Curb Side Driving


One day recently I wrote the letters SU on a post it note and stuck it to the glove compartment door in the car.  When DJ climbed into the driver’s seat, she looked over and asked me what it stood for..

“It’s to remind me to shut up when you’re driving,” I explained.

I’m really not a good driver’s ed teacher.  I am impatient with the process.  When we’re in a hurry, I want her to speed up.

At the roundabout at the corner of Oberlin and Hillsborough Streets I might chide, “Go! This is your chance.  You’ve got to be aggressive!”

When she’s seemingly flying down Clark Avenue, 3.7″ from the parallel parked cars on my side of the street, I begin to pray out loud, “Dear Lord God above, for I know we have sinned but please do not punish us this day with death.  Please Lord let us make it this beautiful morning that you have created to the St. Mary’s school driveway.”

I’ve found that neither approach is effective in changing her driving behavior or helpful in calming my nerves.  I actually find that when I keep my mouth mostly shut, she’s does fairly well.  In fact, seven months into this process, I think she’s gaining more confidence on the road, and I’m gaining more confidence in her.

There were some points early on, well let’s just say a cable network would have bleeped me.

“Dad!  Why do you scream like that?”

“I do the same thing when a cobra lurches toward me!  It’s just instinct.  I can’t help it!”

There was the time it had been pouring down rain.  Although just sprinkling at this point, there were still huge puddles of water on the sides of the road from the unexpected downpour a few minutes earlier.

I’m not sure why new drivers cling so hard to the curb, but I recall one of the scariest moments of my life was when I was 15 and riding in the back of my driver’s education car while my classmate Carolanne Rahal moseyed up Roberson Street in Fayetteville, NC.  I leaned in to the third student in the car hopeful to avoid the telephone poles that were dangerously close to my forehead.

On this damp day, I thought DJ was doing pretty good considering the driving conditions.  The roads were wet but she was moving cautiously and had even mastered the delayed windshield wiper setting.  All was good, until we approached an oncoming puddle nearly the size of Lake Michigan.  With cars approaching in the other direction, DJ kept her commitment to a football field’s length between her car door and the double yellow line.

I tried to explain that the white concrete curbing that meets the black asphalt was not a ten inch tire lane and in fact was not really meant for cars at all.  She didn’t listen, she didn’t stop and she didn’t even slow down.

As we powered through the puddle, I noticed two joggers headed our way on the sidewalk.  We all, well all but DJ, saw what was coming.  As the wall of water, more than five feet tall, rose up toward the runners, they crouched to cover their heads from the impending tsunami.  I think crouching just made it worse.  They were doused.  Michelle and Stephanie were in awe.  I was embarrassed, working to wave my hands as a sign of apology.

And DJ?  Although slightly remorseful, she got so tickled I thought she was going to pee her pants.

If her driving is any indication, she should have no trouble parallel parking.  She is very, very familiar with the curbs.

The Learner’s Permit

Check out the “hard top”

Posted by Danny

My nerves are shot. DJ’s getting her Learner’s Permit and I’m about to have a stroke.

I was wondering why this was bothering me so – and then I began to assess what was behind my uneasiness. Perhaps it is my own history with the automobile that brought back this unpleasantness.

My brother once owned a 1973 Camaro Z 28. He’s spent his life savings on this car. It was black with a navy stripe down the side. We lived in the very back of our neighborhood on Rolling Hills Road but we could hear Chad coming when he turned off of Village Drive and passed through the red brick Briarwood entranceway two miles from our house. Apparently his life savings wasn’t enough to fund a muffler.

His long hair blew in the wind as he cruised by Terry Sanford Senior High School, a cigarette hanging from his lips and KISS blaring from the radio.

I, on the other hand, drove my father’s hand me down straight shift Dodge Colt. It was white with a light blue hard top. Why was it called a hard top? All cars that weren’t convertibles seemed like hard tops to me.

We lived on the top of a hill, our driveway a steep, steep incline.

One day I was hurriedly pulling into our drive. Little did I know that my bother was barreling down the same concrete slab, in reverse.

The damage to my car was minimal. My dad and I fixed it with a hammer and jar of model paint. But the Camaro was never the same. The trunk had to be tied shut with a rope. And since my brother had invested all of his worldly possessions into purchasing the car, he had no collision insurance.

Boy was he mad. My mother thought it was funny. She has an uncanny ability to find humor at the most inopportune times.

I once lent my car to a friend. She forgot to wear her glasses. She totaled it at an intersection a couple of miles from where we worked.

On another day, Susie McKinney, a classmate of mine, parked right next to me at school. When we arrived at our cars to head home for the day, I commented on her inability to drive. “Damn Susie! Half of your car is in my space. Watch what you’re doing next time.”

I opened my car door to toss my books in the car.  Although my butt was on the driver’s seat, my legs were still outside of the vehicle.

I whipped my head around as I began to feel pressure on my legs. Susie’s bumper was meandering down the side of my car door as she turned to back out of her space. My chins and calves were trapped between the door and the bottom of the Colt. The further she backed, the tighter the crunch. I screamed, “Stop Susie!” I’m not sure if she heard me – she may have just been miffed that I commented on her parking abilities.

The next day, I had four bruises – one on the front and one on the back of each leg.

I have more stories of speeding tickets and minor fender benders. One time I won a Ford Aerostar Minivan. I drove with my parents to Charlotte to pick it up. On the way home I was so tired I asked my mom if she’d drive for a while. She agreed and after we ate lunch she took my keys and promptly hit a light post as she backed out of the Hardees’ parking lot.

Again, she laughed. I failed to see her amusement.

I guess I’ve been blessed not to have a serious incident, but each of these accidents illicit a negative internal feeling.

The thought of my kid driving, and in particular having a front row seat to the action, is unnerving.

I will say that thus far she is doing well. I, however, am working on an ulcer.

I Need a Sedative

Fake picture. No one teaching a teenager how to drive is that happy.

Posted by Danny

I’m going to need sedatives.

DJ turned 14 last week.  I was quickly informed that at age 14 1/2 you can take Driver’s Ed.  I had no idea.

Jesse recently told me that I needed to get her out in a car at the Fairground’s parking lot so she could begin to get a feel for being behind the wheel.  We were at the lake on Sunday with friends so another dad and I took DJ and her three buds out for a spin on some back roads.

There is a God.  I know this because I am here tonight writing and yesterday at 5 pm I was not sure that would be the case.

I guess I made a few assumptions – like thinking they knew how to start the car, or which way to turn the steering wheel when you backed up, or what a turn signal was.  They have been riding with us for the past 14 years.  I thought perhaps they noticed that we’d gently pressed the plastic bar on the side of the steering wheel 3,459 times each year and that a little green arrow lit up.  Apparently they did not.  They were probably texting.

Our conversation went like this:

“I am going to start a leaf collection.”


“Because you are driving so close to the trees that I can easily pick them from the limbs.”

“Your grandmother could walk faster than you are driving.  Give it a little gas.”

“Stop at the intersection.  This is actually two football fields from the intersection.  Pull up several hundred yards and re-stop.”

“I’m about to pee in my pants” (that was one of the girls talking because she was laughing so hard).  I’ve seen that before and it isn’t pretty.

“What do we do if another car drives by?” 

“I don’t think I understand the question.  You keep driving on your side.  Close to the trees like you’re doing now.”

“I feel like a postman.”


“I can open the mailboxes!  Move to the left a little.”

I remember my Driver’s Ed class.  Our teacher’s name was Scooby.  His mother made his three-piece suits.  I was in the car with Carolanne Rahal.  I was petrified when she was driving.  I’ve never been so close to a telephone pole.  I remember driving down I-95 with Carolanne cruising at 35 miles per hour.  Cars whizzing by – I was mortified.

Scooby had an advantage – he had brakes on the passenger side of the car.  At one point on Monday DJ pressed the gas so hard I slammed on the brakes – at least I tried.  I forgot I was not on the driver’s side.  Pressing the carpet does not have the same effect.

This will take years off of my life.  I may have to call in Jesse for reinforcements.  He’s a bit more daring than I – he might have more of a stomach for this sort of thing.

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