Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ali, Take the Wheel

Alison has been stuck firmly in "Park" when it comes to her ability to drive. She's not alone. Lots of city kids her age and older are less anxious to get behind the wheel than I was back in the day.

The report I linked to above says, among other things, that only 71.5 percent of high school seniors had their drivers' licenses in 2015. Eight-seven percent of kids in 1983 had their DLs. I'm betting it was 100 percent in rural communities.

Like many of her peers, Ali has little need to drive. If one of her parents isn't around or willing, she can bike or walk to find fun. Or she can just slide her finger over her phone or iPad and be happy as long as she has access to a wireless router and and electrical outlet. Back in my day and childhood home, it was miles into the closest town. I didn't always have access to a bicycle and the only phone we had was hard, black and plastic, tied securely to wall behind a cluttered kitchen shelf. It had no games unless they could be had in a voice-to-voice conversation and the idea of streaming video had yet to be conceived.

Even though we lived miles from anywhere fun, my parents did not see my transportation desires as something that hit their priority list. There was a school bus and maybe a ride from an older sibling if they were willing to let me tag along. Other than school and church (to which they were always ready to drive) there was apparently no need for me (or any of us) to leave the property unless it was under our own steam.

We had a horse for a long time, but Flicka has as much interest in my transportation needs as my parents did. As young boys, my brothers sometimes rode the pigs, but that was more a porcine rodeo kind of thing rather than an attempt to train them as viable vehicles. Before you ask, no: I did not participate.

I'm more familiar with goat rodeos, and that's a beast of an entirely different metaphor.

Anyway, Ali is 16 now and if she were born in the countryside where vehicular transportation is as necessary as grits on a breakfast platter, she would be chomping at the bit to learn how to drive. I keep offering to teach her.

"Uh. No, thanks," she said. "That's going to be Dad's job."

I've gotten over my annoyance at this repeated assertion. Kind of. She won't even try to back up the car in the driveway. "That's illegal," she'll say. "I don't have my permit."

She's amazingly proper. And stubborn.

"Dude. I'm right here. I have time," I've said. "We'll start off with your Dad's Subaru because it's an automatic transmission."

I may have a new transmission and clutch in my Mustang, but I'm not anxious to subject it to a new learner. Plus, I don't want her to get discouraged.

"I'm OK to wait on Dad," she'll say. "No offense Mom, but your driving terrifies me."

She likes that word, "terrifies." It's not even fair.

"You drive with one hand and drink coffee or keep looking at your phone. You get too close to the car ahead of you. You speed," she said, ticking off some of her issues with me at the wheel. "You don't pay attention and you don't always follow the law like when you turn left when there's a big red sign that says you aren't supposed to."

My counterpoint is generally something along the lines of, "That may be true, but I know how to do it correctly. And sometimes the signs aren't always appropriate for conditions. There's wiggle room when there's no traffic and I really need to get somewhere."

She doesn't believe me. Her drivers' education course is not helping my cause. In fact, it's created a kind of obnoxious shotgun rider.

"How fast are you going?" she'll ask as we barrel down an empty city street. "You know that's a double yellow line there."

She gets it from her father, who is notorious for coming to a rolling stop midway through a stop-signed intersection. We were all in the car the other day with Ali's friend Cory and the Captain was instructing us all in proper driving. I waited for an opportunity to pounce.

It came when Jeff was waxing poetic about protocol at stop lights, stop signs and yields. He was about to define the rolling stop when Cory piped up.

"You mean like what you've been doing all the way home?" she asked.

I like Cory a lot.

Anyway, Ali is nearly completion of her online drivers' education course and should soon be credentialed as a student driver. Her collar bone is healing nicely and she got back on her bike the other day. I was with her and apparently was a little too solicitous when it came to giving her fair warning of a need to brake. (It was a hard brake that led to her flipping herself off the bike and breaking her collar bone.)

"Mom. I'm not a seven-year-old," she said. "I can see traffic coming."

I backed off a little. She's been remarkably resilient since her fall. She's even assumed all of her chore list since the incident. Initially getting clothes out of the washer had been painful. She's been back to her cheerful Cinderella self for weeks now.

The orthopedic doc is happy with her progress and says we don't have to see him again until September and we can even skip that if nothing is awry. Her idea of safety is to wear her helmet when she's on her bike and to keep far, far away from me as a driving instructor. Her father agrees so I'm outvoted.

But I would be an awesome driving instructor. I'm sure of it. Send me your teenagers! Don't let them ask Ali or the Captain for a reference.


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