Thursday, May 21, 2009

Driving Lesson

May 21, 2009

My fifteen-year-old had her first driving lesson yesterday. Sort of. Actually, her dad took her out driving in a parking lot twice, but the first time she was so nervous, she wouldn't even step on the gas. She just put the car in drive, and crept along as slowly as the car would go without any outside impetus moving it along. At about five miles an hour, she practiced turning the wheel, and (if I'm not mistaken) getting a feel for the brakes. The second outing with her dad was slightly more successful, by all accounts.

So, yesterday, she got her first professional lesson. An instructor from the driving school met us at the high school. He did his best to put her at ease, and when she nervously asked him, "You have insurance, don't you, just in case I crash?" he assured her that most of the students he worked with had very little experience, and he was totally at ease putting his life in her hands. She, of course, glanced at me, the look in her eyes saying, "You'll still love me if I accidentally kill this guy, right?"

After I, too assured her that she'd be just fine, I asked the guy what time I needed to return to pick her up. He looked at me quizzically and said, "You want her to come back here? She can just drive home if you want, and then I can take the car from there." Wait--what?? I don't have to pick her up? Oh man, I am gonna love having another driver in the house! I started daydreaming about all of the extra time I'll have when I give up my second job as a taxi driver.... I was brought back to reality by Bree, who was reluctantly saying, "Okay, Mom. I'm leaving. I love you....," the last line uttered as though by one who highly suspected she'd never see me again. I walked away, crossing my fingers and praying that all would go well.

It did, luckily. Bree's a quick learner, and her instructor was a fun and funny guy. He tried not to make her feel nervous, or lame because she didn't know how to drive. I actually think she'll look forward to her next lesson. Tonight she actually starts driving with me (her permit wasn't valid until she had her first lesson), but I did tell her I wouldn't make her negotiate the high school parking lot after school. I have a hard enough time driving through all those crazy drivers--you know, the seniors who are so eager to get away from the school grounds at 2:45 that meandering pedestrians and novice drivers are in very real peril. No, she'll drive with me later on tonight, when we are headed to her sister's end-of-season softball party. Wish us luck, because if she and I are both in a vehicle that crashes, that will leave all of the taxi duties to my husband, and I'm pretty sure he won't be thrilled about that.

I remember my own first driver's training class. I took driver's training when it was still offered as part of the school curriculum--it was part of our P.E. class, oddly enough. (It's a good thing, too, that it was offered at school, because that made it free. I'm pretty sure if my mom had been told that she'd have to come up with $400 to put me through driving school, I would have gotten my license much later in life.) We got divided up into groups of three. Inexplicably, there were only three of us whose parents never got the memo that it might have been a good idea to give us a little 'behind the wheel' time before we turned fifteen. I mean, there were student drivers who could drive circles around the instructors. They were so comfortable behind the wheel that they could have taught the course.

I was not one of those. Nor was my friend Jim, nor was the foreign exchange student who happened to be in our group. I'm not sure if it was mere coincidence, but the three of us ended up doing our driver's training together. I was hard on brakes, giving my passengers whiplash. Jim had a bad habit of punching the gas when he took off, compounding our whiplash problems. But we were nothing compared to our foreign exchange student, who careened down the neighborhood streets, nearly sideswiping parked cars every time she got behind the wheel. She was so nervous about staying away from on-coming cars that she would have driven on the sidewalk if she could. We made quite the impression on our driving instructor, whose face and voice remained surprisingly placid, though if you looked carefully, you could see the white knuckles gripping the sides of his seat. Suffice it to say, he still vividly remembers all of us to this day.
I am quite sure that it is because of the fact that there were no calm, experienced drivers in my car that I was in no hurry to get my license. I completed my course, but it was almost another two full years before I decided to get my license. I am hoping it does not take Brianna that long to go out and get hers once her training time is done. I am ready to hand over the keys to the taxi.


  1. Good luck!

    I remember being so nervous when I started driving lessons. My instructor made me drive through Boston and that scared the CRAP out of me.

  2. Awesome. My 15 yr old nephew is learning to drive too.

  3. This is just an evil time. There is NO correct approach. I'm working on my freeze-time-technique as I DO NOT want to go there!!

  4. I found driving with Kyle in the beginning absolutely terrifying at times. I don't know what's worse-driving with him, or knowing that he's out on his own driving now. So far, so good. Now I have one extra driver (though we're short one car) and a whole year and a half before driver's ed for Kendall! :)