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January 16, 2005

Driving Up The Wall

Tom McLaughlin

This is the second time around for driver training. My youngest daughter started her classroom instruction and we are now awaiting her behind the wheel experiences.

I have learned from all the experts never, ever teach your child to drive. The instructor cannot murder your child but you can claim mental torture brought about by years of teenageitis.

Stopping the car and throwing your adolescent out onto the road when they commit an error will not happen with a certified teacher. They will not banish the new driver to the hinterlands of West Virginia without food or water or cell phone. A teacher will not instruct that displaying the middle finger is an accepted form of non-verbal communication.

One of the problems with the instruction is the student watches your driving habits like a hawk. Suddenly, you are not supposed to cross the solid line to merge onto 70. I jump in at any gap available regardless of whether the line is solid or dashed. I didn't know it was illegal not to use a turn signal.

The trouble is I usually remember I need something at the store at the very last minute and swing the wheel right - after looking of course - into the shopping center.

I am also not supposed to cross my left hand over my right when making a turn. I have been doing this for years without realizing it. I have tried the "correct" way as taught by my daughter but have nearly wrecked the car a couple of times trying to untangle myself.

As I drive around on one of the endless ferry missions to dance, plays, sports, after school, I try to point out the mistakes of others. Cell phone drivers are my greatest bane.

When sitting at stop sign, I love watching the person finish a phone conversation before thinking about making a right turn when all is clear. You should see the hands cross over as they try to manipulate the wheel, hug the phone and converse at the same time as the car brushes the curb. Talk about forgetting the turn signal.

Another error is the person in your mirror who talks and drives at the same time. They come real close to your bumper and then back off. They come real close and then back off, again.

When they get too close, I tap the brake and hit the emergency flashers at the same time. I love to watch the phone fly up to the ceiling as they attempt to regain control of the car after a panic attack. This is almost as much fun as observing a cup of hot coffee going airborne.

The next scary step is looking for insurance. I am just mailing to get quotes from USAA, AARP and AAA. Sorry, I will not do business with any company who has a talking-singing lizard as a logo. Also, I will not talk to any insurance agent on an 800 number. By the time they get done with me I will also have insured the exercise cycle in the den.

Three cars must be insured with a new teenage driver in mind. Two of them are paid off which gives you an idea of how old they are. They will travel an additional couple hundred thousand miles or until I hit the lottery, which ever comes first. I will need the winnings to pay the bill.

I will have to learn to parallel park again which I view with the same trepidation as the rubber glove procedure in the doctor's office. Both involve the placing of a large object into a small place.

I will survive this passage of life with my daughter and will look back at the experience with a tear and a smile, to quote the poet Gibran, as I have with all the others. Driving me crazy will be the driving force of my survival as I one day enter the world of senility remembering - remembering with a tear and a smile.

Yellow Cab
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