Sunday, March 8, 2020

Driving Me Crazy

My daughter started driving in November, a week after her 16th birthday.  This is a huge milestone in her (and my) life.  I know how excited I was to be driving when I was her age, and, while she seemed to not care a whole lot at first, now that she has a few miles under her belt, she really looks forward to getting behind the wheel.  She tries to come up with reasons every day why we need to go to the store.

We had some stressful days leading up to her getting her Learner’s Permit, which allows her to drive with an experienced adult in the passenger seat.  She had been studying the driver’s manual off and on for a few weeks, and she aced the online written driver’s test multiple times, so, a few days after her 16th birthday, and despite some anxiety (hers and mine!), we went to Motor Vehicle Administration to apply. 

She was a nervous wreck.  It became my responsibility to keep her calm, so I kept distracting her by asking her trivia questions, which she hates.  Getting her mad at me turned into a welcome distraction, it seems, because it did calm her down, if for only a moment.  Finally, though, they called our number and it was her turn.  To add a bit of drama to the tale, the testing room is behind a closed door, and she had to knock on the door and wait for someone to open it.  That took about five minutes, but she told me it felt like hours.  The door finally opened, she went inside, and fifteen minutes later, she exited excitedly.  She passed!

She did the math and figured out that she could only miss up to four questions and still pass.  She told me she had already missed three when she got to the last question.  She was so scared she would fail, but she got an easy one:  “What kind of sign is red with eight sides?”  She was so relieved!

The next hurdle was the actual driving.  She had only been behind the wheel once, and it was in our Jeep Wrangler, which has a manual transmission.  The experience traumatized her.  Driving a manual is similar to playing the drums, requiring all four limbs to be on the same page, since they each have a role while driving.  The left foot works the clutch; the right foot brakes and accelerates; the left hand steers; and the right hand shifts gears and holds your sandwich while you drive and eat lunch.  It takes a lot of coordination.  However, my daughter could not get the hang of it, almost burning out the clutch, and she decided she didn’t want to try it ever again.  Unfortunately, with manual transmissions in both of our vehicles, she was stuck.

Over the Holidays, we got a new car…with an automatic.  I guess we were due.  My 2-seater was impractical, 13 years old, and had a problematic leaky top, so it went to a worthy car donation organization.  My daughter will still have to learn to drive a manual transmission, but it doesn’t have to be right away.  In the meantime, she will get lots of hours behind the wheel of our brand new, brightly colored hatchback before she takes a driver’s education class.  That’s the way I learned, and I was better for it.  She is very excited, and I am excited for her.

The first few times out on the road with my daughter behind the wheel were very hard… for me.  I’m sure she was nervous, but, for me, who has anxiety issues already, this was a new level of fright.  Pulling out into traffic was very difficult.  I actually closed my eyes waiting for the crashing sound of another car piling into ours.  Indecision is another problem.  I told her that she can’t begin pulling out into traffic and decide she can’t make it with the car already halfway into the intersection.  Make a decision and stick to it.  Braking is also difficult.  I’ve worn a hole into the floor mat on the passenger side of the car trying to step on the nonexistent brake pedal.  Whew!  I got her one of those fluorescent yellow “Rookie Driver” magnets for the back of the car when she is driving.  Unfortunately, it only causes other drivers to harass her as they zip by us.  But things are getting better.  Experience makes all the difference, and while she still has some exasperating moments, I’m a lot calmer about it, knowing our lives are on the line.  She’s going to be a great driver.

If you find yourself in Central Maryland behind a hatchback with a bright yellow “Rookie Driver” sign on the back, look out!  It just may be my daughter and her stressed out dad.

Thanks for reading! 

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