dear God above, please let DJ go too slow too.  Please, please.

I assume He can perform miracles, but DJ driving slowly may even be beyond His capabilities.

She returned from the road test with a Cheshire Cat grin on her face.  I knew my fate.

When we returned to the beach house, she announced she would be driving her sisters to lunch in Surf City, 20 minutes away.

“I’m hungry too,” I pleaded.

“We’ll bring you some back.”

My parting words were:  “I want all of my children back here, in one piece!”

“I’m with her,” Stephanie assured me.  “She won’t do anything crazy with me in the car.”

I didn’t feel any better.

Now they are gone, and I am here – alone.  I put my phone by my chair and turned the sound up high, just in case they need me.

Damn, this is sort of scary.  I think she’s a pretty cautious driver, but she’s young and inexperienced.  Oh, and the woman in line behind us at the DMV who was excited she was finally getting the breathalizer off her ignition is presumable back on the road this afternoon.

I can’t help but ponder the hours we’ve spent in my car together.  There were the Barney years in the minivan.  I could sing every word to every one of that purple dinosaur’s tunes.  There was the first time she weighed enough to sit in the front seat.  And three years ago when I was thrown into the role of primary carpooler for the Tanner family.

Although a relief to know I’ll no longer speed through town working to pick up all three girls at the exact same hour, I surely will miss our conversations.  We’ve wept, shared our dreams and yelled at the top of our voices in that car.  But mainly, we’ve laughed – laughed and laughed and laughed.

Somehow those gray leather seats bring out the best in us.  The ability to divulge our inner most thoughts made so much easier when sitting side-by-side.  I think it’s the lack of eye contact.

This whole growing up stuff is going to take some getting used to.  I fear that DJ isn’t the only one in this house who is figuring out how to become an adult.  There’s a 47-year-old who’s also getting some on-the-job grown up training right now.

Driver’s License, here we come!

license

At the end of this month, DJ gets her license.  I’m feeling pretty good about her driving.  As I coach her, she often reminds me that she is not stupid.  I remind her that I have driven for thirty years and that it is my side of the car that is facing the mac truck she could potentially pull in front of.  It goes like this:

“Don’t pull out yet.”

“There is a huge orange truck coming our way!  Do you think I’m stupid?”

“I’m just reminding you.  Remember, you don’t know the inner beltline from your innie belly button.”

“That’s directions!  That’s different!”

She says she hates to drive, but that she can’t wait to get in a car without me.  I told her that hurt my feelings.  I don’t think she cared.

My concern has moved from unsafe driving to some basics that I think might hold her back.

She cannot, will not, just refuses to remember to turn the lights off when she stops the car at night.  The automatic bell rings as a reminder.  It does not help.

“DJ, don’t you hear the ringing?  It’s not a doorbell!  It is a reminder to either take your keys out of the ignition or turn off your lights.”

“When I was a kid, I learned to tune that ding out.  It means nothing to me.”

I called Acura, “Is there a way to switch the gentle bell ringing reminder to a nice, loud elephant call?”  Apparently there is not.

I told her today as she drove by the second missed turn on our way back to our beach house, “One day I’m gonna send you to the grocery store and you’re going to end up in Ft. Lauderdale.”

“About Georgia I would realized I had missed a turn,” she snipped.

But the end all – be all occurred Monday night when the two of us were driving back from the grocery store at Ocean Isle Beach.

“Can we stop for ice cream dad?”

“Yeah, but don’t tell your sisters.”

As we pulled into the parking place, she quickly opened the door and headed into the parlor.  I sat in disbelief.  Not only had she forgotten to turn the lights out, not only had she left the keys in the car, she had left them in the ignition.  And, the car was still running!”

“Hey DJ,” I yelled.  “You forgot something.”

“I didn’t hear the bell.”

“There wasn’t one.  The MDX thought you were still driving – because you hadn’t turned him off!!”

I can see it now.  I’m at home, comfy in my chair watching the evening news.   Brrrring, Brrrring –

“Hello?   DJ.  You’re out of gas?  Where did you drive?  Just to the mall?  It’s only five minutes from the house.

What?  You’ve been there three hours and you never turned off the car?”

Is it stealing if the keys are still in it and the car is left on?  I can hear the thief now.

“Your Honor.  I thought she was giving it to me.  The key was in the ignition and the car was running.  She even left the seat warmer on.  Looked like a gift to me.”

Good lord above, please help me.

 

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