I am a horrible driver. I’ve been doing it wrong for years and I had no idea. Although I have caused no accidents, nor participated in any collisions requiring bodywork or insurance agents, I am still Driving Impaired. The fact that I’ve never had a ticket doesn’t mean that I know what I’m doing either. How could I have gone for years and years thinking—nay believing that I was a safe and conscientious driver, you might ask? The answer is clear. I never had a teenager in my car with a Drivers Permit in her purse. Not only does she hold a legal document, entitling her to get behind the wheel of a car whilst one of her adult progenitors white-knuckles the dashboard, it appears that her license is also gives her…er, license to tell me every move I make is the wrong one.
“MOM, GO!” she hollered at me the other day.
I hit the gas and chirped the tires due to the adrenaline rush she’d just given me. I haven’t burned rubber since I was in high school, and I haven’t had anyone yell at my driving since my mother was teaching me to drive when I was a teenager. She scared me.
“Why did you yell at me?” I said, clutching my chest, through which I was sure my middle-aged heart was about to burst.
“The light turned GREEN Mom” Oh, well then. I guess she would have been negligent in her duties had she not yelled at me a nanosecond after the light had changed. I thanked her profusely for sparing me the embarrassment of sitting at a green light for half a second. I am obviously inept in recognizing when the light changes.
“HEY! You’re NOT supposed to do THAT!” she sneered with arms folded across her teenage chest as I made a right turn and went directly into the inside lane instead of going to the outside lane and then signaling. “Our Drivers Ed teacher told us that our parents have a bad habit of doing that and we should tell you that you’re doing it all wrong.” Note to self: Be sure to thank that Drivers Ed teacher in an appropriate manner. This should involve shaving cream and his car. Another experience I haven’t had since I was in high school.
I am not normally a yeller. I do my very best not to raise my voice at my children, because I know how I felt when I was yelled at as a child. Since the advent of my Teenage Mutant Driver, I have been known to raise my voice on numerous occasions. I make no apologies for this occurrence because it serves to save my life.
“STOP STOP STOP STOP!” This is me yelling at my Teenage Mutant Driver as she pulls out into oncoming traffic that is heading straight for me on the passenger side of the vehicle. So she does. Stop, I mean. Right in the middle of the intersection, forcing the driver coming at me to slam on his/her brakes.
“Back up! Back up!” I loudly instruct her, as the oncoming vehicle slides towards us. Obviously I frightened her, because she slammed it into reverse and chirped the tires. In all my years of driving, I doubt I have ever managed to burn rubber in reverse. Score one point for the offspring in the Surpassing Parental Expectations category.
“Did you LOOK before you backed up?” I asked, again alta voz. I knew the answer to this question, but I had obviously succumbed to the same disease my parents suffered and was now asking questions that needed no answers.
Later, after I was able to get my pulse down into the Not Having A Heart Attack Range, I asked her if she knew what she had done wrong. Her answer surprised me.
“I had the right of way! I got to the stop sign first!” She had a point. She had reached the stop sign first. I patiently explained to her that while yes, she had reached the stop sign before the driver on the other side of the intersection, the traffic to the right and left of us did not have to stop and didn’t care who reached the stop sign first.
Teenage Mutant Drivers are not known for taking criticism well, or believing that their parental units know more than they do on any given subject, including driving. Thus, I continue to face abuse.
Sometimes I am weak and believe what people say to me about me. In order to combat this somewhat fragile aspect of my personality, I now stand in front of my bathroom mirror every morning and repeat the following mantra: I AM A GOOD DRIVER. I AM A SAFE DRIVER. I AM NOT INSANE. DEATH TO ALL DRIVERS ED TEACHERS.