The Learner’s Permit. Also known as Fifty Hour Glutes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“We taking the freeway?” Jack asks as I get out from behind the wheel and cross to the passenger side. His schoolmates hoot at him from in front of the building, impressed by his learner’s permit. He struts to the car.

“Not a chance. There’s construction,” and probably will be for the next decade. For the past several months, they’ve been squeezing six lanes into two on the route to Jack’s school. Our normal 20 minutes can take twice as long or more now, depending upon factors I have yet to fathom.

We pull away, and I mouth “SAVE ME” at the kids, pawing the window for effect. They laugh appreciatively. It never gets old. Jack’s polite enough to let me poke fun.

I’ve written about my surprise that Idaho drivers rank as some of the rudest in the country. I mean, sure, people around here consistently fail to utilize their turn signal, and forget to ensure the brake lights work on the trailer they’re using to haul four-wheelers to their weekend hunting camps. But rude?

But then there’s this freeway construction nonsense every day. That’s where all the rude’s hanging out.

There’s an entire segment of the population, for example, duty-bound to keep people from merging. They’re buddies with the group that is pretty sure that you should have merged by now, regardless of whether you have a full mile or a hundred meters to go. They’ll position their car as though the two lanes have already merged, lest someone pass and hold them up a nanosecond by merging somewhere in front of them.

So, putting my kid behind the wheel on the freeway feels like throwing him into Thunderdome and seeing who emerges victorious. Not. Happening. Today.

We take the city route, with stoplights every twenty-seven seconds, and a fair amount of its own construction, interspersed with school zones and bike lanes and speed limits randomly changing from 40 mph to 50 to 35. A good mix for a new driver.

A nice workout for my gluteus region too, to be frank.

“Now’s a good time to take your foot off the gas,” I say, pointing at a long line of brake lights just ahead. I’m not big into physics, but it would seem unwise to be approaching stationary objects so rapidly. I try to keep my voice from rising.

“I know,” Jack says, leisurely pulling his foot from the gas.

“Feel free to brake a little bit,” I say, impressed with my inside voice. Jack slows down. Way down. Fast enough to make our heads bob forward and bring the car almost to a complete stop still a half a block from the car ahead.

There’s traffic behind us, too, and I’m praying everyone is paying careful attention to their driving, and wishing for the umpteenth time I had one of those drivers’ education car topper-things to help people understand that at any point we may come to a complete stop for no reason before making a turn, and take up an extra half of the lane next to us in the process.

I have a little visualization exercise: a gigantic bubble encases our car keeping distracted drivers from rear-ending us, and ass-hats in the next lane from crowding us, and cyclists from ending up underneath us.

I’m sweating from places I didn’t know I had pores.

“Next time you turn, I want you to do that hand-over-hand thing,” I say, “you don’t let the car straighten out by letting the wheel slip back through your hands.”

“They don’t do that hand-over-hand thing anymore, mom,” he says and I’m wondering if they switched things up and I didn’t get the memo, just like long division. I’m out of the loop.

“Oh, really, well then what’s the new method? Because I’m pretty sure whatever it is your’re doing isn’t right.” He doesn’t answer and I know he’s just trying to bullshit his way out of admitting he wasn’t paying attention that day.

Some time we’re going to have to borrow my mom’s stick shift for practice using a clutch, and by God I don’t know how we all survived when I learning and mom made me drive us to the gym every night after work.

We lived in a small town, fewer obstacles and no freeway, but every stop sign was on an incline. I prayed everyone behind me would give me a lot of space to get moving again.

Right now, the thought of Jack mastering down-shifting while approaching a light makes me catch my breath.

“How long before we can listen to music in the car, mom?” Actually, I’m considering dismantling the radio in any vehicle he drives, and taking out any passenger seats in order to cut down on potential for distractions.

“Don’t talk, just pay attention,” I say.

This boy was only yesterday riding a bicycle with training wheels he had no interest in shedding until we insisted they come off. He is now hurtling down the road at speeds earlier generations worried might peel your skin off.

Fifty hours behind the wheel and a little test are all that’s left between him and a license. Fifty hours shaved from his parents’ lives in the process. Will I be ready to let him go on his own? Without my reminders to slow down, speed up, look over his shoulder, stay in his own lane, turn off his signal, turn on his signal, for God’s sake, watch what he’s doing?

But then he starts talking about saving for his own car, something that’s possible by next spring, he supposes, and do I think he’d be allowed to drive himself to school?

Hang on, wait a minute, what? No more two-hour commutes to Jack’s awesome yet oh-so-far-away palace of learning?

Oh, hello, let’s knock those training wheels off this sucker and GO, man.


Seriously, the best glute work out ever. But voting burns calories. You can vote as often a day and help me get more visibility. Thank you.



You may also like

No comments

  1. OH my goodness, you\’re giving me flashbacks. I would have sworn my daughter was going to hit every mailbox in the neighborhood when she started out (she\’s 19 and a better driver than I am now). Fortunately, I\’ve got a few more years before I have to go back into the arena with my son.

  2. I almost wish I were going through what you are. My son is 16, has had his learner\’s permit since he was 15, and has never gotten behind the wheel.
    I ask him all the time to practice driving, and I offered a hundred times to take him to an empty parking lot, out in the country, or even let him drive in the neighborhood. He just won\’t try. He\’s not even interested.
    I fantasized since he was 12 or 13 how he would be able to help out with driving and errands and after-school activities when he could finally drive. I hoped he could take turns driving on road trips. But no.
    My 14-year-old, on the other hand, can\’t wait to get behind the wheel. Of course this is the one that I would want to put off driving as long as possible!

    1. Oh no. My sister was reluctant to drive, and I don\’t think she got her driver\’s license until she was 17 or something. She turned out to be a great driver, but I was out of the house by then, and not available to drive her around. I wonder if that was the impetus.

      My younger son learned to ride a bike without training wheels before the older one. When Jack saw his little brother flying around the \’hood, he was a little more motivated.

  3. Oh, I love this post! My son will be 16 next month….yikes!! We\’ve taken him driving a few times, but I know we need to take him a lot more. The thought of him driving \”for reals\” scares the crap out of me. Auuughh. It would be nice to have him drive himself to places sometimes though….as long as he makes it there and back in one piece.