Driven to Distraction

My sixteen year old son has started driving.  Now, I don’t mean to scare my readers by telling you this.  I do not in any way mean to infer that the roads of Cottage Country have become less safe.  In truth, so far he has displayed the attributes of a good and cautious driver.   But you know boys …

I remember learning to drive myself, when my parents would let me behind the wheel on the quiet backroads leading to our cottage.  Those roads are not as quiet anymore, so I felt it more prudent to enroll my son in a young driver’s course.  Not that I was scared to teach him myself, but  I recalled an old promise I had made after my first and only attempt to teach someone to drive … that would be my wife.

When we first met in Banff, Alberta, all those many years ago, this beautiful young girl with whom I was smitten did not drive, and I bravely (or stupidly) decided I could teach her.  It would end up being the supreme test of true love.  I’m not too sure if I was having trouble explaining, or my girlfriend was having trouble hearing, but her learning to drive was full of bumps on the road.  I sometimes still wake with a start in the night; I dream of bumping down steep embankments when corners were taken too quickly, of sitting cockeyed on a curb after a parallel parking job that had gone horribly wrong, and of yelling “Sorry” out of the passenger window more times than I cared to count.  In truth, perhaps more out of good fortune than talent, I can say with certainty that no property was damaged, nor were any pedestrians flattened during this time.

Wanting to put my teaching days firmly behind me, I dropped my wife-to-be off for her first test.  She drove off with some strange man, while I waited outside the office.  They were gone for about 45 minutes, before pulling back into the lot.  I saw her have a long conversation with the instructor, and then she approached me a little teary-eyed.  She had failed.  No worries I told her, they often fail people on their first testing.  We would polish up the mistakes and return in a few weeks.

The second attempt didn’t last very long at all.  Off she drove with the old fellow, only to return within five minutes.  The instructor jumped briskly from the car, and strode unsteadily back into his office, his complexion ashen white.  The object of my adolescent affections stayed sitting in the car, with a look of anger on her face, a look that until then I had thought was saved just for me.  I approached with trepidation.  “ I can’t believe that grumpy old ogre,” she hissed.   “It’s not like I actually hit the lady on the crosswalk.”

I believe the old ogre retired on that day, but at the time I did not have that uplifting news to share with her.  Back to the road we went.  We returned several times for tests.  It was the same routine, but with a different instructor each time, which I assumed was a new policy.  The battle cry seemed to be “Let the new guy do this one!”   Anyway, in the end she finally did get her licence, and, over time, she has become a skilled and safe driver.  And in spite of my obviously poor teaching,  we did marry, so I guess she forgave me.  I did make a promise to myself to never be a driving instructor again, which brings us back to our son.

My reason for telling you that there is another Ross on the road is not meant to worry anybody, but rather to simply address that one inherent fact of life – the quick passing of time.  It seems only yesterday that I was scared out of my wits courtesy of the boy’s mother, and now he is learning to drive.  Getting their driving licence is just the next stage in gaining their freedom, and another step in their separation from us.   Do we worry about having them behind the wheel – sure we do, but we also must trust their skill and their sense of judgement.  Having your kid driving is just one more of those hurdles in the journey of life.

Speaking of hurdles, I fear that if and when my sweet wife reads this blog, I might find that the story also becomes a hurdle, and perhaps ends  up being our second major test of true love.  Drive safe this summer!