Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baby, you can drive my car.

     I've been on both sides of the learning process for driving a car, and I'll candidly admit I wasn't good at either of them.  This blog discusses my experiences both behind the wheel and the times I was wishing I was behind the wheel. 

     I couldn't get my license when I lived at home, it was an insurance thing.  Dad probably offered to add me to his policy if I paid the insurance increase, but since I didn't have money to buy a car, it didn't really make sense to get my license and pay for the privilege of driving a non-existent vehicle.  My older siblings would occasionally let me drive their cars, but for the most part I learned to drive after I left home.  I do remember my sister Meter Maid's boyfriend letting me drive one time and scaring them both with my slow braking.  He had a classic 50's muscle car,  and that was probably the closest he came to losing it, prior to it getting T-boned at the intersection of Fort Hill and Main Street in Canandaigua (I was not driving).  My girlfriend
Molly's first car
then taught me how to drive, and I repaid the favor by later marrying her.  I think I was a good student, but I wasn't known for my powers of observation, failing to see signs that instructed me to slow down, stop, yield or the like.  I failed one of my three subsequent driving tests for making a right on red, where clearly it was marked that it was not allowed (That's an automatic failure FYI).  Yes, I said that it took me three times to pass my driving test.  On my first attempt, a friend of mine from work, recognizing my wife's car, barreled towards the car while I was parallel parking and then swerved away at the last moment and honked and waved.  I turned towards the instructor and inquired "Friend of Yours?", but he didn't buy it.  I actually did teach my wife to drive a stick later on, so I did repay her for the instruction that she gave me.  While I may be better at some driving skills, like backing up and parallel parking, she is the superior driver in our family, but she did take Driver's Ed, and I had to learn 3rd hand.

     When our first born, Molly was ready to drive, we decided that it would be a good investment to have her take professional driving instruction.   It had less to do with our lack of ability to teach this skill, both of us were competent drivers, but at that age she was rejecting almost all of what we had to offer summarily, so we really couldn't teach her and have her do that with the traffic laws of NY State.  I don't fault her for this phase in being a teenager, and I've never met a teen who didn't experience this, to some degree, but I would like credit for knowing enough to seek professional help (with driving, not parenting).  If you are a parent, tell me that you have never had your child laugh at one of your suggestions, only to implement the same idea later on, when suggested by a teacher or peer?  Sure you have.  For a few 
hundred dollars she was able to receive driving instruction through a program at our school, and we supplemented the 2 hour, 3 day a week instruction that she was receiving by having her chauffeur us whenever possible.   When she made a mistake that we would question, she would jump back with, "That's not how they taught us to do it at school".  Our ignorance and her attitude had us practicing K turns that looked more Ampersands, and parallel parks that left enough room between us and the curb to fit a smart car in, but we only hoped as she received more instruction, her skills would improve, and they did.  She completed the course and was "ready" to take her driving test.  I've heard that you are not supposed to practice on the actual course that is used by the D.M.V. but it's been my experience that both courses in my area, have strange lane changes that would throw an experienced driver off, so I say let your conscience be your guide.  Char took her to her first test, and she failed it.  I'd love to expound on the reasons she may have failed the test, but when asked on the way home, she promptly ripped up the test and 
Molly's first instructors
threw it out the car window before Char could stop her.  I offered to take the bullet the next time and we scheduled the test.  In the interim prior to the test, I had noticed that she didn't look into intersections as she approached them and upon doing some research found out that it was considered a dangerous action and could cause an automatic failure on the test.  I printed this from the D.M.V website and left it for Molly to read and the next week we headed off for her test.  As we approached the first intersection, she failed, once again,  to look down into it.  I admonished her for it, and at the next intersection, she did the same thing.  It was after the 3rd intersection with no improvement, that I directed her to turn around and go home.  When asked why, my exact words were "Because I've got better things to do today than to drag your Happy Ass to Seneca Falls and watch you fail your test again."  I wasn't known for my tact then (unlike now).  She threw some histrionics but finally agreed to adjust her behavior, and we promptly went there and she passed.  One down.  

      Truthfully, it was an entirely different experience when it came to our son, Dan, and driving instruction.  He was eager to learn and listen and only really needed some correction when it came to stopping at stop signs, where he was overly cautious.  I'm not saying that he is a slow driver, but if we are late for anything, we never hand the keys to Dan to catch us up.  He did not learn that from either of his lead-footed parents.  He did not pass his first test, but the "infraction" that failed him would have been done by most experienced drivers and he easily passed his second time (without histrionics).  At that point I wasn't really sure if getting your kid crying, prior to the test, so that they showed up with puffy eyes, was part of the formula for getting them to pass, so I did punch him really, really, hard on the way there just for good measure (Oh, put down the phones to Child Welfare, I was only kidding).  Dan started out as the better driver, but I have to give credit to Molly for overcoming her bad habits and becoming an able driver.   A couple of speeding tickets and a roll-over accident (icy roads, not bad driving), helped in this process.  The night she rolled the van, the seat belt had come untethered on the ride home and she had the maturity to stop and spend the time to fix it, and that action may have saved her life.  We only have Nolan left to teach and he will have professional instruction as well.  With the changing laws in NY, he won't be able to drive home from high school at night.   Thanks NY for keeping us all safe (no, not seriously).  He is convinced he is inheriting our used Mercedes as his high school car, and that is a vastly unlikely scenario. I'm not sure what the experience will be like, teaching him to drive, but thankfully I've experienced 2 kinds now, so I should be able to handle it, and he'll listen, or he won't drive my car. 

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