“The most important thing you should know about driving is that a car is essentially a two-ton death machine, and everyone else on the road is trying to kill you.”
Thus began my first driving lesson with my father when I was fifteen. It should really come as a surprise to no one that I was well into my sixteenth year before I worked up the nerve to take my driving test. And that it took me three times to pass it because I so was nervous.
(*Me, driving 45mph*
DMV driving tester: What is the speed limit on an unmarked road?
*continues driving 45 mph*)
I can’t completely blame my dad, though. Obviously the message he was trying to get across was that driving is a big deal and something one should take seriously and cautiously, something a lot more people could stand to hear, really. I live in the South, a lovely, clean, suburban city where people are friendly and polite. To your face, anyway. Put them behind the wheel of a car and they will not hesitate to run your ass down. I’m pretty sure that around here, people are legitimately trying to kill each other via vehicular manslaughter. Or kill themselves with a heart attack induced by excessive road rage.
I preferred the driving patterns of Seattle, personally, though it made my impatient husband crazy. In Seattle people are more your aloof dreamer types, which does translate to their driving. The light turns green and they maybe contemplate going through it. They gaze absently at the clouds above as they putter along, seemingly oblivious to anyone else on the road. It’s not the safest way of getting around, true, but at least it’s more likely to cause fender benders or accidental drifting into road-side ditches. Even though I’m pretty sure they’re all doing it ironically.
We are staring down the long, dark, angst-ridden barrel of puberty with Boy. He is already interested in learning to drive, and has become a pretty accomplished backseat driver. I was anxious about learning to drive myself, but this does not hold a candle to the blind terror I feel when thinking about my first child navigating the roads in what is basically an aluminum box travelling upwards of 65 mph with nothing but a flimsy strap holding him in place.
I can only hope that when I repeat my dad’s words of wisdom on his first journey out into the realm of the automobile it puts him off getting his license for at least a year. Of course, it’s my job to guide and teach and hope that I send him off into the world prepared to meet any challenge that may come his way. But that doesn’t mean I can’t teach him to be careful and contentious. Or, consequently, that I can’t try to scare the crap out of him first.