Friday 28 Oct 2016

Driving Lessons
Matt Seinberg

With a show of hands, how many of you have teenage children at the age that they are now able enroll in Drivers Education and get their learners permit?

Ah, I thought so. My 17-year-old daughter, Michelle, earned the money for her permit and half the cost for Drivers Ed last summer. When the time came for her to get that permit, I wasn’t ready for it. I’m still not ready to have teenage children.

Let’s rewind 38 years. I turned 16 and couldn’t wait to get my learners permit, take Drivers Ed and start tooling around town. I learned how to drive in a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle, with an automatic stick shift. That means there was no clutch pedal to deal with, only moving the shifter to the correct gear. It was a nice little car in which to learn to drive.

I had made the mistake at some point in telling Michelle that I got my permit at 16 and passed Drivers Ed with flying colours. I also passed my road test the first time. My sister, Elyse, took it three times before she passed. That’s just a little factoid I won’t let her forget to this day.

After camp ended, in August of 2012, Michelle kept talking about her permit and Drivers Ed. I tried my best to tune it out, but eventually I had to listen because I had to give her the $90 for the permit and the $470 for Drivers Ed. She had given it to me previously to hold, just so she wouldn’t spend it on something frivolous.

When I took Drivers Ed in school, it was free; having to cough up $470 really ticked me off. Why does the school charge for it when our damn taxes are so high? That’s another subject and column.

My mother who took me out driving, most of the time; I was good at it. One habit I had, when I was a younger driver, was to let the car drift a little too much to the left of the road. Eventually I got over that and just started to drive fast. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a race-car driver.

Michelle has been out on the road with the Drivers Ed class twice so far, and asked if I would take her driving. I wanted to say no, but just couldn’t. I told her we could drive around the neighborhood for a little while in my Mazda 6.

Do I have to tell you how nervous I was? I’m so used to being the driver, having to sit in the passenger seat is nerve wracking, especially in my own car. I would have preferred to have her drive Marcy’s 2001 Nissan Altima.

Michelle’s driving was good, except for not slowing down enough to make a left turn and driving to close to cars parked on the right side of the street. Does this have anything to do with her being a lefty?

Was I scared and nervous? Yes I was! Was I afraid she might crash my car? Yes. Will I let her drive my car again? No. Do I want my wife taking my car to work and possibly getting it scratched or dented in her parking lot? No.

Which is the lesser of two evils? Either way I’ll be nervous.

I know I’m impatient. I’m smart and a good trainer. Having been in retail sales and management for over 30 years has given me the opportunity to train some good people and shake my head at others who just don’t get it.

In Michelle’s case, I really hope she does well. Next time, I’ll let Marcy take her out for a lesson, see what happens; she can decide whom she prefers to drive. I think it will be a draw.

If there were one piece of advice I can pass on now, it would be this. Do not tell your children what you did at their age that they now are eligible to do themselves. If you drove at 16, drank at 18 and had sex right around the same time, do not talk about it, admit or think about it. You can avoid a long conversation, for a little while, maybe even a year.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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