“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.