Friday, June 27, 2008
Learner's Permit by Barb McKone
Learner's Permit by Barb McKone
I have a chauffeur for the summer. I had always assumed that when my son got his learner's permit, he'd jump at the chance to get behind the wheel. I've been letting him drive on the gravel lane from our farm to the road to town for a year now, and he's always been eager. But here, in the "big city," he seemed unsure as to whether or not he wanted to take that permit out for a spin. Finally, I forced him to drive me on my errands one afternoon. Next, I forced him to drive me to school one morning. Now, every time I go to the driveway to run an errand he's sitting behind the wheel, waiting and willing.
Three short years ago, I went through this process with my daughter. She hated it. I was hoping it would be a fun mom-daughter activity. Ha. She's a line-hugger. She'd steer the car along the center line to avoid getting anywhere near the sidewalk, where there were always walkers and kids playing. While I appreciated the safety efforts, we often got so close to oncoming traffic I could see the whites of the eyes of the drivers we'd just passed. I would bark out warnings, which would only make my daughter swerve toward the sidewalk, scattering walkers like pin balls. My nerves were shot. Her confidence was shot. Our exchanges during and after these outings were not at all good for our relationship. Nor was it good for neighborhood relations. I think there are still several area drivers who see her little white Subaru and change their route. So, we signed her up for driver's ed and thankfully, left the "ed" to someone else.
My son runs the risk, at this point, of being over-confident. He drives right down the center of the lane, and hasn't hit a curb on a turn yet. His hands were clammy after the first drive to the grocery store, but he hasn't looked nervous since. He's successfully taken on roadways and hazardous conditions that would make some seasoned drivers blanche. He does wait a bit too long to brake for stop signs, but frankly, it's almost a relief. I have to have something to talk about. So, between stop signs, I've taken to teaching what I like to think of as "Driver's Theory," or, "What Those Potholes Really Mean To Me." The following are a few examples of the life lessons I've been forcing on my son for the past three weeks. God love him, he's still speaking to me. Probably because I control the keys.
First, there's the Ten-Two Lesson. Ten-two position, as I know you all know, is the suggested position for the hands while driving an automobile. Even though my own hands have drifted to approximately six-one for years, I tell my son how important it is for his hands to remain gripped in ten-two. I tell him the best grip of the wheel is imperative for maximum control. I believe this. If only I could urge him to grip to the control of his life like he does the wheel of the car. How handy the ten-two would be when deciding between going to a bar or studying for college exams, or when some scary delinquent kid offers him something he knows he should run from. Steady now, he'd hear me shouting. Get a grip. Ten-two!
Another favorite, of course, is the Fast Lane Lesson. We all know the fast lane is not supposed to be called the fast lane. The folks who choose to drive in that lane are not really supposed to drive faster, they are supposed to be passing. It's supposed to be called the passing lane. But, since long before the term "road rage" had ever been coined, it's been called the fast lane. My son loves to get into that fast lane. Until yesterday, that is, when I gave him my "fast lane sermon." It may seem that there are benefits to being in the fast lane, I told him, but I find that more often than not, the detriments outweigh them. For one thing, it certainly ups one's chances of the head-on scenario. Scary. But also, you're scooting along in the fast lane, and suddenly you're stuck behind a car who's taking a left into a pizza parlor. It's five o'clock, so you're significantly stuck, and because the traffic is bumper to bumper, you have no chance of darting back into the slow lane, the steady lane, the tortoise-to-the-fast-lane's-hare-lane. Slow and steady sometimes really does win the race. There. Another driving life lesson.
Out of the remaining options, including Tap, Don't Trample, Red Cars Are Ticket Magnets, Children, Balls and Parked Cars and, of course, the classic Yield Means Yield lessons, I chose to share last, but certainly not least, the Check Your Blind Spot lesson. Every vehicle, like every person, has a blind spot. My car has several areas from which I have poor visibility, including ridiculously large Dumbo-ear side mirrors and way too much metal where window ought to be. For that reason, I spend a large portion of my drive time craning my neck around to see what potential dangers I might be missing. My son drives by the mirror. He thinks that what he can't see at first sight just shouldn't have to be seen. I have friends and family like this. They steer right into dating some new guy, for instance, with just a quick glance in the side mirror. This is someone who should be setting off all kinds of bells and warning sirens. Before you know it, they'd wished they'd checked that blind spot. They're wondering why they didn't see it coming. But he was so nice, they say. Right. And just like we tell the officer giving the ticket, he came out of nowhere.
My son doesn't get his license until February. Poor kid. But just think how smart he'll be by then!